For many, the dream of becoming a professional musician is not an easy goal to obtain. To do so takes persistence and perhaps a lucky break or two. Hallelujah, a global singing competition hosted in Israel, looks to make that transition easier for one new star.
Among the 30 contestants is Shani Shousterman, a singer/songwriter from Los Angeles. Since graduating from the University of Southern California with a master’s degree in music, Shani has worked to make her dreams a reality, but needs some help. She’s in the middle of a fundraising campaign to secure the means to travel to Israel for the competition, and recently spoke to Jspace about her road to Hallelujah.
Jspace: What song did you perform in order to be involved with the competition?
Shani Shousterman: To be accepted as one of the top 30 finalists, I made a video singing one of Idan Raichel’s songs, called “Mi-ma'amakim,” which means “from the depths.” I chose this song because I am a huge Idan Raichel fan; I love his style, the way he combines Middle Eastern music with influences from Ethiopia. It’s such a beautiful combination, not to mention the words create this gorgeous love story.
How long have you been writing songs?
I have been a singer/songwriter for about six years. I started piano about 17 years ago or so, and always had a passion for composing music growing up. I started college as a jazz piano major, and in my first year I took a songwriting class. It was the best thing that ever happened to me because I instantly fell in love with songwriting and knew that I had found my passion.
What’s the title of your newest record?
The title is still tentative, but since I need to decide anyway, maybe I’ll just announce it officially here! I think it’s going to end up being called “Merry-Go Round,” which is one of the songs on the album, as well as the song I submitted as a video in the first round of the Hallelujah competition. This new album is about some incredible experiences that I’ve had in the past three or four years that have defined the beginnings of my musical journey. It’s the world’s introduction to me, my “Hello world, I’m Shani and this is my music” kind of thing. There’s definitely positivity throughout, but there’s also some sadder songs, like “Heavy Heart.” Though it’s about past experiences, I see this album as a monumental point that is helping me move forward into a new chapter in my life. I’m so excited to share it with everyone—it is slated to be released in September.
Where do you perform usually?
I have a permanent performing position at Universal CityWalk, and I am so blessed to have been given this opportunity. People from all over the world come to visit Citywalk when they come to LA, so now I have fans from Brazil, and Australia, and Holland, and wherever. I get to play there about two to three times a week, and sing for about four hours a night. It’s pretty amazing to be able to spread my music to all the corners of the Earth.
Can we expect a tour at some point?
Yes! I am planning to do a tour sometime this year, and I definitely want to cover the west coast, and hopefully make it over to the east coast as well.
What are your thoughts going into the competition?
I can’t wait to be in Israel and experience this new musical journey. I’ve never been in a singing competition with people from all over the world before, and I’m excited to see what opportunities and possibilities will present themselves. And, being that it is a competition, I would love to come home with the win!
Have you ever performed in Israel before?
Yes, I performed at two bars in Jerusalem when I studied abroad in Israel in 2009. It was an amazing experience. I also studied in a songwriting class at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance, where I took Ohad Chitman’s class. It was all in Hebrew, and it challenged me to write in a different language, and also gave me the opportunity to work with other Israeli students who were passionate about songwriting. Israel’s music scene has a very different, but still equally amazing, vibe than that of Los Angeles’ scene. It was an overall great experience, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat!
To help Shani get to Hallelujah, follow this link.