One week ago, we were shocked by the sudden death of Odai Masri aka ODDZ. Odai’s work extended from his own musical voice to untiring, fearless leadership for Palestine, Palestinians, and humans around the world. That included not only founding Exist Festival and its fledgling label imprint, but acting as a constant champion for others.
It’s hard to describe the significance and impact of Exist alone, so I’ll let Odai describe it himself. As he told an interviewer at Refuge Worldwide last year:
Exist is not a festival as such. In a way, the aim was to be a festival, but really it’s a collective and a family. The Exist family includes Palestinians that live in Palestine, Palestinians outside of Palestine, people from Lebanon, from Europe and beyond. We are a big family, and the family is the main reason we continue to run events.
The aim of Exist has always been to build bridges between Palestine and the international scene, as well as to raise awareness about our everyday reality. To remind people that we exist! The most important thing for Exist events now is that this family can all be together and that the connections that we have created can be sustained.
Odai was also a clear and articulate voice for telling the story Palestinians wanted to tell – and holding space for other voices from Palestine and the region. That narrative he shared was one that “attacks the colonial mentality in general” – one that goes beyond just one place. Again from that interview:
The Palestinian case is one that affects us all. Not just Palestinians. There’s been a system of oppression going on over there for 76 years now, and it’s important to use any tools we have in our hands – media, connections, events, radio – to continue to remind people of that. We want to show everyone that there are people living in Palestine, and not only living but doing great things, creating beautiful art and doing amazing collective work.
So many of Odai’s recent projects involved work on behalf of other people – to care for them, even as he faced his own challenges. Late last year, he was focused on a campaign to come to the aid of leading Palestinian sound artist and experimental musician Dirar Kalash, after he was injured here in Berlin. As I wrote last December:
Odai managed to balance all this work on behalf of others with his own exceptional and vital musical voice. As Roots Radio euologized:
In the midst of all this, it’s just heartbreaking for Odai not to continue and see the same fortune come back to him. I had just heard from Odai, actually – about how excited he was to play techno again. He was always talking about the future and possibilities. It turned out that these were his final hours when he wrote this; I still can’t personally get over it.
He only recent wrote this on his own Instagram account, expressing gratitude and optimism:
Whole communities mourn a loss that can’t be filled. But all we can do then is to try to take up the work that Odai was doing. I hope there’s some other nearby alternate universe where Odai is playing those sets and enjoying this space for a longer time. In this universe, we have some work to do, to keep Odai’s causes going and give back half as much as he has. In an often unjust world, extending care to others like this is the one source of hope – and gives music meaning.
In the meantime, keep his music going. Just last month: