Music International Exposure,
Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Israel
In the world-music-jargon of melting-pots and cultural crossroads Israel holds a prominent place. This March, the Israeli ministery of culture invited several dozens of festival organisers and journalists for a marathon series of showcases in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Surprisingly, the opening night was focused on klezmer, a style considered by many Israelis to be a dying phenomenon of past - along with the yiddish language. Yet it was refreshing to hear this originally East European music being revived by local young players. Contrary to their western parallels, the opening band Oy Division replaced shyness and caution of ethno-researchers by raw confidence and feeling. “Sephardic-kabalistic” Ensemble Iona moved even closer to trance music, a genre usually not connected with Israel nor with klezmer. Compared to Maghrebi or Indian ritual music, Iona’s trance elements were speaking from within, not being carried by movement or visuals. The band’s key player Naor Carmi, ex-member of Israeli seminal band Bustan Abraham, switched between bass and “yaili tanbur”, an instrument resembling cumbus but being played with a bow.
A detailed who-is-who guide to Israeli music followed, with the Arabian oud maestro Sameer Makhoul, the highly original voice artist Victoria Hanna, Afro-funk band Kuluma featuring an Ethiopean singer. The female percussionist-singer Din Din Aviv was a classical example of what makes Israeli music so special: the richness of colours and expression, the natural body language, playfulness in contrast to the strict and focused attitude of European artists. Aren’t Israeli’s the Brazilians of Middle East?
To find how the West connects with Israeli music, you should listen to the veteran singer-songwriter Ehud Banai: Dylanesque stories with middle-eastern sonorities of tar, a common instrument in Banai’s fatherland in Iran. The percussion duo PercaDu sounded like a cross between Steve Reich’s pieces and the Taiko drummers: the way these players attacked their giant marimbas and other tools was spectacular and subtle at the same time.
One day was reserved for a trip to Jerusalem’s Yellow Submarine club. Coolooloosh’s hip-hop was as inventive as it can get, with a continually surprising interplay of horns. The musical overkill included also the JazzFest in Tel Aviv’s Giva’tayim theatre, which not only proved Israel to be a jazz superpower, but also exposed not yet discovered link Israel-Balkan, presented here by the well known flutist Shem-Tov Levy of Bulgarian origin, or the very inspiring Tizmoret, combining trumpet, saz, baritone horn and - again, Naor Carmi’s bowed tanbur. The brass and rhythms resembled Goran Bregovic - but while Bregovic is too obvious and crowd pleasing, Tizmoret explores the hidden paths, and you really have to dive in their music to hear how much humour and wit is under the surface.