Posts Tagged ‘israel’

ZOHARA

April 15th, 2015 | Mp3 Posts | 0 Comments

Every now and then something comes out of Tel Aviv to remind the rest of the world that it’s actually a pretty cool place. ZOHARA‘s new indie-electro banger “Bass & Drum” and its hipster-y accompanying video take on that task this week and do a fairly good job.

Vaadat Charigim Interview

November 1st, 2014 | Features | 1 Comment

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Originally, Juval Haring, the lead singer/songwriter of Tel Aviv shoegazers Vaadat Charigim, emailed me asking if I’d like to interview him. I told him absolutely, since I loved the band’s music. Additionally, Israel was in the news at the time because of Operation Pillar Of Defence, so I thought there’d be special interest in Israeli indie rock bands who present a different side of Israel than most Westerners are exposed to via the mainstream news.

That was in 2012. I was living in Israel then, serving in the army. However, I would not succeed in conducting the interview until late this summer. Now living in New York, I bugged Juval via email again about a possible interview to coincide with Israel’s return to the headlines due to another and even more intense and elongated skirmish with Hamas, Operation Protective Edge.

After some failed attempts to communicate over Facebook and Skype, we finally managed to get the interview going, with me sending Juval questions via WhatsApp and him answering them via email.

GS: I read online that you were living in Berlin and came back to Israel with The World Is Well Lost‘s songs already written. Did the forming of Vaadat Charigim mark a new artistic endeavour for you or was it simply an evolution of your already existing songwriting?

VC: I came back from Berlin to a very depressing economic reality and mood among young Tel Avivians, who all felt that they’d had enough.

When I was in Berlin I hardly felt the impact of the 2011 social demonstrations, but there were around a quarter of a million people at one point who took to the streets for social justice. By communicating with people back home and reading a lot online, I got a certain general feeling, even sitting in Berlin far, far away from all the heat. A feeling of unrest. Of turmoil. I had never to that point felt that much social/national unrest in my life.

In a way it was a completely new endevour for me , to write in hebrew, to depend less on the “indie cliches” I had grown to admire, and more on communicating a message through songs. Also, at that point I had only played with my wife (drummer Mickey Triest) and her brother (guitarist Uri Triest) in a band called TV BUDDHAS, so playing with two guys who were not related to me was totally strange at first.

GS: So you’re saying that the protests in Israel at the time inspired you to write differently than before? Why?

VC: You have to understand that for the past decade or so “indie” music in Israel, which took the place of the 1990s rock scene, has been primarily in English; it is in some way ‘escapist’ [in its relation to the] Israeli reality in its need/attempt to leap from the tiny market “here” to the bigger international market “over there”.

This need developed, or rather, was always present, within the Israeli art world. Israel has a tiny cultural audience compared to the USA, for example. So when you are making noisy rock music with shouted-out vocals in English, you can probably expect little-to-no attention from Israelis. The more “radio-friendly” your music is, the better its chances are of gaining a level of popularity in Israel, regardless of the fact that it is in English and doesnt smell/look/feel either Israeli-nostalgic, or Israeli-middle eastern. There have been a few hebrew speaking exceptions to the general rule, but mostly Israeli-indie means English and “internationalizing”.

The protests showed me that the general public [in Israel felt a need] for a local, upfront message; the opposite of music that feels “from another place”. In that sense I was influenced by the sheer power of people’s thirst for an emotional proccess in their own language, about their own culture.

GS: You say that the Israeli public needed a  local message it could relate to more – is Vaadat Charigim spreading a certain message? Is it in your lyrics or is it simply that by existing as an indie rock/shoegaze band from Israel that sings in Hebrew you feel you’re making something of a political statement?

VC: I am not saying that the public needed a message and we are that message. There are many needs and many forms of messages, and every [artwork] either has a message or serves as a corruption or distortion of a certain message.

I am saying that there is a thirst today in Israel for a less “outwards-reaching” sort of art scene, and a growing need for a more “inwards-reaching” scene that touches our language, our dreams, our fears.

By singing in Hebrew I feel I am taking something of a political stand within the politics of the Israeli-indie music world, which is mainly centered around English-language bands, as well as influenced by them and in constant mimesis of English language themes and  English folklore. I feel that by singing in Hebrew, musically quoting Israeli bands, and directing my attention towards Israeli issues like war in the middle east, life in Tel Aviv, and the specific sort of depression you experience living in Israel, I am slowing down the process of thoughtless image borrowing that is being repeated endlessly by bands from outside the English-language world as they attempt to ascend in the music business.

I feel it is a choice I am making that is parallel to a choice an artist makes to create art that is to be experienced, but not sold.

GS: I noticed that you not only reference Israeli bands like המכשפות (The Witches) on your album [ed. note: track 8 is called “Mahshefot” in English, an English phonetic  translation of the Hebrew word for ‘witches’], but one of your music videos references the comic art of Dudu Geva. Are these references made out of frustration with an Israeli public and art scene that, as you say, is too often looking out at the rest of the world, specifically America and Europe, while ignoring the treasures and issues at home? Do you think this is a recent phenomenon? Were previous generations like this as well, as outward-looking?

VC:  I reference local art because it is the art I grew up hearing and seeing and it is closest to me.  I can understand having US/UK  influences, and we do have those in our sound (I love the guitar work of Beat Happening, The Feelies and many other bands, and I incorporate those influences into what I am doing) but I believe you need to find an honest balance between local and global. It must be something that an audience can look at and find natural. This is what I am going for as a Hebrew-language international act. Every generation dating back to the 50s and 60s in Israeli rock music has had to find that natural equilibrium. The indie generation has somewhat – though not entirely – let go of that need for balance between local and global in favor of “sounding international”. In Vaadat Charigim, we try to keep that balance be referencing local art/music and representing it to the world, but we are definately not the only ones. There is a lot of authentic as hell stuff going on in Tel Aviv that is just not getting the [attention it deserves].

“מנגינות ישראליות: “גרמניה

March 23rd, 2014 | Features | 0 Comments

Okay, I left Israel two months ago and I have no plans to go back for at least a year or two – I need a break from that crazy country – but every now and then I come back to this song, which in English would be called “Germany”. It’s by an artist named Dudu Tesa who I know nothing about. Honestly, I don’t really care, because I don’t think he’s that good, but the song is very interesting. I remember hearing it for the first time on the radio one day when the army was giving another lone soldier and I a ride to Jersualem from our base in Hebron. I remember thinking that I didn’t like the mainstream-y radio production, but the song’s odd synth-poppyness and its epic, almost suite-comprised construction all were very interesting. It goes from one section to another, new, totally different, a number of times and each is filled with inventive melodies and lush synth-chestra paddings that at times sound Magical Mystery Tour Beatles-esque.

As for the lyrics, after reading them, it seems as though it’s a story about a guy – presumably Israeli – who’s in a relationship with a girl who wants to move to Germany and maybe start a family there. (Note: this is not an unheard of thing in Israel; for a cool, young person to want to move to Germany where living is easier and there’s more exciting culture – despite the history of the Jews with the country.) The guy, however, does not want to move to Germany – very likely because of the historical stuff – and so they’re arguing about everything and it’s not clear if this relationship is going to last much longer. It’s a very interesting example of how the personal lives of Israelis are so tightly and inextricably bound with politics and history.

מנגינות ישראליות: ביר7 והפאנק הישראלי

November 30th, 2013 | Features | 0 Comments

This work I did a little more digging into the corners of the internet where there just might be cool Israeli music and actually turned up a little goldmine called Giora’s FTP, a rudimentary blog with a great selection of download links for Israeli punk and hardcore. Israeli punk and hardcore you say? Why yes, of course? How could a country and turbulent and politicized as Israel not produce some cool punk music? Indeed, Israeli punk isn’t popular at all these days, though the country has exported at least one successful (but kinda lame) punk band, and produced some very decent others.

My first introduction to Israeli punk was Uzbeks, a contemporary punk band that sings in English. I first heard them when I was at Tel Aviv record store The Third Ear, getting some staff recomendations. I bought their album Goggles And Flip Flops and it was a solid purchase. But Israeli punk music has been around for a while, apparently there was actually a lot of it going on in the 90’s. Once someone told me that the real scene for that in Israel is in Haifa, unfortunately a city I have spent very little time in (apparently it’s also the “loosest” place in Israel, if you get my drift…).

I’ve been digging through Giora’s FTP a bit, but haven’t had much time yet so I can’t say I’ve come out with any big unknown classics to talk about, but one somewhat popular band Beer7 has a solid punk/ska thing and they pull it off with a cool sense of humour to boot. Also they sing in Hebrew, which is always a plus.

Best Israeli Rock Albums

November 22nd, 2013 | Features | 1 Comment

This Israeli rock scene currently sucks. Seriously. Almost nobody in the country even knows what ‘indie rock’ is, and the most popular kinds of music are apparently crappy trance and shmaltzy mizrachi music. I’ve searched high and lo-fi, in the present and the past, for good Israeli music. Not even necesarrily rock – just stuff that sounded good, honest. I’ve heard showtunes, traditional songs, rock songs, pop songs, mizrachi songs, DJ stuff, whatever – very little of it was particularly good, but what has been good, I’ve sometimes posted here in my little מנגינות ישראליות (Israeli Melodies) features. Over time, however, I have found a number of great Israeli albums that stood out big time from the pack. Here are my absolute favourites, most of which I’ve blogged about before in some way or other, but here they are all together for the first time in no particular order except what came to mind first.

Rockfour – HaOlam HaMufla (The Wonderful World) (2010)

This is probably my favourite Israeli album period. All in Hebrew – as all Israeli albums, I think, should be, cuz the Israeli accent/language difficulty often makes English lyrics sound dumb, though not always – this is a true psychedelic masterpiece. Interestingly, it came from a band that had been making albums for something like 20 years already, but for some reason only recently did they put out something not only truly good, but absolutely brilliant. It’s an album that works beautifully as a whole, takes inspiration from modern quasi-psych bands like Grandaddy and The Flaming Lips (more the former than the latter), and still, is bursting with great pop hooks at every corner. And to top it all off, as catchy as it often is, there’s a darkness and a seriousness to it that gives it all weight. This is no incence and peppermints album – like everything in Israeli, it’s complicated. You can stream the album off their bandcamp.

Vaadat Charigim – The World Is Well Lost (2013)

A very recent album, but I would say absolutely deserving of this list. Vaadat Charigim‘s debut is an excellent collection of intelligent, noisy pop songs that reference a number of Israeli pop culture items, such as 1990’s band HaMachshephot (The Witches) and comic artist Dudu Geva (at least in the video for the song “Lehitorer V’lo Lada’at” (To Wake Up And Not Know) ). I’ve been kinda trying to get an interview with the band since last year, but so far no luck. Regardless, the album is still great, just about definitely the coolest sound in the country at the moment. You can stream the entire thing right now off their Soundcloud.

Rami Fortis – Plonter (1978)

Rami Fortis is the closest thing Israeli rock ever had to an Iggy Pop. Israel is always behind the West in stuff, so he was making proto-punk in 1978, pretty much the peak of punk’s heyday, but whatever, he did it really well. Subsequent albums never captured the same spirit as this excellent debut unfortunately, so this gem stands alone, but the point is it still stands strong. You can stream the album off his bandcamp.

Kaveret – Staffuf Ba’ozen (Stuffed In The Ear) (1975)

The third, last, and best of the classic Israeli band’s original albums, here the band best manages to balance their humour, hooks, and stellar musicianship whereas previous albums were a little too inconsistent and unfocused. That being said, it doesn’t contain all the band’s best songs (like “Natati La Chayay” (I Gave Her My Life)) , so don’t stop enjoying them here – but, that being said, this is the best item by which to enjoy this wonderful band.

Bela Tar – Pulsar (2010)

Beautiful and supremely talented Zoe Polanski is the main force behind this wonderful, artful music project. Bela Tar makes sensitive, thoughtful indie rock music the likes of which you hear often in Canada but pretty much never in Israel. This 2010 album (which can be bought and/or streamed on bandcamp) is a solid work in its own right, though recent songs hint at even better future albums. I look forward to hearing them soon.

HaMachshephot (The Witches) – Ad HaOneg HaBah (Until The Next Season) (1994)

Let’s call this an Israeli band’s attempt to make some kind of interesting alternative music in the mid-90s without following the Western aesthetic template. Still a solid album with cool tunes, including the title track which seems to be something of a minor classic here.

Machina – S/T (1984)

I’ve only heard this, their first album, but I imagine it’s probably their best based on a number of things (sales, music trends in the 80’s, etc.). Maybe I should still check them out. Anyways – it’s 80’s ska-inflected pop/rock with lots of chorus effects on the guitars and a hard drum-machine sound but somehow the band managed to bypass many of the lamer sounds of the time and make something cool with enough edge to make it interesting even today. And there’s just a lot of solid songs here.

Uzbeks – Goggles & Flipflops (2010)

A great punk album that deals with political issues, just wish they sang in Hebrew. But their English is great, so whatever.

Those are the best. There’s some other good stuff, but it’s not as consistent. If anyone reads this and is outraged that I didn’t include their favourite album, please send (or write in the comments) suggestions – I’m always looking for more cool Israeli music.