Thursday, October 25, 2007

the mennu method celebrates Israel at 60...musically, of course (Part VI)

Trends In Israeli Music (Continued from Part III)

1970s: The Progressive Years

After the rock revolution hit Israel, Israeli artists strove to express themselves by creating a new and unique sound. In the early seventies, Israeli record labels were willing to take a chance on those progressive artists. Many of the albums produced in this era featured beautiful original music, but due to the small Israeli music market, some of the best progressive albums not only didn't find commercial sucess, the bands ended up in the red. A case in point is the brilliant 1977 self titled album Sheshet. The band was comprised of some of some great progressive musicians led by Shem-Tov Levy and fronted by a fresh out of the army Yehudit Ravitz. The band members lost money on the recording, but today it is considered a classic.

Top Ten Progressive Israeli Albums of All Time:

  1. Ktzat Acheret - This album is the quantum singularity around which all the progressive music produced in Israel orbits.
  2. Acharit Hayamim
  3. Sheshet
  4. Shem Tov Levi - Hitorerut
  5. Tammuz - End of the Orange Season
  6. Fourteen Octaves
  7. Sussita - Sussita's 2005 self titled debut is a return to the early progressive movement of the 1970s. Their sound compares favorably with Sheshet and Apocalypse. The tracks are all long complex compositions featuring flutes and accordions, harking back to an earlier era in Israel. The name Sussita is a nostaligic reference to the short-lived Israeli-manufactured fiberglass car called Sussita. The lyrics are poetic, clearly spoken Hebrew which would lose quite a bit in translation. It's worth learning Hebrew to understand their poetry.
  8. Tuned Tone - With Shem-Tov Levy on keyboards, and Yitzchak Klapter and Shlomo Yidov on guitars, the energy and creativeity on this 1979 album are captivating. I've had the album for a while, but usually gravitated to the title track, and eventually, I felt played out on the album. Recently I gave it a full listen through and fell in love with the album again. "Shir Ahava Bedui" (Beduin Love Song) is so much better in the original than the David Broza cover, although I fear American audiences may only be familiar with the latter. "Yachol Lihioyot Shezeh Nigmar" is a nostalgic tune which I would include as the opening track to this musical retrospective if it were a disc. In fact, in 2006, Shem-Tov Levy redid the song and released it as a single. The title track is a sweet love song. While singing along with it, I was reminded of another charecteristic of Israeli music lovers. As I stated Earlier, Israelis love to sing along. If a song contains "la la las" or "na na nas" or any other non-linguistic vocalizations, it becomes easier to sing along with and possibly more popular in the country.
  9. Shmulik Krauss - Criminal Record This album was recorded in one take during a two hour session within a 48 hour leave from prison granted to Krauss who was serving time for pointing a weapon at Israeli soldiers trying to evict him from an illegal structure he built. He was joined by guitarist Haim Romano of the Churchills, and drummer Aharon Kaminski of The Platina. My favorite track is an eleven minute long interpretation of The Beatles' "Mother Nature's Son" which in the original is a quiet and gentle song that Krauss turns into a screaming jam.
  10. The Platina - The Girl With The Flaxen Hair
Honorable Mention:
  • Yoni Rechter and Yehudit Ravitz - Now And Forever
  • Zingaleh - Peace
  • Danny Ben Israel - Bullshit 3 1/4
  • Sympozion - Sympozion
  • Lord Filmnap - Point of View (The CD contains a song called "Lo Mevin Yoter" (I Don't Understand) which is one of the most beautiful Hebrew songs I've heard.)
  • Matti Caspi and Shlomo Gronich - Behind The Sounds
  • Yoni Rechter - Intentions

Some videos:
Shem-Tov Levi - B'Leilot HaStav

Matti Caspi and Shlomo Gronich - Picture

The 1980s: Commercial Diversity

By the 1980s, Israeli record companies were no longer willing to allow musicians the same creative latitude that they allowed in the seventies. The eighties were a period of optimism and economic growth in Israel. The music scene in Israel, like in the rest of the world, became more market driven, but a the same time, it became more diverse. During the 80s Mizrahi music entered the mainstream and although it still formed a significant genre on its own, mainstream radio programs started playing Mizrahi tunes in their "top 40" format. Yehuda Poliker is an artist who exemplified some fo the trends of the 1980s. His band Benzeen was a huge success, but during the height of his popularity, Poliker released an album that was close to his heart called "My Eyes." The album consisted of Greek songs in Hebrew, reflecting Poliker's Greek heritage; he is the son of a Holocaust survivor from Salonlika. The album was a commerical success and the songs were played both in the top-40 and Mizrahi radio shows.

The Israeli pop music scene was dominated by Mashina whose songs are still in heavy rotation on Israeli radio. Although some of their songs are strikingly similar to the UK ska group Madness, Mashina developed a recognizable form of Israeli ska. Their albums were all smash hits, and although the band broke up after a productive decade of work in 1995, they reunited in 2003 in order to tour and release their eighth studio album in 2005. Mashina is considered one of the most comerically successful bands of all time, and their albums have sold over 400,000 copies.

The 1990s: A New Crop of Artists

During the 1990s, a new crop of bands and artists emerged in Israel like, Nekamat HaTractor, Ethnix, Tea Packs (or Tippex as they're actually called), The Mind Church, Aviv Geffen, and HaYehudim.

One of the more significant artist of the 1990s was Arcadi Duchin. Duchin never studied music, but by the age of 12 he was already playing keyboards and bass for dance bands in his native Russia. When he made aliya with his family at age 15, he knew that he wanted to pursue a musical career. His band, The Friends of Natasha hit the Israeli music scene by the late 80s, and by the 90s, either with the band or as a solo artist, Duchin helped keep Israeli music vital while continuing the traditions of Israeli rock.

Israeli Hip Hop and Reggae

At this point many Americans are aware of Hadag Nachash and Subliminal. They are the darlings of Israeli hip hop who enjoy name recognition and popularity in Jewish communities around the world. Their popularity is deserved and they continue to put out exciting and enjoyable hip hop. Their themes are thought provoking and touch on political and social themes; a kind of "thinking man's rap." Recently they have ranks have been joined by the Fools of Prophecy. The hip hop movement started in Israel in the 1980s most notably with Shabak Samech. In the style of American hip hop which draws from the the popular music of previous eras, Shabak Samech's song "Mekofef Habananot" (The Bender of Bananas) is predicated on Arik Einsteins song of the same name. Recently, I came across a rap-reggae version of Eli Luzon's "Eizo Medina" where the Israeli rapper Ilan Babylon took a classic Mizrahi song about discontent and added a bombastic reggae beat, renewing the song for a younger generation.

Israeli reggae is a underrated genre. Two of my favorite Israeli reggae bands are extremely positive in their lyrics and sound: Iyam and Kengeroo [sic]. Iyam has two albums out and they have spread their mellow and peaceful vibe throughout Israel through performing live throughout the country. Kengeroo's music has a positive outlook on both Israel, Zionism and Judaism which they express in a very credible manner. A hidden track on their self titled album released in 2000 is Psalm 75, "Lechu Nera'anena" opening psalm of the kabbalat shabbat service. It is sung in the Yemenite pronunciation with a easy reggae beat. It's one of my favorite things to listen to when I am making last minute preparations before the start of shabbat. Israel lost one of their best dub reggae producers, Haim Laroz, when he recently moved to Australia. His Laroz All Stars album from 2006 is a great ambient reggae album, which can be complemented with the 2003 release called Subconscious, which is a collection of Israeli dub reggae. On Subconscious, Israeli dub reggae producers create a synergy of sounds by combining Middle Eastern and African sounds into dub. One of my favorite tracks on Subconscious is called "Addis Vibes" which has a vocal in Amharic. Although it's not strictly a reggae album, I feel that I should include Braad Session here. Between haircuts, and Israeli hair stylist put out one the finest chill-out discs ever. Chill-out is a genre of electronica popularized in places like Cafe del Mar in Ibiza. In 2003 the first Braad Session came out and it was received so warmly, that at the release party they decided that they would collaborate on another album. Their sound is so soothing and original that I can't wait until they release their second album. Another respectable dub album is Papa Project's "Dub On The Moon," another album that you would not suspect came out of Israel. I would also add Tomer Yossef to this category; his 2006 album, "They Are Laughing Underground," defies categorization, and has elements of hip hop, reggae and pop.


The Israeli music of today is a blend of old and new. Arik Einstein recently released another album, Berry Sakharof continues to be an influence on the musical scene, as are Shalom Hanoch and Shlomo Artzi. Bands that emerged in the 1990s are still active today, like Tea Packs and Ethnix. One of the best bands working in Israel today is Girafot. Their first album, Chatting With The Chair was one of the best albums released in 1999 and came out of nowhere. They really took their time with the follow up album. In 2006 they released "Roof" which contains lyrics about loneliness and depression with excellent rock and roll. Their website is very creative, and their sound will leave you hungry for more.

Idan Raichel is also extremely popular internationally. He combines jazz, rock, Ethiopian and Yeminite sounds into a unique form of music. He regularly tours the United States. I personally find his work to be the stuff of high culture, more suitable for Carnegie Hall, rather than a classic rock and roll venue.

Beit Habubot, "The Dolls House" had an interesting journey into the Israeli mainstream. They did a home studio recording of some material before taking off for a post-army jaunt through India. Other Israeli backpackers got a hold of their music and started copying and circulating it throughout India. When they returned to Israel, their fame preceeded them. In their first concert in Israel, the audience sang along with the band because they knew all the words to the songs.

Israeli DJs are considered to be among the best in the world. DJ Mag, a UK trade publication has listed Israeli trance artists, Infected Mushroom as the ninth most influential electronic artists in the world. Other interesting DJ work can be heard on a recording called "Radio Trip," which is an audio montage of music and sound. Radio Trip is closely associated with The Apples; a guitarist, drummer, double bassist, sound guy, two DJs and four man horn section. In 2003 they released their first album which was unlike anything I had ever heard before. Of particular interest to me was the use of old Hebrew language instructional records as samples on "Zeh Ra'ayon Tov" and the use of a shofar as a musical instrument on "Jewfro." They just returned to Israel after a European tour in order to record a third album.

Other popular artist in Israel today are Aviv Geffen, Miri Masika, Ivri Lider, HaYehudim, Dana Berger, Eyal Golan, Peter Rott, Hadag Nachash, Subliminal and Mookie.

End Of the Orange Season: A Documentary in Hebrew:

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

the mennu method celebrates Israel at 60...musically, of course (Part VII)

I think I'm gonna stop writing about this subject now. I would like to spend a little time editing what I've already written, and trying to see if it's coherent.

Here's a picture of my lab where all this stuff was written:

Digging In The Crates

Some random thoughts about random Israeli discs and albums that I have in my crates of music:

Charlie Megira
If surf rock or the 50's come back, Charlie Megira will be way ahead of the game:
Charlie Megira - Dynamite Rock

Kruzenshtern & Parohod
Where does Klez-Core fit into the Israeli music scene? If gypsy is the new punk, as bands like Balkan Beat Box and Gogol Bordello have recently proven, then there might be room for Kruzenshtern & Parohod

Pollyanna Frank
I wish I had a YouTube video for Pollyanna Frank. Their 1990 album, "No Choosing," scored a modest pop hit with a song called "Ziva," which was about a girl named Ziva. In the chorus, the singer tells Ziva that her name is disgusting, then terrible, then nauseating. But hidden in that album is a smart and catchy tune called "Dykes and the Holy War." I should try to get hold of the lyrics.

My Second Surprise
In the section on Israelis who sing in English, I should have spoken about My Second Surprise. I have their 2005 CD "Avoidance As A Way Of Life," and it was in heavy rotation in my playlist from the summer of 2005 until well into the spring of 2006. The song "Meeting's Over" is a terrific example of "spy rock," and it's available for download off their website. They were recently at South By Southwest in Austin, TX. Ayal Nistor, their lead singer and the brain behind the band has recently relocated to San Francisco. I wonder how long it's going to take him to figure out that he probably paid a lot less rent in Tel Aviv. Then again, he and the band could strike it big here: they definitely have the talent.
My Second Surprise - Perfect Cure

My Second Surprise MySpace

Adi Ran
An Orthodox rock and roll singer: the Jews answer to Christian rock.
One of his songs, Atah Kadosh (You Are Holy) is in the movie Ushpizin. The film took place in an Ultra-Orthodox community, where the film maker agreed not only to refrain from filming on shabbat, but also that the film would not be screened in Israel over shabbat. All of the actors in the film were actually Ultra-Orthodox or Haredi as they are called in Israel. It's a really great movie; well worth watching because it gives a realistic window into the Haredi community. I especially enjoyed watching them rock out to Adi Ran.
Reviews of Ushpizin on Rotten Tomatoes

Ehud Banai - City of Refuge
Here's a perfect example of a song that's significant to Israelis, but probably doesn't mean a thing to a broader audience. Here's Ehud doing the song:

And here's Berry Sakharof doing an excellent cover of City of Refuge. It's also got a good video:

Shem-Tov Levi is one of my favorite Israeli artists of all time. It is impossible for me to get sick of his album "Waking Up." For the past three years, I have been trying to get a picture of me seated at Cafe Tamar on Shenkin street in the same pose as Shem-Tov. I would use it for either an album cover or radio show about Israeil progressive music called "Hitkadmut" ("Progress") a spin on Shem-Tov's "Hitorrerut." I enjoy all the project he's been involved with; whether with Ktzat Acheret, Tuned Tone, Arik Einstein or solo. Shem-Tov's musical style includes making the flute a rock and roll instrument. In an interview, Shem-Tov once said that he was inspired when he heard Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull play the flute in rock music. Shem-Tov realized that the flute could be an instrument with
Recently he put out an instrumental album with the Shem-Tov Levi Ensemble called "Stations." Click here for a video of material from the album performed at the Eilat Jazz Festival 2007, and click here to buy the album.

The Mind Church
An odd name for an Israeli band, I will grant you that.
I wish I had listened to more of their material in the past. They are pretty good. I look forward to exploring their catalog further, and possibly getting together with them for a drink.
The Mind Church - Let Me Drink:

Their self titled debut is one of my favorite recent Israeli albums regardless of the gratuitous mention of vomit and menses in the lyrics. The album is lots of fun, particularly the yiddish kazatzka ending to "When Napoleon Conquers Akko." There's also the poor man's lament of "No Baguettes In The Ghetto." It's a totally irreverent album whose lyrics become more disturbing when you focus on them. Their unique polka rock songs are deliberately grotesque, but you can read more about that on their MySpace profile. An example of their bizzareness, the single off their new album.
Habiluim - Bab El Wad 38a

Zingaleh - Peace
I'm not sure where to list this album. They sing in English, but it's progressive Israeli from the 70s. There are all kinds of interesting sounds woven into the music. On the CD there are a few Hebrew songs. Maybe I should add them to the progressive all-time list...

The Witches - Anticipating Another Rapture
Since their lead singer was a suicidal lesbian, the band wasn't going to last forever, but lucky for us, they cranked out a few good albums in the 1990s. Here's a song of theirs in poor quality on YouTube. It looks like someone recorded it off of the television with a camera phone. Oh well, what can you do? It's the internet!
The Witches - The Witches

And here's HaBiluim covering The Witches as a ska/polka/punk version:

The Apples
A guitarist, drummer, double bassist, sound guy, two DJs and four man horn section make up The Apples. In 2003 they released their first album which was unlike anything I had ever heard before. Of particular interest to me was the use of old Hebrew language instructional records as samples on "Zeh Ra'ayon Tov" and the use of a shofar as a musical instrument on "Jewfro." They just returned to Israel after a European tour in order to record a third album. I can't wait. Here's a video from their second album, Attention!
The Apples - Attention!

The Apples Website

Braad Session
Between haircuts, and Israeli hair stylist put out one the finest chill-out discs ever. Chill-out is a genre of electronica popularized in places like Cafe del Mar in Ibiza. In 2003 the first Braad Session came out and it was received so warmly, that at the release party they decided that they would collaborate on another album. Their sound is so soothing and original that I can't wait until they release their second album.
Braad Session Website (with music samples) MySpace

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

the mennu method celebrates Israel at 60...musically, of course (Part V)

Israelis Singing in English

As a general rule, I would suggest that Israeli artists try to limit the amount that they sing in English. That being said, there are a number of Israeli artists who have sung in English at various times for various reasons. In the late 60s and early 70s, Israelis covered some (mostly Beatles) songs, such as Arik Einstein's version of "Here There and Everywhere," which were not too terrible. A beatle-esque song called "To Be Alone" appeared on the "Fourteen Octaves" album by Yoni Rechter and Anver Kenner which is actually quite nice. Covers of English songs or original compositions written in English by Israeli artists can sometimes work out, but Israeli artists run into serious trouble when they try to translate their songs into English. This phenomenon can be exemplified by two bands, Kaveret and T-Slam.

In 1976, Kaveret toured the US following their overwhelming success in Israel. They translated their songs into English and were met with a mostly Jewish audience who were interested in hearing the songs in the original Hebrew. On a similar note, T-Slam, a very successful Israeli band from the 1980s tried to translate their hit song and title track from their breakout album "Loud Radio." While the Hebrew Radio Hazak is awesome, the lyrics and cadence of the English version are severely lacking. (T-Slam also gratuitously covered "Smoking in the Boys Room," which probably shouldn't have been made.)

Many Israeli artist feel that singing in English will allow them to break out into a more international market. Arik Einstein's backup band, The Churchills tried to make it in Europe, although they never caught on, even after they changed their name to Jericho Jones. Their work within Israel was with the most influential artist of their time, but in England, they were just another struggling band trying to make music that fit in with the general sound of the time. There are very few bands that succeeded in the broader music market either in Europe or the US. A notable exception was Minimal Compact, a punk band, which was formed by Berry Sakharof in Amsterdam in 1981. They became popular throughout Europe and their fame grew in 1984 when they were joined by Sakharof's old buddy from Tel Aviv, former Tammuz roadie and original Israeli punk rocker Rami Fortis. Throughout the 80s, the band enjoyed a modicum of success in Europe, and toured the old world from Spain to Japan, but never realized their ambition to tour America because US immigration would not let them into the country. Sakharof is still an influential force in Israeli music, and Fortis' 1978 album, Plonter, is still a powerful listen after all these years.

On the other hand, there are quite a few bands in Israel today who only perform in English. Many are on the independent scene, and seek to break out of Israel and gain broader popularity. Some of these current artists might even make it; the energetic and charismatic Shy Nobleman, and eclectic DJ, MC Karolina. I personally like an album called Chameleon Mood Swing by Lemmus Lemmus, which is end to end psychedelic goodness in the style of Pink Floyd. A Neil Young-like Israeli band called The Flying Baby that exclusively sing in English recently toured the US. Rockfour is a band that actually did make it; initially they sang in Hebrew, but three albums into it they started singing in English and the band now tours the US regularly.

If you happen to be in Israel and are interested in seeing a great live band that sings in English, I have two recommendations. First is Funk'n'Stein, an eight member funk ensemble. Their CD comes with an invitation to a live show, where like any good funk band, they improvise on their songs and take the audience along for a funky good time. The other band is called Southbound Train, or SoBo to those "in the know." SoBo is the resident band at Mike's Place and is fronted by one of the owners Assaf Ganzman. Then again, Mike's place is a live blues bar with locations in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and even if SoBo isn't playing, you'll still have a chance to hear some great live music.

To further confuse everything written in this section, check out the song "Hebrew Man" by Ehud Banai. I can't find a YouTube version of it, but I suggest getting his 2004 album, "Answer Me" (Ane Li) which has the "Hebrew Man" as well as other Cannanite blues songs.
Here's a great lesson plan written by Robbie Gringras that uses the song as jumping off point for experiential education.

Shy Nobleman - Baby In the Rain

Same video off of Shy's site. It's a smaller size but better quality.

Rockfour - Astronauts

Trailer for a documentary on Minimal Compact (With English Subtitles)

SoBo, live at Mike's Place in Tel Aviv performing "Girl From Mandalay"

Sobo's Website
Mike's Place Website

MySpace Pages for Israeli Artists Who Sing In English:
Lemmus Lemmus
MC Karolina
Minimal Compact
Shy Nobleman

the mennu method celebrates Israel at 60...musically, of course (Part IV)


Israel is geographically part of Asia, but for three things, it is considered part of Europe: Basketball, Soccer and Eurovision. Eurovision is an annual song contest run by the European Broadcasting Union. Member countries hold contests within their countries to decide who should represent the country in Eurovision. The contest is held in a different country every year, and all member countries vote on a winner. Israel won the event three times; in 1978 with "Abanibi," in 1979 with "Halleluja" and in 1998 with "Diva." Eurovison has always had an overtone of peace and love, and Israel's back to back victories in Eurovision may have been because the European community felt like encouraging Israel in it's efforts to make peace with Egypt at the time. Israel's entry in 2007, called "Push The Button" by Tea Packs, was a rare exception to the peaceful themes usually presented; it is a song about the threat of nuclear attack of Israel by Iran. There was discussion of banning the song from the contest, or possibly censoring the lyrics. Regardless of what the officials of Eurovision thought of the song, Tea Packs' performance in a small club in Helsinki during the week of the contest was packed wall to wall with supporters.

Tea Packs (or Tippex, as they are called in Israel) is an Israeli band from the often shelled city of Sderot. Their lead singer, Kobi Oz, of Moroccan descent, is well known for his eccentric style and looks. The song, "Push The Button" was sung in Hebrew, English and French in order to make the song understood by as many Europeans as possible, and to take advantage of Oz's linguistic skill; French is his native tongue, even though he grew up in Israel.

For more thoughts on Israel's participation in Eurovision see Robbie Gringras' "Eurovisionland," and David Bryfman's list of Israeli Eurovision entrants.

And now the videos:
Abanibi - Yizhar Cohen: Eurovision Winner 1978
(Check out Yizhar's "Off-The-Wall-Like-Michael-Jackson-In-The-70's Jewfro.")

Halleluja - Milk and Honey: Eurovision Winner 1979
Check out the fancy choreography!)

Diva - Dana International: Eurovision Winner 1998
(Notice the background singers are not anywhere near Dana. That's because they were born as women, as opposed to Dana who was born a man.)

Push The Button - Tea Packs

Sunday, October 21, 2007

the mennu method celebrates Israel at 60...musically, of course (Part III)

Trends in Israeli Music

Israel: A Tough Market

Israel is a small country where even when the population is at it's largest, there are only about 5 million Jews living there. That's a rather small market for Israeli musicians. Out of those 5 million, there's a good amount of people who are Haredi or Ultra-Othodox, who don't listen to any kind of Israeli pop music. Most Israeli musicians, like their peers in other countries, earn most of their income by touring, rather than from record sales, but there is a limit to how much touring a band can do within Israel. Given that the country is so small the population tends to get very close to the local artists, so it creates a feeling of family; for better and for worse.

The Israeli public is often starved for new talent, and will embrace new artists with open arms. For the first forty years of Israel's existence, the broadcast media options were limited to those run by the state. Until the 1980s, Israel had only one television station, and a few radio stations. For an artist to get any kind of recognition, they would need to get some airtime somewhere. One of the advantages of having few media outlets, was that the whole country would watch the same TV shows. Today, there are cable and satellite networks in Israel, there viewers have their choice of what to listen to, but in the 70s and 80s anything that was on television could be the subject of conversation the following day. An artists first appearance on a variety show would indelibly color the way that artist would be perceived throughout their career.

A major difference between the way Israelis and Americans listen to music, is the Israelis like to sing along. Think about your own personal experiences: have you ever asked an Israeli if they know a particular song, and their response has been to sing a few bars of it? While Americans may do their share of foot stomping, snapping and clapping, Israelis prefer to sing along. Israelis will not be deterred by a lack of vocal talent, tone deafness, and certainly not by a lack of familiarity with lyrics. In fact, I've heard Israelis sing along with English songs where the original lyrics have been replaced by totally plausible English words which don't exactly bind together into coherent sentences. Israelis will even mangle the Hebrew lyrics to songs, but like any creative endeavor, who's to say that's a negative thing?

While I will try to focus on genuinely good Israeli music, the pop charts have, like in the US and UK, often been dominated by flash in the pan artists, whose hype was never accompanied by actual talent or quality. The most clear example of undeserved popularity in Israeli music is the band Noar Shulayim (Juvenile Delinquents) whose title track "Draw Yourself A Mustache" was the number one song in Israel in 1990. The track has an annoying high pitched chorus, which may have been fun to listen to at the time, but can really grate on the ears today. I guess you had to be there at the time. Thankfully the band broke up in 1991 after three albums; I don't think anyone is going to line up for a reunion concert.

1950s through the late 1960s

In the 1950s, Israeli music was still dominated by folk traditions of Eastern Europe. Many of the songs were patriotic, or idealistic, and designed for sing-alongs or Army bands. Israeli bands were slow to develop, primarily because Israelis are drafted into the army during their prime rock and roll years. Many aspiring musicians would forget their musical ambitions when in the army unless their pre-army talent merited them a spot in one of the army bands. Those selected into army bands would be able to get a start on their career while still in military service. In fact, many alumni from the army bands went on to have long illustrious careers in Israeli music such as Yoram Gaon, Chaim Topol, Uri Zohar, Yossi Banai, Arik Einstein, Chava Alberstein, Shalom Hanoch, Gidi Gov, Danny Sanderson, and more recently Dana Berger and Tomer Sharon. The military bands in Israel, unlike those in the US, were not marching bands and didn't glorify combat or war, rather they entertained exhausted troops with music that would appeal to the average soldier during his service and raise his spirits, at least for a night.

During the early years of the state, the government controlled radio regulated the music that was broadcast, and in some cases, tried to keep out what they felt was a bad influence. At the same time that American Vice President Spiro Agnew was trying to keep the Beatles out of the US because they were a "bad influence" the Israeli Ministry of Culture also banned The Beatles from Israel. It is a credit to Israel as a democracy that this regulation would not last. By the late 60's Israel was caught up in the global rock and roll revolution. Many Israeli artists were influenced by The Beatles and some covered Beatles songs in English, or modified them into Hebrew versions. Israeli music started going through a transformation in the 60s; bands started playing with electric guitars, and the language of the music became more colloquial, rather than the literary form of Hebrew used in the early years of independence.

As someone who grew up on rock and roll, it's difficult for me to relate to some of the early music in Israel. A lot of the music features the accordion as a prominent instrument, a holdover from the pre-state pioneer days, and the early settlement of the land by olim from Eastern Europe. Shir the Hebrew word for poem is also the Hebrew word for song, and during the 50s and early 60s, the lyrics of Israeli songs sounded more like poetry than rock songs. Some of the songs also had stringy and percussive orchestral productions which sounded a lot like the soundtracks to Broadway shows. But by the late 60s this would all change, and Israelis would embrace the rock and roll revolution going on throughout the western world at the time. The accordion was abandoned for the electric guitar, bass and keyboard, and the language of the songs became more colloquial.

(...article will be continued...stay tuned...)

Lehakot Tzahal: The Military Ensembles

The Israel Defense Forces has a number of bands that entertain soldiers during their military service. The IDF bands are not like the military bands of other countries, like the US and Russia, in that they don't play marching band music. Instead, these bands perform original music and comedy sketches, and are incubators of Israeli musical talent. When rock and rollers in the rest of the world are dreaming of greatness, their Israeli peers are being drafted into their compulsory military service. Promising young artist do their best to get into the highly competitive army bands. Serving in an army band can often help young artists begin their careers in music. Some of Israel's most popular entertainers got their start in the military, like Yoram Gaon, Chaim Topol, Uri Zohar, Yossi Banai, Arik Einstein, Chava Alberstein, Shalom Hanoch, Gidi Gov, Danny Sanderson, and more recently Dana Berger, Achinoam Nini and Tomer Sharon.

In the 1950s the IDF began setting up bands in the various combat units. The most popular and successful band was Lehakat HaNachal. The other bands were from Central, Northern and Southern Command, The Air Force and The Navy. In the early years of the army bands, the music was primarily folk music with a preponderance of accordion music. The state and the army understood the propaganda value of having such bands, and some of the themes that they sang about were related to army operations, like "Givat Hatachmoshet" (Ammunition Hill) by Lehakat Pikud HaMerkaz which tells the story about the difficult battle in 1967 to conquer Ammunition Hill on the northern side of Jerusalem. Some songs were anthems for the various fighting units, like "Carnival BaNachal" by the Nachal Band, and "Shiro Shel Tzanchan" (The Paratroopers Song) by Lehakat Pikud HaMerkaz. The sound of the army bands changed with the times. In 1969, Danny Sanderson and Alon Oleartchik joined the Nachal Band, and replaced the outdated accordion with an electric guitar and bass. The themes of the songs also changed, which can be typified by "Shir Hashalom" (The Song of Peace) which was written by Yankale Rotblitt in 1969. The song was about a yearning for peace and it started a controversy in the army bands: commanders feared that it would lower the morale of soldiers, and Rechavam Zeevi, the commander of the Central Command forbade the performance of the song, and insisted that the Nachal change the name of their music and comedy revue from "Go In Peace" to "In Support of the Nachal in the Sinai."

The golden age of these bands was the period of time between the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War. The army bands didn't just entertain soldiers on the bases, but they also performed for the civilian public, and produced and recorded albums, some of which produced hit songs on the radio. In 1978, a film called "haLehaka" (The Band) hit Israeli theaters. It was loosely based on the Nachal Band and depicted the difficulties faced by the new recruits particularly in their relationships to the veteran soldiers. That movie is currently enjoying a revival as an Israeli musical stage show currently running in Tel Aviv. Also in 1978, Rafael Eitan, the IDF Chief of Staff, dissolved the army bands, because he claimed they didn't serve the purpose for which they were created, namely, to entertain the troops wherever they may be. In it's place, Eitan created an army orchestra, which would play at official army functions, and was more similar to Red Army Orchestra. In 1985, the army bands were reinstated, but by then the musical style in Israel changed. The Israeli public was no longer interested in the nostalgic "songs of the Land of Israel" or light pop ditties, so the army bands started playing cover songs from well known artists. Although the army bands still exist, they are no longer the cultural force they were in the past.


Kaveret was the most popular Israeli rock band of the 1970s, and its members continued to influence the sound of Israeli music throughout the 80s and 90s. They are considered the first commercially successful Israeli rock band. Their melodic style and sense of humor helped their debut album, "Poogy Stories" sell an unprecedented 70,000 copies. Although they only recorded three albums, "Poogy Stories," "Poogy in a Pita," and "Crowded in the Ear," many of their songs, such as "Yo-Ya" and "The Makolet Song" remain popular among Israelis and are even familiar to Jews throughout the Diaspora.

The core of the band, Danny Sanderson, Gidi Gov and Alon Oleartchik served and played together in the Nachal Band. Upon their release they formed a band with the intention of writing rock operas. Soon after the band was formed, their sound would be rounded out by the addition of former Churchills guitarist Yitzchak Klapter and composer/keyboardist Yoni Rechter. In 1973, the band started working on "Poogy Stories," a collection of songs and comedy skits that would eventually become their first album. Their skits and songs began to appear on the radio, and in September 1973, Kaveret was named band of the year by Galei Tzahal radio. While in the middle of a successful tour, the Yom Kippur war broke out and the band members were called into reserve duty to perform for the troops. During their Yom Kippur War concerts the band wrote "Yo-Ya," an upbeat song comprised of a few short stories that would be one of the band's biggest hits.

In 1976, after releasing their third album, Kaveret decided to try their luck out on the American market. They translated their songs into English, but from their first American concert, they were met by an overwhelmingly Jewish audience who insisted that the band perform their songs in Hebrew. Difficulties on the road, and mounting creative and interpersonal conflicts among the band members led to their breakup after their American tour. The band members went their separate ways, except for Gidi Gov and Danny Sanderson who, in 1978 formed another band, called Gazoz. The original members reunited for a few live concert tours. In 1984 their tour included a free live outdoor concert in Park Hayarkon in Tel Aviv. In 1998 they performed to celebrate Israel's 50th anniversary, and the 25th anniversary since the release of Poogy stories. In 2000 they quickly set up a concert, but this time it was to raise money for urgent surgery which was needed by Klapter. The operation was a success.

We Are The World

Remember the 80s? Remember when USA for Africa recorded "Do They Know It's Christmas?" How about "We Are The World?" Well, Israel did something similar. In 1985 they had a song called "One Nation With One Song." Lame and cheesy. Here's the video:

But at the same time, a comedian named Tuvia Tzafir did a spoof of the song where he played the entire Israeli government. In the mid-80s, Labor and Likud formed a coalition government, but the condition was that they would rotate the prime minister position, so Shimon Peres and Yitzchak Shamir served as prime minister for two years each. The Hebrew term for it was "rotatzia." Anyways, here's the spoof video "One Nation With One Minister," where Tzafir plays, in order of appearance: Shimon Peres, Yitzchak Shamir, Abba Eban, Ariel Sharon, David Levy, Yitzchak Rabin, Yosef Burg, Plato-Sharon, Rabbi Shapira and Menachem Begin.

Ahh funny.

So now, all I have left to write about is:
-shlomo artzi
-mizrahi music (past and present)
-progressive rock of the 70s
-hip hop
-independent music

Monday, October 15, 2007

the mennu method celebrates Israel at 60...musically, of course (Part II)

Zohar Argov

Zohar Argov, also known as "Hamelech" or "The King," is considered to be one of the greatest Middle Eastern or Mizrahi singers in Israeli history. He exemplified, more than any other singer, the struggle of Mizrahi music for legitimacy in Israeli media. When he began his career, Israeli media, whether on radio or television would only play Mizrahi music during designated hours. By the end of Zohar's brief ten year career, his musical style had broken through to the general population. He paved the way for Mizrahi music to become an integral part of Israeli music, both as a genre and as an influence on pop music.

Upon rereading my opening paragraph, I must defer to a journalist friend of mine from Israel who summarized Zohar's career as such:

"Zohar Argov, “Hamelech”, brought Kavod to the oppressed Sephardim and provided the soundtrack to the revolution against whitey. He is Israel ’s answer to Robert Johnson or Muddy Waters. Became a junky and hung himself in his jail cell but changed Israeli music and Ashkenazi/Sephardi relations forever..."

That's a rave review from a dedicated fan, who is a blond haired son of British olim. I suppose it only proves the point that Zohar's music served as force that would narrow the difference between the races in Israel.

As for Zohar's life story, the 1993 film "Zohar" does a fine job of being honest to his story without sugar coating it. Zohar Orkavy was born the eldest son of a family of ten who lived in a two room apartment with his alcoholic father. By 13 he dropped out of school to work, and he began to get involved with drugs and crime. In his 20s he was locked up in jail for a year which allowed him a chance to think of attempting a career as a singer. He got a job as the driver of a Mizrahi singer named Jackie Mekeitan who used to perform in clubs and at catering halls for family events. Zohar would sing at some of these gigs, and at one in particular he caught the attention of guitarist Yehuda Keisar who decided to produce his album with the Reuveni brothers. In 1981, they recorded his album "Elinor" whose title track, a song written my Mekeitan, was a hit for the recently renamed Zohar Argov. The rest of the album had Yemenite standards and Greek songs, and even though the album was recorded in a makeshift recording studio using a four channel mixer, Zohar would become a highly demanded singer in halls across the country.

Zohar's third album, Nachon L'Hayom or "As Of Today," is considered to be the his greatest album which featured his biggest hits, "Alone," and "Flower In My Garden," which put Zohar on the top of the charts. The album went platinum, which in Israel is 250,000 copies, and the radio put him into heavy rotation with his songs playing up to 2-3 times an hour. It was during this period that he was crowned the King of Mizrahi music. He took the top award of the Mizrahi song festival in 1983 which just raised his star higher. It even earned him a concert tour of the United States. Unfortunately, that trip also introduced him to crack, beginning a drug addiction that would cost him his fortune, his career and his talent.

The rest of his life story is a downhill rock and roll cliche: rehab, return, record, tour the US again, get back on drugs, realized his managers the reuveni brothers were stealing from him, cut the awesome album "Sea of Tears" (Yam Shel Dmaot), near overdose, back to rehab, crawled his way to the Mizrahi song festival where he came in a telltale fifteenth place, while his chief rival (heir?) Haim Moshe took first place. All through this difficult period, his albums continued to sell very well. In January of 1987, Zohar appeared on the prime time variety show, "MiMenny" where he told the host, Menny Pe'er about his struggles with drug addiction, and unconvincingly claimed that he was clean. A few months later he ended up back in jail after trying to steal a policeman's gun. While given furlough from prison, he was accused of attempted rape. He hung himself in prison in November of 1987.

Zohar left a mixed legacy. On the one hand he is a symbol for the ascendancy of Mizrahi music and advancement of Mizrahi culture as part of the Israeli mainstream. On the other hand he was a drug addict, criminal and convicted rapist. The controversy over his legacy continues to be debated as his native Rishon Le'Tzion considers naming a street after him. I will not make any excuses for his criminality, however his musical work has stood the test of time, and there have been three more of his albums released posthumously, and he is still cited as an inspiration for many Mizrahi singers.

Suggested listening:
"Flower in my Garden"
"Sea of Tears"

Friday, October 12, 2007

the mennu method celebrates Israel at 60...musically, of course

Israel At 60: Musical Overview

Part I: A Musical Retrospective

A look back at Israeli music can tell us a lot about the country, the national mood, the way Israelis see themselves and the world around them, and most of all, the songs that are at the lips of Israelis as they sing their way through work and play. As Israeli music changed through the six decades of its existence it reflected changes in Israeli society going from the romantic socialism of the early pioneers, rooted in the folk traditions of Eastern Europe, to an international melange of sounds from around the world creating a unique Israeli style of music. Current music in Israel features sounds from the Middle East, the Mediterranean, South America and Africa. There are Israeli forms of jazz, hiphop, pop, reggae, punk, electronic and trance. By following the careers of significant Israeli artists and following trends in Israeli music, Americans can find an access point into the world of Israeli music.

Some artists have had such a great influence on Israeli music, and their careers have been so enduring, that by following them, we can learn more about the country itself. These artists include:

* Arik Einstein: His musical career spans five decades and includes collaboration with many other significant Israeli artists.
* Aris San: A non-Jewish Greek immigrant to Israel whose blend of Greek and Mediterranean sounds opened Israeli music to other styles of ethnic music.
* Shlomo Artzi: A musician whose lyrics spoke about the day to day concerns and anxieties of average Israelis.
* Kaveret: A supergroup whose members would continue to flavor the Israeli music scene for years after the band broke up.
* Mashina: The quintessential Israeli 80s band.
* And more...

There are also a number of trends and institutions that influenced the development of Israeli music. Lehakot Tzahal, or the Army Bands were a proving ground for many aspiring Israeli musicians who would later achieve fame as civilian musicians. The annual Eurovision song contest provided an international stage for Israeli performers and showed that Israel was a peer to European countries that participated in the contest. The progressive rock movement in Israel in the 1970s was influenced by musicians in the United States and Europe, but its expression was uniquely Israeli. Jews from Middle Eastern countries brought their own unique style of music, and while it took a while for their music to be accepted by the rest of the country, it is now a staple of Israeli music. There are also historical and biblical themes in Israeli pop music which represents a reinterpretation of the Jewish tradition for the modern era.

Part II: Current Israeli Music

Israeli music today is full of diversity. There is a growing Israeli hip-hop scene dominated by acts like Hadag Nachash and Subliminal. Ethnic music is blended into the Israeli sound, exemplified in the music of Idan Raichel, which combines pop, Yemenite and Ethiopian music, and has gained popularity around the world. Israeli trance DJs are thought to be the best in the world in their genre. There are also pop musicians like Banot Nechama, Shy Nobleman and MC Karolina who sing in English, seeking to appeal to a broader audience. There's the interesting story of Beit Habubot, a band that was made so popular by Israelis backpacking through India, that they returned to Israel to sold out shows with a crowd that new their lyrics before they officially released an album. Many of today's Israeli musicians take their inspiration from the Israeli rock scene of the previous generations and some are forging new and interesting connections with klezmer, jazz, funk and sampling. And then there are some Israeli rock groups like the Girafot who are just plain good. There is something for everyone in today's Israeli music scene.

Part III: Israeli Radio Online

Many Israeli radio stations now stream their broadcasts online. Galgalatz is a format-free, commercial free radio station with news and traffic on the hour. Kol HaCampus broadcasts from the Israeli Broadcasting School, and is like a college radio station, where the DJs bring unique flavor to their own shows. A comprehensive list of these stations will be provided in the full Israel at 60 package.

Part IV: Shopping for Israeli Music

Whether online or in Israel, there are a number of excellent stores with knowledgeable salespeople to help you find the Israeli music that appeals to you.

Aris San:

In 1957, a young Greek musician named Aristidis Saisanas sailed to Israel, and on his way changed his name to Aris San. He claims to have traveled to Israel in pursuit of a girl who had made aliya. When he arrived in Israel he found out that the girl was already engaged, but he realized that it was no the girl that he loved, but Israel. Another theory is that he left Greece in order to avoid mandatory military service. He started out, at age 17 playing in a Tel Aviv nightclub called Arianna, popular amongst the Salonikian population. By the time he was 20, through the connections he had made in the nightclubs, he had become close to the political leaders of the time, including Moshe Dayan and Ariel Sharon. Somehow, through these connections, he was granted Israeli citizenship even though he was not Jewish.

At 25 he began singing in Hebrew. His fame continued to grow in the nightclubs and with the cassette vendors who sold their wares in the Central Bus Station of Tel Aviv, but he was frustrated by his lack of airtime on Israeli radio which was dominated by Israeli artists like Yoram Gaon, Chava Alberstein and other Israeli vocalists still playing a folksy style of Israeli music. Then, while playing at the Zorba Nightclub, Aris met Aliza Azikri, a young Israeli singer fresh out of a Tzahal Band. The collaboration provided a tipping point for Aris San, and people would line up out the door of Zorba to catch the new sensation.

After the war in 1967, Aris went out on tour to entertain the troops of his beloved adopted country in all their far flung borders of the newly expanded state. 1967 was a critical year in Israeli music, where other musical influences, like the sound of Mizrachi music crept into the mainstream. Aris began blending Arabic music into his style, which today seems only natural with the likes of Idan Raichel and Tippex topping the charts in Israel. His use of Arabic themes brought suspicion onto Aris. Rumors started spreading that he was a spy. It seemed a bit strange to people that this foreigner seems to have endeared himself to the political establishment, and would perform regularly in the halls of power and on military bases. There was even a rumor that his guitar housed a small camera which he would use to photograph army bases. It was at this point that Aris retreated to the studio and recorded his most popular single, "Sigal." With the tabloids filled with stories of his romantic exploits, and the rumors of his alleged espoinage, Aris started to feel unwelcome in Israel, and in 1969 he left Israel for New York.

Upon arrival in New York, Aris San shaved off his moustache and traded in his trademark plastic framed glasses for tinted oversized gold wire frames and opened up a nightclub called Cirocco. The rest of his life story is similar to a VH1 Behind The Music story with a little mystery at the end. After brief success in New York, Aris fell into trouble with money, drugs and the mafia. He died in the 1990s in Budapest. Only his close friend and manager saw the body, which was allegedly cremated in Hungary, and his ashes are allegedly buried in Flushing, Queens. Some people, have an almost Elvis-like conspiracy theory that he's still alive and has only gone into hiding.

His influence on the Israeli musical scene is profound. By bringing Greek and Mediterranean sounds with him and blending it with Israeli lyrics he would open the door to other types of ethnic music to become part of the cosmopolitan blend that is Israeli music. Yemenite, South American, and even Arabic are part of mainstream Israeli music today. Aris San would pave the way for another Greek artist, Yehuda Poliker, a son of holocaust survivor from Salonika, to put out an album of Greek music with Hebrew lyrics after attaining national stardom with his rock group Benzeen. Even Arik Einstein would do a popular song with a Greek theme to it, Shekshenavo, from his album with Miki Gabrielov. Aris San helped Israeli music find its own identity.

Suggested listening:
Aris San - Yasas Vre Pedia

Aris San Documentary (in Hebrew) in Five Parts on YouTube:

Arik Einstein

Arik Einstein's accomplished career spans five decades from the 1960s until today. Arik's music has accompanied the country throughout most of its history. His songs evoke the Tiny Old Land Of Israel (Eretz Yisrael HaKtana) of the past. He's been entertaining the nation through good times and bad, a deep and familiar voice like a close friend to an entire country. Throughout his long career, his music is always relevant and up to date, incorporating new artists and different influences while keeping true to his own unique style. He's recorded over 500 songs, and 34 albums and has collaborated with many of Israel's premier musicians including Shalom Hanoch, Yehudit Ravitz, Shem Tov Levi, Miki Gabrielov and most recently with Peter Rott. Arik also dabbled in acting and comedy. He was part of an early 70's sketch comedy show called Lool, and appeared in a few Israeli movies.

Arik first started performing with Lehakat Tzahal, and upon his release performed in a band called Green Onions with Chaim Topol (who would later star in the film Fiddler on the Roof). Arik released his first solo album in 1960, a four song EP, after which he performed as a soloist under the stage name Ari Goren. After that he was in The Yarkon Bridge Trio together with Yoram Gaon until 1964, but Arik felt that the music that they were performing was similar to Russian ballads or the Beatles and didn't really constitute a new musical style. During his time with the Yarkon Bridge Trio, Arik still continued to record as a soloist, act and sing in stage productions and on soundtracks. During the 1965 and 1966 song festivals, Arik took first place as a soloist and came in second with the Yarkon Bridge Trio.

Arik put out "I Sing For You," his first full solo album in 1966. It was influenced by jazz and South American music and integrated the sound of an electric guitar on a few of the tracks. He performed a number of Beatles covers, along with other pop favorites like "The Lemon Tree," and "The House of the Rising Sun." But Arik was always looking for new musical influences, and together with Shmulik Krauss and Josie Katz, he would form the first Israeli pop trio, The High Windows. Their song "Yecheskel," a catchy pop tune released in 1966 about the biblical prophet Ezekiel can still be heard on Israeli radio today.

In 1967, Arik met with and started to collaborate with a young musician and writer named Shalom Hanoch. The songs that they recorded appeared on a album released in 1968 called "Mazal Gedi" (Aries). At around this time, Arik's contract with CBS records had expired, allowing him to seek out new business relationships. He started his own production company called Hagar. In the 1969 song festival, Arik's submission came in next to last, and he decided from that point on that he would never compete in the contest again, and beyond that, he would no longer care about market demands or public expectations. Arik was looking for a new band that would accompany both in the studio and in concert and help him develop a new sound. He was introduced to The Churchills, featuring Miki Gabrielov on bass and Chaim Romano on guitar, and together they would record the first Israeli rock album, "Poozy," in 1969. This album featured electric guitars with distortion.

Einstein would continue to develop a unique sound together with the talented group of musician he surrounded himself with. In 1970, he released the film "Shablool" which had clips from their own lives and featured Arik Einstein and Shalom Hanoch as themselves. The film and the accompanying soundtrack were both commercial failures at the time, but they marked a turning point in Israeli music. The upbeat sound was heavily influenced by the international pop scene in general and The Beatles in particular. The language and themes, though, were contemporary Israeli: the lyrics of the songs echoed the way that Israelis spoke at the time, rather than attempt some kind of classic Hebrew poetic style. Einstein and Hanoch wrote the bulk of the tracks either individually or together, and Einstein sang lead vocals with Hanoch accompanying with the exception of "The Deeper The Bluer," where Hanoch sang the lead vocal. Shablool led to the 1970 television series "Lool," a sketch comedy and music show. Later that year, Arik Einstein and Shalom Hanoch released another album called "Plastelina." In the end of 1970, Hanoch moved to England for a brief period of time affording Einstein the opportunity to create new musical connections.

Suggested listening from Shablool:
"What Do You Do When You Wake Up In The Morning?"
"Take Yourself A Wife and Build Her A Home"
"Why Should I Take It To Heart?"
"The Ballad Of Yoel Moshe Salomon"

Suggested listening from Plastelina:
"What's With Me?" (Duet between Arik Einstein and Josie Katz)

After putting out a children's album in 1971, Einstein collaborated with Miki Gabrielov on "At Avigdor's Grass." This album combined rock and roll with romantic music and a Middle Eastern touch. The themes included longing for childhood as seen in the songs, "You and I (Will Change The World)" and "I See Her On The Way to the Gymnasium." The album cover features a picture of Einstein in the place near the beach in Tel Aviv where they used to practice. There were also allegations of drug use in that location, giving the English translation of the album title more significance. Soon afterwards, his backup band, The Churchills set out for England and again, Einstein had to find a new band, and led to brief collaborations with the rock-jazz fusion band The Platina, and later with the psychadelic rock band Apocalypse. When performing with Apocalypse, the first part of the concert would be Apocalypse songs, and during the second half, the band wolud back up Einstein on his songs.

In 1972, the Churchills returned to Israel and Einstein recorded the album "Jasmine" with them. Later that year he would co-star in the Uri Zohar film, "Peeping Toms."

Suggested listening from Jasmine:
"Good To See You Home"
"Mother Earth"

In 1973 Einstein re-recorded some old songs in a collection called "Good Old Land Of Israel." Among the songs were updated versions of "Could It Be That It's Over?" and "Yoel Moshe Solomon." The album was a commercial success and coincided with the fourth Lool TV program. Shalom Hanoch returned from England later that year, and joined Einstein in concert. Hanoch would open the concerts playing solo with his guitar and then would stay on and play with Einstein and his band, with the two of them singing "Why Should I Take It To Heart?" together. The two set out to tour together, but with the outbreak of the Yom Kippur war, both were called up for a half year of reserve duty where they would play at army bases throughout the week, leaving only the weekend to play for the civilian crowd. During that period, Einstein and Miki Gabrielov continued working on new material, the fruit of which was the album "Slow Down." Einstein even managed to find the time to star in Uri Zohar's movie, "Big Eyes." In 1974, Einstein went on tour with Shalom Hanoch who had formed a band together with Ariel Zilber which Einstein named Tammuz. Tammuz would be one of the most influential Israeli bands of the 70s.

Suggested listening from Slow Down:
"Slow Down"
"Big Eyes"

In 1976, Arik Einstein asked Yoni Rechter to engineer his next album. Einstein was impressed with Rechter's work on the album "Fourteen Octaves." Rechter enthusiastically agreed. The result was a short but beautiful album called, "Love Has Many Faces."

Suggested listening from Love Has Many Faces:
"What Do The Deer Do?"

Throughout the rest of the 70's he recorded and performed with some of the up and coming talent on the Israeli music scene including, Avner Kenner, Shem-Tov Levi, Shlomo Yidov, Corinne Alal and Yehudit Ravitz. In 1979, Einstein and Hanoch reunited for another tour, which would include shows in New York and finally end up in Hechal Hatarbut in Tel Aviv.

More suggested listening from Arik Einstein's Albums of the 1970s:
"When There's A Light In Your Window" - Good Old Land of Israel Part II
"Atur Mitzcheh" - Good Old Land of Israel Part III

Suggested listening from Armed With Glasses:
"Tel Aviv (Yarkon 1950)"
"San Francisco on the Bay"

Suggested listening from Sitting On The Fence:
"Sitting on the Fence"
"In Praise of the Samba"

Suggested listening from Time Out:
"He Made Teshuva"

Suggested listening from A Home Loving Man:
"When We Arrive"
"A Home Loving Man"

Arik Einstein

Here's Arik Einstein pretending to be Greek:

Atur Mitzcheh: Arik Einstein with Yehudit Ravitz, Corinne Alal and Avner Kenner:

Arik Einstein in a comedy sketch called the Bible Quiz from Lool: (English Subtitles)

Arik Einstein in a sketch from Lool which shows how each wave of Jews to arrive in Israel viewed the next group off the boat: (Hebrew Subtitles, but most of the sketch is spoken in gibberish.)

Panas HaRechov: Tammuz featuring Shalom Hanoch and Ariel Zilber:

Author's Note:

I've had a lifelong interest in Israeli music which I inherited from my beloved father and his fantastic record collection. This love was only increased when I moved to Israel in 1985. In the late 80s, I was drafted into the IDF and found myself fully immersed in Israeli music. I used to kid my army buddies about the music they listened to, and they would try gentle (and sometimes not so gentle) persuasion, trying to prove that Israeli music had genuine quality and not just the meaning and value that they themselves placed on it.

I recall a bunch of particularly long nights at the Lebanese border where I would be up all night with my commander listening to our little transistor radio to an overnight program called Lo Rotzim Lishon or "We Don't Want To Sleep." By that point I had observed that when Israelis hear a song that they really really like, they make a face that almost looks like they are in pain and then they say something to the effect of, "Yo eizeh shir! Shir gadol! Shir anak!" This translates loosely as, "Whoa! What a song! It's a big song! A HUGE song." My commander was skeptical about my observation, until one night, the DJ on the radio, in his deep overnight Hebrew said, "Uvechen, shir anak, umutzak..." which means "And so, that was a huge and solid song."

I hope that my efforts in this project will expose a wider American audience to the plethora of huge and solid songs that have come out of Israel for the past 60 years.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Mennu at Tonga Room

Mennu at Tonga Room, originally uploaded by chicagodust.

Here's a picture of me drinking a Volcano Bowl in the Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar in the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco. The place is like two Disney themes at once: The Tiki Room with Pirates of the Carribean; like a Polynesian village near a docked boat. There's a pool in the middle of the bar, and in the middle of the pool is a small ship where undersized Polynesian musicians do live covers of Madonna songs, or at least so I'm told. I don't know about that though, since there was no music there late on Monday night. There were, however, constant indoor rainshowers. Every once and a while some indoor thunder and lightning would be followed up by movie-set rain which would noisily fall directly into the pool. It was playful, interesting and fun.

For more pics, click, here, here and here.

And thanks to Flaggs for helping me amass KNOWledge about SF. It's as though I was born there...

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Ready for Simchas Torah!

Schedule of madness:

Wednesday Dinner: Newmania!
Thursday Lunch: Schpence!
Thursday Night: Richter Brothers!
Friday Lunch: We'll see...
Friday Night: Bracha
Shabbos Lunch: Schpence! life is a media event.

I Hate My Job Day

So, like, I'm having an "I Hate My Job Day," and my father notices that by the fact that I was throwing a trantrum first thing in the morning. A "trantrum" is a cross between a rant and a tantrum. Anyhow, he printed out the following chain email joke and put it on two pages to increase the impact. It was very sweet:

When you have an "I Hate My Job" day, try this:
On your way home from work, stop at your pharmacy and go to the thermometer section and purchase a rectal thermometer made by Johnson & Johnson Be very sure you get this brand.
When you get home, lock your doors, draw the curtains and disconnect the phone so you will not be disturbed.
Change into very comfortable clothing and sit in your favorite chair.
Open the package and remove the thermometer.
Now, carefully place it on a table or a surface so that it will not become chipped or broken.
Now the fun part begins.
Take out the literature from the box and read it carefully.
You will notice that in small print there is a statement:
"Every Rectal Thermometer made by Johnson & Johnson is personally tested"
Now, close your eyes and repeat out loud five times, "I am so glad I do not work in the thermometer quality control at Johnson & Johnson."

I didn't find anything on J&J's site, of course. But I did find something on Snopes, a website that debunks urban legends. In a very Captain Obvious way, snopes illuminates,

"the point that some people are apprently missing is that rectal thermometers aren't tested by using them the very same way end consumers would."

They said, "end consumers." Reminds me of South Park episode 608 where Martha Stewart shows how to "prepare a Thanksgiving turkey for interorecto."

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Jewish Pirate Jokes from JewSchool were funny, but the comments were funnier:

"YashARRRRRR koach, hazaq u-bARRRRRukh, and gmARRRRRR hatima tova, ye

They left off the one about the pirate's favorite shabbat song: Yaarrrr RRrrribon! (Which is a joke I pillaged from The ReJewvenator.)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Yarr! It's almost heeeerrrre!
I found some good parrrrrty resources, including a printable flyerrrrr for yer cubicle, here.

Shiver me timbers!

Monday, September 17, 2007

What's My Pirate Name

This Wednesday is Talk Like A Pirate Day. I got my pirate name from a generator. Here's the results:
My pirate name is:
Iron Sam Bonney

A pirate's life isn't easy; it takes a tough person. That's okay with you, though, since you a tough person. You can be a little bit unpredictable, but a pirate's life is far from full of certainties, so that fits in pretty well. Arr!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Two Years Later

There are still people living in FEMA trailers.
In New Orleans, things are fine if you live on the high ground. But if you're poor...
Many people who left New Orleans have not returned, or have since moved on.
I'll be hanging out with one such person tonight in New York.
In the meantime, we should mark this day by showing our fleur de lis, and by shouting SLIDELL!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

National Institute for Musical Healing

I know most people still haven't finished digesting the summer series, but, I had to make another mix. This was made while out of town at a conference. Without going too deeply into the process and circumstances of making the mix, let me just say, the music is all from 2007, except one song from 2006. I'm not sure I'll make a CD out of it, and I might make a zipped folder of individual mp3 files, but for now, enjoy the wma by clicking on the title.

National Institute for Musical Healing

1-Rilo Kiley-The Moneymaker
2-Spoon-Don't You Evah
3-The Shins-Australia (Peter Bjorn & John Remix)
4-Peter Bjorn & John-Young Folks (beyond the wizard's sleeve re-animation)
5-Tegan & Sara-Back in Your Head
6-Au Revoir Simone-A Violent Yet Flammable World
7-Northern State-Away Away
8-Stars-Ageless Beauty (The Most Serene Republic Mix)
9-The Most Serene Republic-Sherry and Her Butterfly Net
10-The National-Black Slate
11-Grand National-By the Time I Get Home There Won't Be Much of a Place for Me
12-Low Line Caller-Over The Counter Kids
13-Iron & Wine-Boy With A Coin
14-Anja Garbarek-I Won't Hurt You
15-Mono in VCF-Escape City Scrapers
16-Bat For Lashes-What's A Girl To Do?
17-My Latest Novel-Wrongfully, I rested
18-Throw Me The Statue-Conquering Kids

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Got The Splint Removed!

Although my hand is still bloated and swollen, and my second metacarpal is still fractured, the doc removed the splint. It looks pretty gross and I plan to add a picture of it later.

I have two splint pics below that were taken by friends with high tech pda cameraphones:

This picture was taken with a blackberry of some kind. It was August 2, 2007 and I was in Spingfield Park in Queens to see Roy Ayers. When I had the cast on, I was supposed to keep my arm elevated. So I went to a lot of concerts, aoided auctions (for the most part) and kept a ready supply of questions. "You in the back! You've had your hand up for the whole presentation. Do you have a question?"
"Yes, I do. I'd like to ask the chairman..."

This picture was taken with an iPhone on August 5, 2007. I was bopping around the city with some friends who used to live in New York. I had just recieved a phone call from my nephew, who was experiencing culture shock upon his return to Memphis. He asked where I was. I said, "Houston Street."
"So, you're like, in SoHo?"
"Actually, I'm in the middle of Houston Street. Neither SoHo or NoHo. I guess I'm just in Ho."
A meaningless milestone: this is the first picture ever taken of me with an iPhone.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Friday, July 20, 2007

Fractured Second Metacarpal

I fractured my second metacarpal in a jacuzzi mishap. Won't be typing much for three weeks.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Summer Series Artwork

Here's some design concepts for the CD label designs for my summer mix series.

I was having difficulty with the CD design. I tried using images from the web and a graphics program to create the labels. But the graphics, and the software were too difficult for me. I was unable to achieve the results I wanted.

So I recalled the way that James T. Kirk dealt with the Kobayashi Maru scenario when he was in Starfleet. Since the test was too hard, he changed the test. So instead of getting bogged down in a computer graphics project where I was doomed to fail, I changed the nature of the project. I decided that it would be a photo/craft project instead.

And so, with the help of my nephews Yonadav and Lavi and my niece Racheli, we were able to create the following pictures with fruit and beads.