Showing posts with label Mizrahi music. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mizrahi music. Show all posts

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Haproyect Shel Ravivo and Daklon - An Evening of Mizrahi Music

I wrote about some Mizrahi artists and music on November 17, 2013 (See "Israel's Mizrahi Music...").  The blog post was not comprehensive but was a look at few influential singers who have enjoyed significant popularity in Israel in the past few years.  I had not actually been to a concert to see any of them perform live, though I had certainly been to some weddings where a good part of the music was Mizrahi.

So last night, we decided to go and see the "Haproyect Shel Ravivo" (Ravivo's Project) at Hangar 11 at the Tel-Aviv Port.  The concert was scheduled for 9:30 p.m., well after Shabbat ended to ensure that people could make it from a variet of locations.  Hangar 11 is a club-style venue, with seating in the round, a rotating stage and a capacity of well over 1,500.  The food served is certified Kosher under the auspices of the Tel-Aviv Rabbinate (though we actually didn't eat any of it - the menu was fairly limited and the prices were not particularly appetizing...).

The concert was billed as a special event with Haproyect Shel Ravivo welcoming a guest performance by Daklon.  Daklon is considered one of the fathers of Israeli Mizrahi music.  Now almost 70 years old, Daklon was popular in Israel in the 1960s in some segments.  He would string together chains of Hebrew lyrics, sometimes biblical, to Mediterranean (Greek, Arabic and even Spanish/Italian) melodies.  To get a flavour for Daklon, here is a clip of him singing "Shabechi Yerushalayim":

Haproyect Shel Ravivo put together a collaborative song with Daklon in 2013 which has been well received in Israel.   At this concert last night, they introduced him enthusiastically as one of Israel's greatest musical pioneers.  Given his age, Daklon has slowed down quite a bit.  But the members of Proyect Shel Ravivo accompanied him to the stage.  They took turns helping him around the stage, staying near him while he was singing and generally showing a mixture of admiration, respect and comradery.  The only word that would really fit would be the Hebrew word "kavod" - which means respect and honour.  Daklon sang about three or four medleys with Haproyect and then they helped back down off the stage.  The audience enjoyed it and it was very moving.

Haproyect itself is a 10 piece band, which performs a variety of Mizrahi influenced music.  Much of the music is revival music - Israeli hits from the 60s and 70s that have been reworked into modern adaptations.  Some of the music is based on traditional Yemenite or other Mizrahi melodies.  Most of it is infectiously upbeat and, as they describe it in Hebrew - מוזיקה שעושה שמח- music that "makes you happy...".

The group is a cross generational band with some of the musicians in their late 20s or early 30s (like the drummer) and others, probably close to Daklon's age.  The three front men, the lead singers, are probably in their 40s, if I had to guess.  The electric bass player looked much older.  Haproyect was formed in 2012 and has enjoyed some great success in Israel.

The concert began at about (9:45 p.m.) with an instrumental meddley.  The three lead singers then joined, dressed in black shirts, jackets and dress pants.  While the lighting was varied and, at times, intense, the musicians themselves were relatively understated.  They welcomed the audience and just jumped right into a series of medleys that appear on their CDs. 

As the stage at Hangar 11 rotated around the room, the three singers took turns singing to different parts of the fully packed house.  The audience was appreciative but not raucous.  There were many people who had come in large groups.  Some were extended families with grandparents and children all together.  There were groups of 8 or 10 guys in their early 20s - and all sorts of other combinations.  There was a large group of women in their 30s sitting right near us.  While most of the audience were probably in their 40s and 50s, it was quite a wide ranging audience.

After about 45 minutes, Haproyect brought Daklon to the stage.  Once Daklon's performance concluded, the lead singers of Haproyect took off their jackets, changed into white shirts, and upped the tempo further.  They invited everyone to get up and dance ("you have our permission," lead singer Raviv told the audience).

They played a mixture of some new medleys as well as some of their most popular hits.  One of the new medleys featured a whole series of popular Israeli hits from the 1970s (including Eurovision song "Abonabee Abonabay").  People were singing along, dancing and generally having a fun time.  The band members were smiling throughout, joking with each other and with the audience and prancing around the stage.  They certainly seemed to be enjoying themselves.

Just before midnight., they played their second and final encore - "Ten La Z'man Lalechet" - their biggest hit medley, which I highlighted in my blog post on Mizrahi music.  It was charged with energy, fast moving and lots of fun.  Quite a fitting way to conclude an evening of finger snapping, toe-tapping, hand-clapping music. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Israel's "Mizrahi Music" - Some Selected Clips

Since its establishment in 1948, Israel has enjoyed a wide range of Hebrew music.  Many Israeli musicians have become quite popular and some have even wound up touring in North America and other places around the world.

Over the years, the musical genres have varied widely.  Israel has had it share of crooners (like Yehoram Gaon), folk musicians (Chava Alberstein), contemporary pop/rock artists (Shlomo Artzi/ Rami Kleinstein), hard rock (Benzine, Shalom Hanoch) and many others, including, of course, religious music.  I am not about to trace the musical history of Israel, which certainly could not be done in a short blog.

But while many non-Israelis have heard of some of the better known mainstream Israeli artists - Chava Alberstein, David Broza and the late Ofra Haza, to name a few, most non-Israelis have little exposure to the majority of popular Israeli music.  There are many great Israeli musicians and it is much easier today to access the music in an internet age.

But I thought I would open a bit of a window into a genre of music that is among the most popular in Israel today - at least among certain segments of society - "Mizrahi music" or "Oriental music" as it is sometimes translated into English.  This music is heavily influenced by Arab culture and sometimes the music of Greece and other surrounding Mediterranean countries.  Mizrahi music is ubiquitous at Israeli weddings, on radio stations and at many different types of large public gatherings.  One well known Israeli Mizrahi artist, who happens to come from Kiryat Eqron, is Dudu Aharon who has been named Israel's "Artist of the Year" on a number of occasions.

A fascinating recent phenomenon is the growing popularity of a group called "פרויקט של רביבו" ("Ravivo's Project").  This group has released a number of disks and videos seeking to revive popular 70s and early 80s Yemenite music that was often sung at group gatherings and was based on traditional Yemenite melodies.  The emphasis, as illustrated by the words, the music and the facial expressions of the band members, is on having a great time.  The group has recorded a number of videos, filmed in group settings, with a variety of people chewing Qat drinking beer and whiskey, smoking Hookahs and smiling - while singing medleys of Mizrahi music.   This first video by the Project really captures the spirit of Mizrahi music.  If you haven't really been exposed to it - try it out - at least for the experience... (If you like it, I will try to get you invited to a Yemenite Hina - where you can hear a whole night's worth and maybe even chew some Qat - or you can find out where this group is playing next time you are in Israel...).  To give you an idea of the popularity of this video, as of the time of the writing of this blog, it had been watched more than seven million times...

While the music may be sung in Hebrew, it is certainly not "religious" music.  In fact, one of the common slights of Mizrahi music is that the lyrics are often repetitive, simplistic and even base.  Unlike some of the other Mizrahi artists, Ravivo's Project has put together medleys of different traditional Yemenite songs, with traditional lyrics.  This is part of an effort to "revive" some older, once popular music.  The lyrics are not as "common" as some of the more contemporary Mizrahi artists, whose lyrics often have nothing to do with traditional Mizrahi music.

At the same time, the group has paid homage to some of the religious roots of Yemenite music.  In this next video, the group leader Raviv, explains that the group was asked by many people to put together a medley of Shabbat (Sabbath) songs.  So here it is - a medley of traditional Shabbat songs - sung to Yemenite melodies.  Some of the songs that make up this medley -like "L'cha Dodi" might be more recognizable - even if the tunes are not.  The last song of the medley (starting about the 7' mark) is the very well known ("כי אשמר השבת...) ("Because I observe the Sabbath, G-d will watch over me...").  This video has been watched well over two million times as of the time of writing of this blog.

Since I mentioned Dudu Aharon - I should probably also add a link to one of his most popular songs - "Tagidu la" ("Tell her that there is a guy who is asking to be the closest one to her....").  These are not traditional Yemenite lyrics - and the music, while somewhat influenced by Mizrahi elements, is not really viewed as pure Mizrahi music.  But it is enormously popular in Israel, especially at weddings and parties.  Dudu was recently featured as the star on a year long reality program - Israel's version of "The Bachelor." 

Finally, I had to add at least one video of Israel's true king of Mizrahi music.  Eyal Golan, has been popular in Israel for quite a number of years.  But this next song has been astronomically well received.  It is now sung at weddings, at the Kotel on selichot nights by groups of people walking to and from the Kotel between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur - and at parties, clubs and all types of other occasions.  I have seen synagogues using it during hakafot on Simchat Torah (which shows how incredibly popular it has become in just a few years since its release).  The song "Mi she'maa'min lo mifached" - whoever believes, is not afraid, of losing faith, because we have G-d, the king of the world, to take care of us...") - is performed live here:

It is certainly a good thing that Eyal Golan professes such deep faith, since he is mired in a number of different scandals and has been forced to respond publicly to a variety of different allegations, none of which have been proven in court, and which I am not about to discuss in any detail.  

I have no plans to turn this into a musical blog...but the idea for this type of entry came to me as I attended a Mizrahi wedding on Wednesday night - and listened to this genre the whole evening.  I thought that it might be worthwhile sharing some of it with people who might not have had exposure.

If you already have a large collection of it, well - I guess you can skip over this post quickly.  But if you have never listened to it - you might find it interesting  to hear a type of music that you may not have heard before.

I have no comment on whether chewing Qat will make this music more enjoyable. This might be difficult in North America, where I believe it is a restricted or banned substance, even though it is generally not considered to be a narcotic.  Is is much easier to find in Israel and very common in Yemen and Sudan.

I can say that some nice single malt scotch would probably help, though I suspect that is not what the Ravivo Project guys are drinking in the video.  As for the Hookahs - and what they might be smoking in them - well - at this point, I will probably defer to a Toronto expert - the current Mayor Rob Ford - who seems to have quite a good handle on what to smoke at a party (or in a car, at City Hall, or just about anywhere else...). 

For now, one way or another - enjoy the music....