Guitar Sounds from the Israeli Diaspora

Isra-Alien - Somewhere is Here!
Isra-Alien – Somewhere is Here!
Isra-Alien

Somewhere is Here! (independent, 2012)

Somewhere is Here! is the second album by guitar duo Isra-Alien. The two musicians come from different backgrounds to create acoustic instrumental music. Oren Neiman comes from the jazz field and plays nylon string guitar. Gilad Ben-Zvi’s roots are in rock music and he plays steel string guitar.

The duo’s music is a mix of klezmer and other Jewish roots music with elements of Gypsy jazz, Balkan, tango, Greek music and even a little flamenco.

Neiman and Ben-Zvi met on a remote base during military service and then reunited years later in New York. “We both were each doing our own thing,” describes Neiman. “I was doing stuff that was more jazz oriented, and the trio I led that played all over the place. Gilad was a sideman in all sorts of rock bands, and had his own rock project that was fairly active on the Israeli music scene.”

Both musicians ended up moving to New York, working on separate projects. “New York can make you feel very alone. I used to wake up in middle of the night and write. Just write things, things I wouldn’t have written in Israel,” Ben-Zvi remembers. “Oren was only person I knew here. One day, he called me up and asked me, “Why aren’t we playing together, actually?’”

For us, it felt like a natural synthesis,” explains Gilad about their collaboration. “It was in music we grew up with. It was a really organic thing.”

We’re just really trying to bring in whatever sounds we can produce from our two wooden boxes and twelve strings,” says Neiman. “Whatever sound can be produced, as long as it’s appropriate and we try to extend that as much as possible.”

Israel is a diaspora country, just like U.S. Some of the elements in the music are obvious: klezmer and Middle Eastern sounds,” Ben-Zvi adds. “But you also have the harmony of Russia, and the playing style of the Mediterranean, and the time signatures of the Balkans. It’s not just about singing in Hebrew.”

Somewhere is Here! is a spirited guitar album that brings together various musical traditions.

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