The Music of the Israeli Global Village

Shlomo Bar & Habrera Hativeet - Low Clouds
Shlomo Bar & Habrera Hativeet – Low Clouds
Immigration from numerous countries and a wide range of musical influences have had an effect on modern Israeli music. This is a sampling of some of the Jewish music from Israel and other areas that has arrived to World Music Central’s archives.

Low Clouds (Acum 64642, 2006) is the latest CD by Israeli band Shlomo Bar & Habrera Hativeet. The group has been around for nearly three decades and is one of the pioneers of Israeli world fusion. Aside from the Sephardic and Middle Eastern roots, as well as rock, Habrera Hativeet adds dreamy musical elements from as far as India and Africa.

Shlomo Bar, the founder of Habrera Hativeet, is a talented multi-instrumentalist and singer. His voice has a powerful depth. “For me,” says Shlomo Bar, “music is something internal without beginning or end. In my music there are elements of prayers, wonder, yearning and messianism.”

The Yuval Ron Ensemble is one of the finest world music acts in Israel. Its latest recording is Tree of Life (Magda MGD051, 2006). The album incorporates Middle Eastern music from the Arabic, Armenian and Sephardic traditions as well as Medieval Andalusian influences.

Yuval Ron Ensemble - Tree of Life
Yuval Ron Ensemble – Tree of Life
The Yuval Ron Ensemble includes Jewish, Arabic and Christian musicians who perform scared and folk music of the Middle East. The ensemble features two excellent vocalists, Najwa Gibran and Maya Haddi. Yeghish Manukyan plays several types of wind instruments, including the evocative Armenian duduk and flute.Jamie Papish plays an assortment of percussion instruments that ranges from the Peruvian cajón to the Moroccan karkabas and dumbek. Virginie Alumyan plays qanun. David Martinelli incorporates percussion instruments, including several types of tambourines and frame drums as well as the North African darbuka. Carolyne Aycaguer-Ron plays harmonium and keyboards; and Yuval Ron plays stringed instruments such as ud, saz and sintir.

A great sampler of current Israeli music is The Rough Guide to the Music of Israel. It includes the most interesting acts involved with world music, ranging from the Yemenite sounds of Ofra Haza and the eclectic world sounds of Bustan Abraham to the spectacular vocals of Emil Zrihan, and the Al Andalus sounds of the Israeli Andalusian Orchestra. Top names in current Israeli music are also featured: Chava Alberstein and Yasmin Levy. Overall, a great collection of music from modern Israel.

In Israel’s melting pot there is also room for MPB (Brazilian popular music). Brazilian-born Elisete moved to Israel 15 years ago. She is recording Brazilian music, ranging from MPB to baiao and samba, combined with world beats. Her latest album is Gaaqua (Longing), released by IMP Records in 2006. In Israel Elisete is considered Brazilian and abroad she is regarded as an Israeli. “Even though the lyrics of most of my original songs are in Hebrew, they have Brazilian rhythms.”

Amos Hoffman - Na'ama
Amos Hoffman – Na’ama
Arabic music has quite a following in Israel. Guitarist and ud virtuoso Amos Hoffman has a new album entitled Na’ama (Magda, 2006). Hoffman composed all 12 songs, and performs them preserving the Arabic music tradition, while at the same time combining elements of jazz, Latin music and world music. Even though the sound seems traditional, Hoffman uses unconventional instruments such as the marimba, which is rarely used in Arab music.

Na’ama, an instrumental ud album, features Joshua Levit on ney, Ehab Nimcr on violin, Omer Avital on bass, Tomer Zur on percussion, Rea Bar Nes on percussion & marimba. There is also a guest appearance by renowned bass player Avishai Cohen on one track.

Although not based in Israel, guitar players Liat Cohen and Ricardo Moyano play Sephardic sounds on Latino – Ladino (Mandala/Harmonia Mundi, 2005). The guitar duo leans heavily on the classical side. Many of the pieces have a Latin flavor and are composed by Ricardo Moyano. But there are also traditional Jewish songs from the Ladino tradition.

Naguila Ensemble - Hayam Hagadol [the Big Sea]
Naguila Ensemble – Hayam Hagadol [the Big Sea]
Jerusalem-based Abidin Ensemble have recorded A Tribute to the Poetry of Nazim Hikmet (Magda, 2005), a rather intimate recording. To celebrate the birthday of Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet, they made an album with his poems translated from Turkish to Hebrew. The chamber format of the group includes cello, double bass, percussion and vocals.

The French production Hayam Hagadol [the Big Sea] (l’empreinte digitale ED13210) by Judeo-Arab ensemble Naguila centers of the music heritage of Medieval Andalusia (Spain), a land that produced a rich body of music. Naguila plays a selection of sacred and folk music that is still alive in Magreb (northern Africa) and other regions. Naguila is formed by André Taieb on vocals; Mohammed Zeftari on violin and vocals; Fouad Didi on ud and vocals; and Pierre-Luc Ben Soussan on darbuka and daf.

Lastly, Terre Sainte – Holy Land, Religious Music from the Holy Land (Norsud Music, 2002) includes sacred music recordings made in the late 1950s and 1960, from the Jewish, Islamic and Christian traditions. Deben Bhattacharya made the recordings in Jerusalem, Israel and Jordan. The Jewish recordings include music from the Hassidic, Yemenite and Moroccan traditions. The Christian recordings feature Dominican (Catholic), Armenian, Coptic, and Orthodox rituals. The Islamic parts is dedicated to the call to prayer by a muezzin.

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites and Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.