Tag Archives: Israel

Artist Profiles: Yair Dalal

Yair Dalal

Yair Dalal, composer, violinist and oud player is probably the most prolific Israeli ethnic musician today.Over the last decade he has put nine albums, covering wide and varied cultural territory. Much of Dalal’s output reflects the strong affinity he has for the desert and its inhabitants. Dalal’s family came to Israel from Baghdad and he has included much Iraqi material in his work to date.

Whether working on his own, or with his Alol ensemble, Dalal creates new Middle Eastern music by interweaving the traditions of Iraqi and Jewish Arabic music with a range of influences originating from such diverse cultural milieus as the Balkans to India. The evocative compositions comprise a unique and colorful sound. Dalal’s musicianship is truly independent of time or trends. His work is enhanced by the polished skills of his colleagues in the Alol ensemble who imbue the music with different ethnic backgrounds, playing instruments from the Middle East and Asia – including numerous Arabic percussion instruments, tabla, sitar, flute, clarinet, lyre and saz – and invoking Iraqi, Moroccan, Persian and even Bedouin singing styles.

Yair Dalal performs different repertoires, including classical Jewish Arabic music and material that draws on Babylonian traditions. He is one of a handful of artists who preserve and sustain the Babylonian musical heritage. The wonderful Jewish Iraqi musicians who emigrated from Iraq to Israel in the 1950s, from whom Dalal learned much of his craft, have either passed away or are very old.

Dalal also uses his extensive array of skills to span musical genres in performing his own compositions rooted in this musical tradition and inspired by the desert. Living in such a rich multicultural society, such as Israel, has imbued his art with the musical treasures of numerous cultural heritages.

During the past years he has collaborated with top musicians from all over the globe, from different disciplines, including celebrated western classical conductor and Maestro Zubin Mehta, Israeli Chamber Orchestra and Doron Solomon, Jordi Savall and member of Hesperion XXI, L. Shankar, Hamza el Din, Michel Bismuth, Ken Zuckerman, Armand Aamar, Shlomo Mintz, Cihat Askin ,Maurice el Medioni and Mustafa Raza, Ensemble Kaboul, Adel Salameh, The Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, Jerusalem Kamerata Orchestra and more. He participates and lectures in Keshet Eilon-Violin workshops, ISME -Music Education, European Network for Traditional Music and Dance, Mendocino Middle East Music Camp USA and initiator of Mediterranean Musical Dialogue in Israel.

Yair Dalal is a peace activist in all means; besides his musical endeavors, he devotes much time and energy to helping to remove ideological barriers between people and musicians from different cultures and, in particular between Jews and Arabs. He is collaborating with Palestinian musicians from the Middle East and has initiated and formed many peace projects such as: Shalom Salaam concert in 1994, Key Note Circle for Peace and performance and CD recordings Music Channel and performing at the Nobel Peace Prize gala concert in Oslo 1994.


Al Ol (Al Sur, 1996)
Samar (Magda, 1997)
Silan (Amiata, 1998)
Azame (Magda, 1999)
Diáspora Sefardí – Romances & Música Instrumental ‎(Alia Vox, 1999)
Shacharut (Magda, 2000)
Perfume Road (Magda, 2001)
Yair Dalal (Magda, 2002)
Asmar ‎(Magda, 2002)
One ‎(Magda, 2003)
Silan (Magda, 2006)
Inshalla Shalom: Live in Jerusalem (Magda, 2006)
Band Orient ‎(Magda, 2008)
Istanbul «Le Livre De La Science De La Musique» Et Les Traditions Musicales Sépharades Et Arméniennes ‎(Alia Vox, 2009)
…And You Love… ‎(Magda, 2011)
Israel in Egypt: From Slavery to Freedom (Capriccio Records, 2012)


Artist Profiles: Yuval Ron

Yuval Ron Ensemble

Yuval Ron is an international composer and record producer. He has done field recordings in the Sinai desert with the Bedouins and produced the record One Truth with Turkish master musician Omar Faruk Tekbilek on World Class Records. His One, on Magda Records, features Omar Faruk Tekbilek, Yair Dalal, Azam Ali, Pejman Hadadi, Nahil Azzam and Haim Louk.

A recipient of multiple grants from National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, the American Composers Forum and the California Council for the Humanities, Yuval has worked with the Moscow Symphony, the LAJS Symphony, and the New Hampshire Philharmonic.

In 1998 he released his first solo recording In Between the Heartbeat on Simulacra Records, followed by the CD In the Shallows in 2001. He produced the double album Masada – the Musical Saga starring Davis Gains and provided the ethnic music cues for Helen of Troy (US Network).

Yuval Ron is the producer & host of the world music concert series “The International Underground” at the UCLA Hammer Museum. He is also a noted lecturer and leader of workshops who taught at numerous schools in the US and abroad, including Berkeley College of Music, MIT, UCSD, SCUN, UCSC, Boston Center for the Arts, Santa Monica College, Emerson College, Dean Junior College, Camera obscura and the Sam Spiegel Jerusalem Film School.

Yuval Ron Ensemble Najwa Gibran – voice; Maya Haddi – voice; Norik Manoukian – duduk, zurna, shvi (t1ure), chrinet; Virginie Alumyan – kanun; Jamie Papish – percussion; David Martinelli – percussion; Carolyne Aycaguer-Ron – keyboards; Yuval Ron – ud, saz & musical director.


In Between The Heartbeat (Simulacra Records, 1998)
One ‎(Magda, 2003)
Proteus – A 19th Century Vision – Original Soundtrack Recording ‎(Yuval Ron Music, 2004)
Futuristic Worlds Under Construction ‎(2004)
Seeker of Truth (2009)
Under the Olive Tree (2012)


Artist Profiles: Vira Lozinsky

Vira Lozinsky

Vira Lozinsky is a leading voice among a new generation of singers cultivating Yiddish culture in Israel. She is also one of the freshest young talents in the international Yiddish music scene. She has performed at theatres and festivals throughout Israel and Europe.

Vira was born in 1974 in Beltz, Moldova (Bessarabia), to a family of Yiddish artists. Her father Michael Felsenbaum founded the Yiddish theater of Beltz in 1989 and is a prominent figure in the post-Soviet Yiddish revival. Well known as a poet and playwright, he has written many of the songs in Vira’s repertoire. Vira’s mother Fania was also a prolific performer and singer of Yiddish and Romanian songs throughout the 1970s and 1980s.

Vira started playing the violin at the age of six, but her real passion was always singing. From the age of 13 until her immigration to Israel in 1991 she sang in the Beltz Yiddish Theater and also performed solo concerts throughout the former USSR. After emigrating to Israel at age 16, she earned her BA in Musicology and Yiddish literature at Bar-Ilan University. In 2000, she graduated with honors from the vocal program of Israel’s prestigious Rimon school of Jazz and Contemporary Music.

Perhaps the most significant event in her career occurred in 2002 when she met the great Yiddish singer Nechama Lifshitz, who has since remained her teacher and mentor. An enchanting performer in every way, Vira’s mellifluous alto voice is powerful, warm, expressive, and pure. Her unique repertoire includes new material written especially for her, as well as Yiddish folk songs, songs of Bessarabian, Romanian and Polish Jewish poets, and of classical and modern Yiddish poets like I. Manger, Z. Berdichever, M. Gebirtig, A. Greenbalt, M. Felsenbaum.


Vayte Shtern (Distant Stars) (2007)
Wunderweg (Wondrous Way) (2011)


Artist Profiles: Smadar Levi

Smadar Levi

A voice emerging from the New York City world music scene, Smadar Levi is an Israeli-Moroccan singer whose craft is best described as pan-Mediterranean music peppered with a Romany sound. Smadar sings original and creative renditions of traditional tunes in Hebrew, Arabic, and Ladino.

Smadar’s life and musical journey began in Sderot, Israel: A small town adjacent to Gaza, which has produced notable musical talents such as Shlomo Bar, Kobi Oz, and the band Sfataim. It was at home that Smadar was first exposed to the beauty and grandeur of Arabic culture. Some of her earliest memories include dancing to the pulse of the darbuka, and singing in Arabic in front of her family.

In 2000, she began working on her own project in New York City. This project consisted of an all-star international band, which included Israeli, Turkish and Arab musicians. In 2004, Smadar recorded her self-titled debut album Smadar to much underground buzz. The first song, “Ghali Ya Bouy”, is featured on the compilation Think Global: Bellydance (World Music Network). While the second song, “Mama”, is featured on the forthcoming Beginners Guide to Buddha Lounge (Nascente Label).

In February 2006, the internationally renowned nonprofit organization Seeds of Peace honored Smadar with an award for “uniting cultures to achieve peace through music.” In performing for Seeds of Peace, Smadar joined a prestigious list of musicians, which includes: Cindy Lauper, Miri Ben-Ari, Hooti and Blowfish, Bare Naked ladies, and John Legend. Other organizations that Smadar has played for include The New Israel fund, Unabridged Voices, and The Interfaith Center Award Ceremony.


Smadar (2004)


Artist Profiles: Sara Alexander

Sara Alexander

Awarded in the year 2000 the Legion d’Honneur by the French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin as well as the Ethics &Meaning Award (Ethics &Meaning Fundation, N.Y.), Laureate of the Smithsonian Institute, Sara Alexander – an all Mediterranean world music writer, composer &performer – is the first Israeli singer to have started advocating Israeli Palestinian rapprochement in the very beginning of the 1970s.

Born in Jerusalem from Jewish emigrants of Turkish and Romanian origins, she grew up in a kibbutz in Galilee. As the elders of the kibbutz used to say this “little dark gypsy sang before talking and danced before walking”, it is difficult to know when she became aware of her attraction for music. What is sure is that, at the age of 14, she was picked by the community to benefit from a special musical training. She chose to learn accordion for it was the most popular instrument of Israel at that time and because she loved the friendly feeling of it.

When the age of the army came, she was selected to be the accordionist of the most famous performing band of Tsahal, Leakat Ha Nachal, where she had the unique chance to develop her talent under the direction of two mythical figures of Israeli art : the composer Sacha Argov and the Director Naomi Paulani.

After representing Israel in a band that toured all Easters and Northern Europe, she came back to Israel to finish the Conservatory of Haïfa (first prize of accordion) and started to perform alongside with Uri Zoar, Chaim Topol, Arik Einstein…

But soon the Six Days war broke out. Looking to the procession of Palestinian refugees crossing the Jordan River, Sara Alexander got crowded with a feeling of injustice. She decided to leave Israel for a while.

Through long journeys in America, Scandinavia, and finally France, meeting with Phil Ochs, Joan Baez, Leonard Cohen… she discovered herself as a writer and a composer, and created a new repertoire almost fully dedicated to Israeli Arab Peace.

She started to meet and work with Arab artists, such as Mahmood Darwish, Kamal Boulata, Hedi Guella…

Unfortunately, by that difficult time for peace (70’s and early 80’s), her commitment for peace forbid her to develop her career in Israel. She became voluntary exiled in Europe to remain faithful to her music and ideal.

In 1985, she performed the first joint Israeli-Palestinian tour in the U.S. alongside with the Palestinian sociologist and singer Imad Saleh.

From the Intifada till the Oslo process, parallel to her artistic career she met a lot of Palestinian official and Israeli peace activist, performing in peace meetings and refugee camps.

Since the Oslo agreement, Sara Alexander has not renounced to her commitment for peace but has more time to dedicate to her music.

On the edge of roots and progressive music she is creating with some of the most gifted world musicians in Paris (Anello Capuano, Nedim Nalbantoglu, Philippe Briegh, Pierre Rigopolous, Tzvika Voltoch…) and abroad (gnawa M’jid Bekkas) a unique all Mediterranean repertoire full of Jewish, Gypsy, Balkan and oriental influences.


Peace Shalom Salam Paix ‎(Sapem, 1980)
Nomade De L’Espoir ‎(Sapem, 1984)
Hamsin ‎(Kardum, 1996)
Café Turc ‎(Al Sur, 1999)
Cosmopolis ‎(Mosaic Music, 2006)


Artist Profiles: Zohar Fresco

Zohar Fresco

Born in Israel to a family of Turkish descent, Zohar Fresco began playing percussion instruments at a very young age. He swiftly became enamored with Oriental music and began to play with older musicians who had immigrated to Israel from Arab countries.

His exceptional musical curiosity and his interest in a wide range of styles have led him to perform with many artists in Israel and abroad. At the age of twenty-one he joined Bustam Abraham. He is also a member of Ziryab Trio and of Arabandi.

A small sample of his international credits, apart from the above mentioned groups, include both recordings and performances with renowned composers Phillip Glass, Glen Velez, and Zakir Hussain. Zohar is an integral part of the recordings and worldwide performances of the internationally acclaimed singer Noa. In addition to this, he is a teacher and head of the Oriental percussion department at the Jerusalem Music Academy.

Zohar Fresco is a virtuoso of many percussion instruments, and his performances with the darbuka and the frame drums (such as Bendir, Riqq, and Tar) have left audiences all over the world awestruck. After years of playing these instruments, he has developed original techniques that include influences of Arabic, Indian, Persian, and Turkish music, as well as Jazz. Zohar Fresco is undoubtedly one of the best and most sought after percussionists in the world, and a rising star on the international scene.

Selected discography:

Bustan Abraham (Nada Productions, 1992)
Pictures through the painted window (Nada Productions, 1994)
Abadai (Nada Productions, 1996)
Fanar (Nada Productions, 1997)
Mashreq Classics with Ziryab Trio (1997)
Hamsa (Nada Productions, 2000)
Ashra, compilation (Nada Productions, 2001)
Live concerts (2003)
The Time, with Leszek Mozdzer and Lars Danielsson (2005)
Between Us and the Light, with Leszek Mozdzer and Lars Danielsson (2006)
An Armenian in America, with Ara Dinkjian (2006)
Napoli-Tel Aviv, with Achinoam Nini and Gil Dor (2007)
Live, with Leszek Mozdzer and Lars Danielsson (2007)
Polska, with Leszek Mozdzer and Lars Danielsson (2013)


Artist Profiles: Sameer Makhoul

Sameer Makhoul & Itamar Doari

Composer, musician and singer Sameer Makhoul was born in Peki’in in Galilee, a village renowned for its poets. Sameer Makhoul cornes from a family of musicians and poets whose roots in the village reach back for generations, and was profoundly influenced by the cultural environment in which he grew up.

He believes that the village springs, the olive trees of his forefathers and the green citrus groves were the sources which gave him life and the strength, even as a child, to study and create music on the ud and the violin. A further vital source of support and encouragement was his elder brother, the poet and musician Makhoul Makhoul.

Sameer Makhoul is a graduate of the Jerusalem Academy of Music, where he studied under the internationally famous ud player, Taiseer Elias. He has appeared, both as a soloist and as a member of the choir, with the Andalusian Muwashahat Orchestra (Tarshiha) and in many oilier ensembles.

Makhoul has participated in study workshops in France, and, as an ud-player, has represented Palestine at the Dresden Lute Festival in Germany.

He teaches ud, violin and Arab music theory at the School of Ethnic Music at Bar Ilan University and at the Center for Oriental Music in Jerusalem. He is also musical director of the Arab-Jewish orchestra at Jorel al-Enab music center in the Hinom Valley in Jerusalem.


Athar (Magda, 2004)


Artist Profiles: Alaev family

Alaev family

This multitalented seven-member ensemble presents an ancient rhythmic musical blend of Turkish, Persian, Chinese, Russian and Hebrew sounds. It includes Allo Alaev’s two sons, Ariel and Amin, and his grandchildren Zvika, Allen, Amir and the youngest, nine-year-old Aviva. The Alaev family’s repertoire features unique adaptations of inherited ancient Tajikistani songs and Jewish Buchharian compositions.

Allo Alaev was born in Samarkand, in 1932, a major station on the Silk Road. Samarkand stands at an ancient cultural crossroad and its music is a blend of Turkish, Persian, Chinese and Russian.

Allo’s father, Nisan, was an acclaimed singer and his mother, Adino, was considered the most brilliant doyra (frame drum) artist in the whole region of Samarcande. Alaev took up the doyra at an early age, made rapid progress and was soon appointed the first percussionist of the folk Opera Company of the Tajikistan capital Dushanbe.

During the 1960s and 70s he toured Europe, the far East and Africa as a member of several Soviet folk troupes. He received numerous international prizes for his performance. In 1991 the Alaev family immigrated to Israel and made an immediate impact on the local music scene.

Allo accomplished what so many artist wish: to continue the tradition in the family. Three generations perform together on stage and create an intimate and happy feast of music. The presence of the younger generation connect the traditional to the mainstream musical world.

Today, the multitalented ensemble includes Allo Alaev’s two sons, Ariel and Amin and his grandchildren Zvika, Allen, Amir and Aviva.

The Alaev family include in their repertory ancient Tajikistani songs and Jewish Buchharian compositions passed on in generations and now performed with their own unique adaptions.


The Alaev Family And Tamir Muskat (Olamalé, 2011)


Artist Profiles: Amos Hoffman

Amos Hoffman

Composer, guitarist & ud player Amos Hoffman started as a classical guitar player. On his 8th birthday, his father gave him an ud as a present. He never studied the ud formally but taught himself, and over the years became the talented composer & player he is today.

At the age of 20, he left for New York where he played for several years with top jazz musicians such as Dennis Charles, Avishai Cohen, Sam Newsom (with whom he had also recorded an album), Collins and others. He also recorded an album (for the Spanish Fresh Sound label) with Jorge Rossy, Duane Eubanks and Avishai Cohen.

During his stay in New York, he studied ud and maqam (the Arabic modus) with the famous Lebanese ney & ud player Bassam Saba (who played with Simon Shaheen). After returning home to Israel at the end of 1999, he began to compose the music that would eventually become the tracks on Na’ama, his most recent work. On Na?ama, Hoffman plays homage to the traditions of classical Arabic music the taqasim (improvisation) and the maqam (scales). All 12 tracks are original compositions, inspired by the great Arab composers of the 20th Century. Not completely content to simply play his instruments, he’s also taught himself to build them. To date, he has built several ouds, including the one he plays on Na’ama.

Hoffman has recorded solo albums and collaborated with several artists in Israel and worldwide including Avishai Cohen, Kiko Berenguer (Spain), and Jan Mlynarski (Poland).

In 2013, Amos was awarded one of Israel’s most prestigious prizes – The Landau Prize for Arts and Sciences for Outstanding Achievement in the field of Jazz.

Hoffman’s album Back to the City follows in the tradition of the great guitarists of the old school, such as Wes Montgomery and Kenny Burrell. Back to the City includes original compositions and standards, with a lineup of old friends bassist Omer Avital, drummer Vince Ector, saxophonist Asaf Yuria, trumpeter Duane Eubanks and special guest Itai Kriss on flute.


The Dreamer (Act, 1999)
Na’ama (Magda, 2006)
Evolution (RazDaz, 2008)
Carving (Razdaz Recordz, 2010)
Back to the City (2015)
Pardes (2018)


Artist Profiles: AndraLaMoussia


AndraLaMoussia is a world music group based in Jerusalem. “AndraLaMoussia means chaos in ancient Hebrew and, like our name, our music reflects the diverse cultural reality we live in.”

AndraLaMoussia’s members mix many different styles and traditions into their music, abstracting acoustic and universal truths. “By mixing, along with others, Jewish and Arabic, Turkish, Greek, Sufi and Gypsy music, our sound resonates with the tension and confusion prevalent in our Middle Eastern culture. In today’s world cultural differences often lead to violent clashes, but we don’t think that this need be the case. Our aim with AndraLaMoussia is to accentuate the many different traditions and by doing so to create a moment of true dialogue and unity in a modern tradition“.

Ittai Binnun: Wind instruments (clarinet, ney, saxophones), baglama, vocal.
Dani Dromi: Guitars (classical, acoustic and electric), vocal.
Victor Ezus: Bass guitar, vocal.
Moshe Nuri: Percussion (darbukah, frame drums)
Uriel Sverdin: drum set, cajon.
Special guest: Nizar Rohana – oud.


Andralamoussia (2005)
Music From the Streets of Jerusalem (2010)