There are numerous intriguing musical encounters lined up for the forthcoming Israeli Music Festival (September 19-September 23), which encompass a diverse, if not disparate, range of cultures and disciplines. The synergy between Giora Feidman and Yair Dalal, which is due to take place in Beersheba on September 23 as part of the Encounters concert that closes the five-day festival program, is one of the more eagerly anticipated.
Feidman is one of the best-known clarinet players in the world. Now in his mid-70s, the Argentinean-born musician has been thrilling audiences all over the planet with his charming mix of klezmer-oriented tunes and storytelling. He trained as a Western classical musician and comes from a long line of klezmer players.
Dalal, 56, comes from an entirely different cultural domain. He was born in Israel one year after his parents made aliya from Iraq. He went through a rebellious period as a rock guitarist but rediscovered his family’s cultural roots in his early 30s.
Since then, he has become a staple of the global ethnic music and world music circuit as an oud player and violinist, as well as an occasional vocalist.
While much of Dalal’s abundant recorded output feeds off Iraqi material, there are also plenty of genre and cultural strains that run through his oeuvre. One of his most varied albums is his CD The Perfumed Road, which was released in 2003, and his tete-a-tete with Feidman will feature “Jethro” from the album.
Dalal and Feidman will be backed by the Beersheba Israeli Symphonette, conducted by Amos Boazsson, with soloist violinist Yaron Prensky in attendance. In addition to his collaboration with Feidman, Dalal will be the soloist in a performance of Aviya Kopelman’s Concerto for Oud and Strings.
While Iraq and the Balkan hinterland of klezmer music don’t appear to have too much in common, Dalal says he expects to feel comfortable with his more senior collaborator in Beersheba.
“I have played and recorded many times with [clarinetist] Eyal Sela,” he says. “I have no problem accommodating the sound of a clarinet in what I do.”
Besides their musical confluence, Dalal says he also enjoys Feidman’s company. “Giora is a wonderful personality, and that always gives some added value to his concerts.”
Dalal says he is similarly enthused with the festival and feels it is an important forum for presenting the best this country has to offer. “This is a very important festival, which takes place all over the country. We’re talking about Israeli classical music, not rock music or A Star Is Born. It’s a sort of mix of things, with classical music in the middle and connects everything.”
Dalal has been adjoining things for some time now. “My music has always had connections, whether it is klezmer and Indian music,or Beduin tunes with things from Iraq,” he notes. “Sometimes I takes things from jazz, and then I get to delve into liturgical material.”
Indeed, Dalal has shared the stage with most of the Old Guard of Iraqi musicians who made aliya in the early 1950s, after enjoying highly successful careers in Iraq, only to find their art mostly ignored by the Israeli media and music establishment. He has also done turns with rockers Dudu Tasa and Berry Sakharof.
“It’s like being a traffic cop at a major junction, with all these musical avenues leading off. At some stage or other you pull on a chord or two, and you join them together. That’s the way it is with Israeli music today. It’s hard to talk about Israeli music without addressing the very wide variety of types of music here,” he says Mind you, it wasn’t always like that.
“In the old days, if someone said ‘Israeli music,’ you knew exactly what they meant,” continues Dalal.
“Everyone sat around singing songs with someone playing the accordion.
These days, instead of an accordion you have a guitar, and there are some who get up and start dancing on tables. There’s so much more to Israeli music today than the good old Israeli Songbook stuff.”
Dalal has his own, highly inclusive, definition of Israeli music. “You can say that any music that comes from here is Israeli music.”
The oud player-violinist also does his best to stretch that definition almost to snapping point. He recently recorded a singular rendition of Handel’s Israel in Egypt with the L’Arte del Mondo Baroque orchestra and Tolz boys’ choir from Germany. “We performed Israel in Egypt at the 2011 Israel Festival,” says Dalal. “That takes mixing different cultural strands a long way, but it works well.”
Dalal’s and Feidman’s music, in truth, comes from here and from all kinds of places and cultures far away, but there is always something fundamentally Israeli about what they do. As Israeli Music Festival artistic director Boaz Ben-Moshe puts it, “The closing concert of the festival hosts two composer/artists who have taken the message of Israeli music far beyond the country’s borders.”
For more information about the Israeli Music Festival: www.imi.org.il and (03) 624-7095 and www.habama.co.il. For tickets for the Encounters concert: (08) 626-6422.