Knesiyat Hasechel (translated as “Church of Reason” – in homage to Robert Pirsig’s book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance) celebrated 20 years since forming as a band in 1992 with a concert in Ariel Sharon Park on Wednesday night. The evening was part of a series of concerts performed in the park since August.
The band performed with the 40-piece Andalus-Mediterranean Orchestra from Ashkelon, conducted by Tom Cohen. The latter’s enthusiasm was not lost on the crowd as he stabbed the air with his baton to the beat of lead singer and guitarist Yoram Chazan’s punchy lyrics (I remember at night/ You’d come to me/ Not by accident/ High on drugs/ Crazy/ Unconscious/).
Much of the concert was dedicated to Hasechel’s newest material - currently being recorded with the orchestra – which is a fusion of the rock sounds that the band is famous for spiced with Arab and Spanish influences of Andalusian music. This type of Moorish music can be found across North Africa, in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, but it originated in Muslim Iberia in the 9th century. The softer, spiritual, classical music was starkly contrasted by the percussion and bass of the rock group.
Riff Cohen joined the band on stage for a short set which included Yemenite sounds and some serious hip-wiggling by the Israeli-French singer.
But perhaps the most unique feature of the concert was its location. Part of the 8,000 dunam park, which is located 10 minutes from Tel Aviv, is built on the Hirera landfill. Dump trucks encircled the parking lot, bringing waste from the all over the Gush Dan area. Busses transported people from the parking lot to the stage area atop the mountain of trash. Landscaped lawns and stony pathways adorn the concert area against a backdrop of a spectacular vista of the Tel Aviv skyline.
After Hasechel’s opening song, Chazan commented, “If only every garbage heap in Israel could be turned into a haven for culture.” Indeed, as one concert-goer commented, “It’s amazing to think that we’re listening to great music being played on top of a pile of crap.” Even the park’s porta-potties are unique. They are free of the usual stench associated with temporary lavatories and even have artwork adorning the walls.
The concert was mostly a sit-down affair until the end when Hasechel raised the crowd to their feet with classics like "Hayinu Osem Ahava" (We Used to Make Love), "Shum Dvar Loh Yifgah Bi" (Nothing Will Hurt Me), and "Tagidi SheTov" (Say It’s Good). The latter’s distinct electric-guitar riffs were fused with the Spanish-Arabic sounds of the orchestra, yet somehow they worked well in tandem. The audience swayed to the mournful violin melodies and raised their lighters in the air as Chazan belted out "Yadayim Lemala" (Hands in the Air).
Overall, the atmosphere was fun yet intimate, and barely hampered by the acrid smell of decaying waste that occasionally wafted into the audience’s noses.