Winter nights in the Negev desert can be very cold, with sub-zero temperatures
not uncommon. But the Festival of Light also brings some warmth to the Negev
with the Sounds in the Desert Festival. Each year, Kibbutz Sde Boker hosts the
best of Israeli music during five nights and weekend days. Twenty-one shows
cover almost every type of Israeli contemporary music, including rock,
classical, jazz, pop, world music, Arabic music and more. For those five days
this is the place to be, especially if you are a music lover.This is the
15th year of the festival, which was born on a smaller scale on the holiday of
Shavuot, says musical director Michael Volpe. “We quickly realized that May is
not a very convenient month to come to Sde Boker due to the heavy winds and
sandstorms common in the area at that time.” In the festival’s second year it
was moved to Hanukka, which is when it has been held ever since.
combines the best musicians, singers, orchestras and composers to make a
wonderful mosaic. It is amazing how many talented musicians and how much quality
music emerges from such a small country. This is a big part of our culture from
the past and the present, showing that our musical future is a promising
The festival is unique for a number of reasons. It brings together
all kinds of people. Volpe creates surprising combinations of all types of
musicians. He pairs a rock band like Knesiat Hasechel with a string quartet. The
meeting of classical tones with rock music results in a special sound and a rare
Another famous rock band, Hayehudim, gives an electrifying
pure rock concert. There are colorful ensembles like the Jali group, who combine
world music, mixing African influences with local music. The Jerusalem Academy
of Music and Dance will send you straight to heaven with its wonderful
orchestra, whose members are in their 20s.
A sparkling rhythmic
performance is open to the public in the festival plaza. In a giant white tent
on a small stage, 15 members of March Dondurma gather and perform. The band
excites the crowd with the help of some special instruments until most of the
audience finds itself dancing spontaneously. This band has marched previously in
the streets of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
Guitar sounds are heard from the
hands of virtuoso Shai Sobol followed by Meir Banai and the Meitar Ensemble.
Volpe identifies talented musicians and invites them to the festival, giving
them an excellent opportunity to develop their craft as well as an important
push forward. This year there was also a special evening honoring the memory of
songwriter and poet Haim Hefer, who died in September.
fabulous festival was another unique cooperation between the Ladino singer
Yasmin Levi and pianist Nizar al- Hatar. This performance was yet another
successful example of how the festival crafts special and fertile musical
The festival takes place in Kibbutz Sde Boker’s Ben-Gurion
Center which transforms its basketball court with up to 500 seats into the main
musical venue. All of the kibbutz members contribute to the success of the
festival with their welcoming hospitality. The central shows are reasonably
priced performances and a big part of the festival is open to the public free of
charge and takes place in the nearby festival plaza tent.
percent of the audience is from the South but the other half makes the trip from
all over the country. Tourists travel through the South of the country during
the holiday season and enrich their experience with wonderful music. On weekend
mornings, families with youngsters can take advantage of two classical
performances geared toward children. More festivals of this kind would be a
welcome addition to outlying locations in Israel’s periphery.
The end of
the Sounds in the Desert Festival, which was also the end of Hanukka, began, as
did every evening, with the lighting of the Hanukka candles, just as the Jewish
people have been doing for thousands of years. Until next year, the festival
sounds have again been replaced by the magical sounds of the desert and the
ancient desert winds.