How did a popular Israeli song enter Indonesian politics?

By
April 9, 2017 21:49

Israeli singer Gad Elbaz caught up in contentious Jakarta governor's race.




The song "Hashem Meleh" by Gad Elbaz and Beni Elbaz

The campaign to be governor of Jakarta is a uniquely rancorous one, pitting the incumbent Christian Basuki Tjahaja Purnama - who is on trial for blasphemy - against the Muslim Anies Baswedan.

But the biggest issue swamping the campaign in recent days is the use of a song purportedly attributed to the popular Jewish Israeli singer Gad Elbaz.

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Baswedan, who has been accused of aligning with hardline Islamist groups, released a campaign song last year entitled "Waged Spirit." But over the past few days, Indonesian media has erupted with the accusation that Baswedan plagiarized the song from Elbaz's "Hashem Melech." The campaign song Waged Sprit, used by Indonesian candidate for Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan

The twist? Elbaz's song itself uses the melody of Algerian singer Cheb Khaled's 2012 "C'est La Vie."


"God is laughing up there, how someone that wants to wipe Israel from the map took a song that makes Hashem crowned, 'Hashem Melech,' it's all over the world," Elbaz told The Jerusalem Post from Cancun, Mexico, where he is set to perform over Passover.

Elbaz said he started to get dozens of messages several days ago from people in Indonesia, who had made the connection between Baswedan's song and his 2013 hit "Hashem Melech." C'est La Vie by Khaled

"People from Indonesia started writing and telling me how ridiculous it is that a politician in Indonesia took a song from Israel," Elbaz said. "It's all over the world, even non-Jewish people understand this is a song of praising God."

Baswedan has denied any link between his campaign ad and Elbaz's song. According to The Jakarta Post, Anies's campaign said the song was adapted from a jingle by the Prosperious Justice Party's campaign in 2014. That jingle, which was part of Taufiq Ridho's presidential campaign, indeed has the same melody as "C'est La Vie" and "Hashem Melech."

"Therefore, it is impossible that the song “Kobarkan Semangat Indonesia [Waged Spirit]” was plagiarized from the Israeli band’s song as our song came first, in April 2014, while the Israeli band released its song later, in January 2016," the statement from Anies's campaign read, according to The Jakarta Post.

The only problem? The campaign was referring to the remix of the song, which was released last year as a collaboration between Elbaz and Jewish-American rapper Nissim. The original was released in 2013.

Elbaz, in his Instagram and Facebook posts on the topic on Saturday night, admitted that his song was a cover of Cheb Khaled's version. But he said he doesn't know which version was picked up in Indonesia, only that the media had seized on the connection to Israel and Judaism.

"I really feel like Hashem really chose that song to take over the world," he said. "That's not even up to me, that was a miracle."
And amid all the hubbub, Elbaz is seeing a soar in new followers and viewers from Indonesia - and wishes he could offer his support to the Christian candidate.

"I'd love to fly in and be able to sing and perform and show and to sing that exact song for his benefit," he said. "We're trying to work on it to see if it's possible for me to go there but it's really hard for Israelis to do so."

Elbaz's latest album, L'Chaim, also features Nissim, and is his first mostly in English - with Hebrew, Russian and Spanish as well.
"I'm excited that from all over the world they chose a song that is so affiliated with Jews and with Hakadosh Baruch Hu [God]," he said. "And I'm happy that God is laughing."

The Jakarta gubernatorial race was held on February 15, with Purnama securing 43% of the vote and Baswedan 40%, forcing a run-off election that is slated for April 19.

While it isn't clear which version of the song was picked up in Indonesia, it is obvious that the move was made in 2014 by the campaign of Taufiq Ridho, and Baswedan based his song on that version. And Ridho? He died in February, so he won't be able to tell us which pop song first caught his ear.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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