(photo credit: Courtesy PR)
Midsummer night is the time of year when, in northern latitudes, the sun doesn’t set, and the night sky sees the sun and moon simultaneously appear on different parts of the horizon. This eerie other-worldy time of year was heralded by our more shamanistic ancestors as the time when they were closest to their sun-god. Times may have changed, but the sun remains the same, and at the foot of the Gilboa Mountain, the Sunbeat Festival will celebrate all that is unique about this time of the year on June 21-22 with an international selection of the global beat scene.
On this, the longest day and the shortest night of the year, the more equatorial latitudes of Israel may not boast the midnight sun, but it does have an impressive lineup.
International meets domestic in this truly global festival in the Ma’ayan Charod National Park. As well as a host of international DJs, such as Parisian DJ Click and Brazil’s Maga Bo, the live lineup is just as diverse. The bands include the tuba-surf-rock trio Boom Pam, the percussive Alaev Family, the queen of soul Ester Rada and neo-swing’s greatest fashionista Alice Francis.
One of the festival’s headliners, Francis is appearing on the Friday night “I used to listen a lot to my dad’s jazz LPs that were lying around at home,” she says,” such as Billie Holliday and Shirley Bassey. When I became really interested in old jazz, I dug out some Ella and Django Reinhardt. Reinhardt reminded me a little of the popular music in Romania, where I am from. In the town where I grew up, I was always one of the girls listening to rap and hip hop.”
This blend of the golden era of big band jazz with modern four-to-the- floor beats is clearly evident in her music.
“I guess the sometimes contradictory styles must come from my different musical interests,” Francis continues, “I love old-time jazz from the 1920s but can’t deny that I am a girl of the 21st century who is equally fascinated by Eminem and Beyonce.”
It’s not the just the exquisite music that is turning heads. Francis is adorned with equally exotic fashions, blending eras and styles with the same fluidity and flair.
“I traveled a lot,” she says. “I always used to bring home an unusual article of clothing, so I slowly collected different styles from all over. Before I started the “Shut Up! I’m a Flapper” fashion blog, I became interested in young independent designers. There are many designers from all over the world that impress me. I would say when it comes to fashion, I am like a DJ cutting and rearranging the pieces.”
What best describes neo-swing? “It is pop music with a lot of influences from the 1920s such as swing, jazz, ragtime or the Charleston,” she explains. “We use the same b.p.m. [beats per minute] as swing, but the sounds and technique are totally 21st century – syntheziser, deep bass and autotune.”
Dressed like the high priestess of cool, Francis is very much part of an ascendent European scene that mixes the Hot Club de Paris and Gypsy jazz styles with modern beats to dominate the European charts.
Having never been to Israel before, she is excited about com ing for the festival.
“My sister always travels around the country,” she says. “She just got back and told me again how beautiful and enriching it is. We’re very happy about having the chance to bring our love and a little piece of our world into yours.”
Another female performer on the festival lineup is Ester Rada.
Dubbed by many as Israel’s first lady of soul, her lithe Ethiopian look makes a striking figure on stage as her band textures her soulful vocals with some of the best funk and groove. Having recently toured some of the most prestigious venues and festivals in North America, she is also set to play the UK next month, including a date at the Glastonbury Festival.
Sandwiching her time between North America and Europe, Rada is back in Israel for her performance at Sunbeat.
“It’s been an amazing tour,” she beams. “We hope to go back again!” Since coming home, she has been getting ready to release her new single “No More,” with its big launch party at Barby Tel Aviv on July 11. At Sunbeat, she will be on stage with her whole band.
“We will open the festival, so be prepared for a super start! It is my last show before we fly off to the UK to play Glastonbury, so we’ll have the full band there, and we’ve got the full set with a few new ones too,” she says.
Despite the high caliber of entertainment, Sunbeat isn’t all about the performances. It is also about getting involved. As well as celebrating the time of year when we are closest to the sun, festival goers will be able to bask in the leading lights of the international global beats scene and get closer to the tribal spirit in us all. As well as three stages of live music and DJs, there will be workshops, art, an area for children and camping, all set within some of Israel’s most beautiful scenery. The availability of Wi-Fi notwithstanding, the festival still captured the spirit of the ages.
For more information, visit www.sunbeatfestival.com.