(photo credit: Courtesy)
It may be a sign of the times or a mark of our cultural maturity, but it seems - to borrow a Fab Four lyrical phrase - that we took a "long and winding road" to Israel's first festival devoted to the music of the pop world's most celebrated band.
The Beatles Festival, set to take place at the Steinberg Center in Holon, pays tribute to the quartet from Scouseland ("scousers," for the uninitiated, are residents of Liverpool) with a fun-filled and varied program of events. There will be shows with all kinds of versions of Beatles numbers, including Hebrew and ethnic-oriented covers.
Also on offer will be an exhibition of Beatles influenced artwork, screenings of Beatles movies and lectures about the band's history. One of the latter will be presented by the festival's artistic director Yoav Kutner.
Kutner, just in case there is anyone under the age of 60 not entirely aware of his contribution to pop and rock in this country, is a veteran radio and TV presenter who has given his all, for over 30 years, to introduce Israelis to pop and rock sounds from the States and UK. Around 20 years ago, he also produced and presented an informative and entertaining radio series on Galei Tzahal about the Beatles making him the natural choice to run this inaugural Beatles shebang.
"I grew up listening to bands like the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd," says 54-year-old Kutner. "The Beatles didn't come to Israel in the sixties but their influence made it over here, big time," says Kutner, who then reveals an earth shattering piece of information.
"It has always been believed that the Beatles didn't come here back then because the Ministry of Education said they would corrupt our youth. That simply isn't true. Brian Epstein [the Beatles first manager]'s mother contacted a big Israeli impresario called Giora Godik in 1962 and offered to bring the group over. At the time the Beatles had only one hit single so Godik turned her down and brought Cliff Richard over instead."
When Mrs. Epstein tried her luck with the Holy Land a second time two years later, Godik again put a spanner in the works, but for a different reason. "Another producer was going to bring the Beatles here in 1964 but Godik was jealous. So he went to the Knesset Finance Committee - in those days you need special approval to take foreign currency out of Israel - and convinced them the Beatles was a bad group that would corrupt our youth. That's why the Beatles didn't play here in '64."
The Israeli government may have stopped the Beatles coming here in person but, as Kutner explains, their music and impact was all-invasive. "Pop and rock musicians in the sixties and seventies, like Arik Einstein and Shalom Hanokh, were heavily influenced by the Beatles. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that the Beatles were one of the most important groups in the history of Israeli pop. Israeli music would have been very different without the Beatles."
The local musicians who will perform their own takes on Beatles numbers include a generation-straddling roster of Alon Olearchik, Ben Artzi, Einat Sarruf - who will lead a Beatles sing-a-long - Hemi Rudner, Danny Sanderson and Daniel Solomon.
The festival runs from May 15 to 17 at 21 Givat Hatahmoshet St. with tickets ranging in price from NIS 60 to NIS 100. For more information call (03) 550-0012
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