Felafel power generation

Boogie Balagan hopes its music will move social and political thinking.

(photo credit:)
(photo credit: )
The music world is littered with intriguing band names. The Fifties and Sixties produced all manner of troupes with celebrated insect names, although few gave any indication as to the nature of the group's output. Boogie Balagan, on the other hand, spells it out loud and clear. The band, which will be here between January 15 and 18, says it is from "France-Palestisrael," and comprises two expat Jewish Israeli-born guitarist-vocalists - Azri Laurent Stupaj and Aryeh "Gabri" Sztantman - and French drummer Francois Goussot. Stupaj and Gabri have been based in France for the past 15 years. Their music and political-social message are unashamedly in-your-face. "We decided to raise this peaceful musical weapon rock project, based on humor, nostalgia, and hope," says Stupaj who, understandably, goes by the moniker of Azri. "Our aim was to prove that we can, at least, try to break some common 'codes,' judgments and walls by mixing languages and musical references together." Boogie Balagan certainly does its fair share of mixing and fusing different genres together. Numbers like "Lamentation Walloo" weave an exotic and improbable tapestry of psychedelia and punk rock laced with overt Arabic and Jewish sentiment. "This small village, or city, that we called 'Palestisrael' is, for us, a crossroad between cultures, without specific boundaries or nationality matters," Azri continues. "It is a place where human feelings struggle against human passport papers. It is a kind of magnified view of popular neighborhood life which is, for us, the best place where people know how to live together." THE BAND'S inspirational references are varied to an extreme. Azri cites Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator, quasi-fictional rock band Spinal Tap, rock guitar legend Jimi Hendrix, iconic bluesman Muddy Waters and 1970s Israeli comedy movie Hagiga Be'Snooker. Other influences closer to the duo's country of birth include stellar Arabic singer Farid El Atrash, the late "Mizrahi" music superstar Zohar Argov and Aris San, a Greek-born singer who made it big here in the Sixties and Seventies. "We found that the links between all these musicians were in total 'physical harmony' with Middle Eastern vibes," Azri explains. "Musically speaking, we found that there is a real bridge between those landscaped blues and our urban struggles." It is not by chance that Azri and Gabri operate outside this neck of the woods. Azri says living in France facilitates getting their artistic message and sociopolitical agenda across, but also presents them with a challenge. "Paris is our capital because it has that objective and very critical view on the Middle Eastern conflict. For us, it was our first challenge to show...that there is another way of life and thinking [in the Middle East] besides the media-distorted reports that people see and judge on TV." BOOGIE BALAGAN is, Azri feels, starting to make a difference, and not just because of the musical content, but by virtue of the way the material is presented. "We know now, after a lot of gigging, and thanks to the Internet, that there's great feedback coming from Arabic youth, because the sound and message is new and original, and mainly because of the fun. They understand, after talking to us, that the real message between the lines is to be able to live in peace now, so we can all start the real struggle which is taking care of Mother Earth's health." If that conjures up sentiments from an earlier age of change it is entirely intentional. "There was the flower power generation. Why not imagine a kind of 'felafel power' generation? We are not sure [that just] music can do it, but we are sure people are starting to read between the lines and finding the motivation to start to thinking differently." Azri feels a little black humor isn't amiss either. "We consider ourselves as knights, and our guitars are our weapons of terrorism love." With four Boogie Balagan gigs lined up here in the next week, we can all look forward to being terrorized, in the most positive sense. Boogie Balagan will perform at Kibbutz Tze'elim at 10 p.m. on January 15; Jerusalem's Yellow Submarine at 10 p.m. on January 16; Levontin 7 in Tel Aviv at 11 p.m. on January 17 and Kibbutz Dan at 10 p.m. on January 18. For more information call: 054-554-9328.