Island sounds from home

Eden Holan’s musical odyssey plays out on her new album.

June 11, 2014 17:11
Eden Holan

Eden Holan’s musical odyssey plays out on her new album. (photo credit: ZOHAR SHITRIT)

Artists tend to draw inspiration from all kinds of areas and places around the world. If musicians of a generation or two back wanted to check out what was going down elsewhere, they had to get their hands on recorded material from afar, sometimes having to wait months until the local record store’s shipments of vinyl arrived from abroad.

Of course, these days it is generally just a matter of feeding a name into Google and clicking the mouse button. But, although Eden Holan certainly lives in the world of modern technology, she went to some lengths – literally – to get a better handle on some sounds she really dug.

The object of the 20-something jazz singer’s sonic desire was Réunion, a small French island located around 950 km. east of Madagascar in the southern Indian Ocean. The results of that odyssey can be heard on Holan’s debut release Irréstible , and the album will form the basis of Holan’s forthcoming Marciac concert that will take place tomorrow evening (doors open 8 p.m., show starts 9) at Yad Lebanim on Hamachteret Street in Ramat Hasharon. It is the third installment of Rimon School of Jazz and Contemporary Music’s seven-show Rimon Bamachteret (“Rimon Underground”) jazz series that opened on May 17 with a concert by pianist and series artistic director Ronen Shmueli.

“The new album is a mix of mainstream jazz, with some jazz musicians, and the warmth and rhythms from Réunion in the Indian Ocean, which I visited in 2008,” explains the singer who was born in France and spent the first three years of her life there.

Holan says the input from the remote island adds an abundance of color to Irréstible and to the direction she took after encountering the French outpost’s culture firsthand.

“The fusion of jazz with hot rhythms from Africa produces very melodic and rhythmic music that, at the end of the day, is pretty simple.”

That said, the music of Réunion may be easy on the ear, but musicians looking to replicate Holan’s work should not take the idea too lightly.

“The music is pretty complex, but the audience gets an experience of music that is both warm and simple,” says the singer.

The island’s musical palette takes in sega, a popular style that incorporates African and European music, and maloya that feeds off rhythmic slave chants and works songs, while the nontraditional musical sector incorporates jazz and a range of commercial genres, from rock to reggae and rap to the Caribbean rhythms of zouk.

Holan traveled quite a long and winding artistic road before getting to the island.

“I did the classical music thing,” she says. “Between dining radio television events movies highlights the ages of seven and 14 I sang classical music with Anat Morag in the Stricker Choir. After that I studied theater and music, and I was in an IDF band. I also studied at Rimon, so I am very excited to be taking part in the school’s jazz series. It is a homecoming.”

For Holan, jazz indeed comes from the home. Her dad is veteran jazz drummer Rony Holan who filled the role of musical director, arranger and drummer on his daughter’s album.

“I was completely into mainstream jazz until the age of 24, and my life changed in 2008 when I attended the Marciac Jazz Festival [in southwest France], as a volunteer with a newspaper covering the event. I received a grant to go there to interview artists and to absorb new music.”

On the second day of the festival, Holan achieved the latter objective and was almost swept off her feet by some unexpected sounds.

“Suddenly I heard music I had never heard before in my life,” she exclaims.

“It was like an epiphany, or a sudden moment of enlightenment. Tears starting rolling down my cheeks and I felt as if this was the music I’d been waiting all my life to hear. I didn’t even know I’d been looking for this music. It was a moment I will never forget.”

It transpired that the act that set Holan’s head spinning was Meddy Gerville, a singer, composer and multi- instrumentalist from Réunion Island who performs an enchanting mix of jazz-filtered maloya.

“He is a creole musician and is considered the best jazz musician in the Indian Ocean,” Holan continues.

“He is a superstar on the island – something like the Sting of Réunion.”

Holan was smitten at first sound.

“From that moment I became obsessed with the island. I felt that, somehow, I just had to get there.”

She began studying the culture of the island and even learned the creole language.

“Actually that was quite easy because it is similar to French, and that is my mother tongue,” says Holan. “I got right into the music of the island, and the rhythms that may sound simple but they are very complicated.”

Holan was determined to make it over to the island of her musical dreams. It took a while but she got there in the end.

“I was invited to perform at a jazz festival in Madagascar in 2012 – the first Israeli to perform there,” she remarks. “That is close to Réunion, but not quite there.”

Last November she finally made it.

“I was invited by TED to give a talk about music on the island. I was the first Israeli to get to the island,” she says proudly.

It may have taken Holan some time to get to the French outpost but, once there, she felt she had finally made it home – in more senses than one.

“My great-grandfather was a cantor in Czechoslovakia and the songs he sang were melodically very close to the music they play on the island today,” she says.

It really was a homecoming.

“When I got to Réunion I started crying. I felt so completely at home, as if I belong there.”

Holan is clearly in the business of fulfilling her dreams and, in 2012, she was invited to perform at the Marciac Festival, where the trail to the island first began. This time, however, she went back as a bona fide performing artist, rather than an intern.

Irréstible features some of our top jazz artists, the likes of pianist Avi Adrian, trombonist Avi Lebovich and percussionist Gilad Dobrecky, as well as New York trumpeter Michael Rodriguez and Jamy Pedro, a bassist who hails from Réunion. In addition to her vocals, Holan plays the kayamba, which is a shaker that originates from Réunion.

The album is the culmination of a six-year quest for Holan, and the Rimon Bamachteret audience will, no doubt, enjoy the resultant cross- cultural vibes. Holan’s cohorts tomorrow evening including pianist Orel Oshrat, bassist Guy Levi, drummer Ben Aylon and qanun player Ariel Qassis.

For tickets and more information: (03) 548-3851.

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