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If there is any group in this country that projects a happy-go-lucky ethos, it's the Dorbanim. And, while that may suggest a patently here-and-now approach, fans of the music of the Seventies also dig the tunes and vibes the band have put out over the last eight years. At a recent gig at Jerusalem's Yellow Submarine venue, the five-member troupe had the packed out audience on their feet and grooving throughout the 90-minute show.
"It's always about having a good time," says drummer Ron Almog simply. "If we're not having fun then the audience won't either." That feel-good attitude appears to appeal to a wide hinterland of fans, from different age groups and varying cultural backgrounds. "When we started putting out singles loads of youngsters starting coming to our shows," says guitarist Ido Ofek. "That changed a bit when we put the second album out. Maybe the second CD is also appreciated by people who are a bit older. The third one might attract a different age group again. I don't know. We'll have to see where that goes."
The Dorbanim's two CDs to date - Hadorbanim and Levy - released in 2003 and last year respectively have sold well and produced a string of hit singles. What is all the more remarkable is that, despite all being in their twenties or early thirties, the band's melting pot style conjures up rhythms and energies that were around before they were even a twinkle in their parent's eye. Numbers like "Or Kahol (Blue Light)" off their debut album, harp back to the halcyon disco days of the mid-Seventies. The next cut off Hadorbanim, fittingly called "Shuv Disco Kan (Disco Is Back)," would not have been out of place in the Israeli pop charts of 1976.
But the band's spread of musical inspirations stretches far further than the platform shoe-stamping, mirror ball hits of three decades ago. "La Musicanta La Classica," also off Hadorbanim, opens with something akin to a baroque overture before segueing seamlessly into a typical Israeli pop ballad, with some neoclassical passages bordering on early Seventies progressive rock thrown in for good measure. Then "Samba Stav (Samba Fall)," off Levy, evokes thoughts of swaying bodies on the golden beaches of Rio de Janeiro.
SO WHERE does this all come from? How does a bunch of mostly twenty-somethings get to such a varied musical offering?
"We all come from slightly different areas in music," Almog explains. "I come from jazz, Seventies rock and late Sixties soul Motown. Guy (Mazig) comes from Queen and the Beatles. And there's the old Israeli songbook material too. We've all got parents and older brothers who listened to that stuff, and we all got into it."
The gang openly admits to being, by now, seasoned professionals, and being open to any kind of music that comes its way. Behind the tongue-in-cheek facade there's some earnest intent. "All five of us are serious about our music," states guitarist Mazig. "If you take us individually, you'll find we're all heavily into music."
"But that doesn't preclude having a good time," Almog interjects. "We've got this inside sort of humor which we share, and we can't help having a laugh when we're together."
Their private comedy routine eventually found its way out of the confines of the band's rehearsals and jam sessions, and onto the stage. "When we first started joking around between us at our shows we didn't think anyone would appreciate the humor," Almog continues. "But now the audience gets that too. That's great."
The Dorbanim's shows are, indeed, about more than just the music. No two concerts are the same, and the audience is subjected to all manner of comic patter and banter in between the actual numbers. "We don't want it to be, like, 'and the next song is...'," says Almog. "We don't just want to perform the CDs. There's no point in that at all. And there are no rules about how we do our shows." Almog says that means constantly going out on a limb. "When we start fooling around between the songs we never know what's going to come next."
At one recent show, after one number one of the gang starting singing happy birthday to bass guitarist Eyal Mazig (brother of guitarist Guy). The other band members quickly picked up the chant and soon everyone was celebrating the bassist's non-birthday. "It wasn't my birthday," says Mazig, "but who cares. We got a good laugh out of it...and so did the audience. That's what matters."
In recent years there has been something of a "retro" wave right across the globe with today's teenagers suddenly getting into new bands and artists who put similar rhythms and energies to the ones their parents jived to 30 years earlier. However, the Dorbanim refute any claims that they may have intentionally tapped into that ready-and-waiting market sector. "Yes, we're aware of that throwback trend," says Ofek, "but there is nothing premeditated about what we do. Yes, there are things we do that are reminiscent of [Israel Seventies supergroup] Kaveret, but that is a source of inspiration and nothing more. We don't try and recreate things that have been done before. What we do comes naturally to all of us."
Having made it on the local scene does the band have any thoughts about setting its sights on getting a slice of the global market? "We're not ruling out doing some songs in English," says Ofek, "but that might take a while. For now, we're happy with performing all over Israel. But, you never know what lies around the corner. We'll just go with the flow and see what happens."