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If you're expecting this year's Oud Festival (November 8-24) to feature some of the best classical Middle Eastern sounds around, you'd be right - but not entirely. In between the tributes to the icons of Arabic music, the likes of Oum Koulthoum and Mohammad Abed El-Wahab, there are star crossover turns from rocker Barry Saharoff with a program based on the works of 11th century Jewish Spanish poet and philosopher Solomon Ibn Gvirol, and a boundary straddling encounter between French avant garde bassist Joelle Leandre and Israeli Arab oud player Samir Makhoul.
One of the more intriguing pairings in the program is a synergy between stellar folk-rocker David Broza and veteran ethnic oud player and violinist Yair Dalal, which will take place in the Jerusalem Theater's Rebecca Crown auditorium on November 19.
At first glance it is difficult to see where the two meet artistically. While Broza is known for his almost frenetic live performances, mixing raw rock-inflected material with Spanish style numbers and a handful of ballads, Dalal exemplifies the far calmer mindset of cultures indigenous to this part of the world. Then again, they are both seasoned professionals and, one presumes, they would not have taken the project on if they had serious misgivings about their ability to smoothly blend Spanish, Hebrew and Arabic love songs.
If nothing else, Broza is frank, and excited, about the concert. "It's going to be something of an adventure," he said. "Artists like Dalal are very educated and open minded, and are not limited to their own style. We are going to play with each other, feed off each other, and we'll see how it goes."
Naturally, when meeting someone on stage for the first time, it helps when you're doing business with an artist who is capable of accommodating different musical genres. Geographic circumstances can help too. "Yair is very versatile," Broza notes. "I think we'll find our way to the common ground. Don't forget, we are both Israeli, even if I am from Anglo Saxon-Spanish origin and Yair has an Iraqi background. We share the same air waves."
In fact, Broza and Dalal may share more cultural baggage than first meets the eye, and ear. Flamenco music, a genre that is close to the singer-guitarist's heart, is said to have originated in India and traversed numerous countries and cultures on its meandering path to Spain. Dalal, too, draws on a range of ethnic sources, as exemplified in his Perfume Road album which incorporates themes and sensibilities that range from India to the Middle East, and much betwixt.
Broza says he also delighted to making his debut appearance at the Oud Festival, and to step outside his normal artistic domain, and feed off different philosophies. "The festival gives us the opportunity to indulge in something non-routine, not just the same guys playing with the same chip on their shoulders. It's important to sometimes get away from what you already know and take some risks."
While risk taking is a familiar pursuit for improvisational artists, such as jazz musicians and purveyors of Arabic music, performers of Broza's professional ilk don't normally wander too far off their beaten track. The rocker welcomes the venture and admits to a certain degree of uncertainty about where the project will ultimately go. "Yair and I will do a fusion of things. It may not be perfect, but it's going to be fun and musically adventurous. It will be interesting to see how it goes, and I really don't know how I'll feel about it. I think it's going to exhilarating, and may even be embarrassed. Yair and I are also have very different temperaments. He is patient while I am always jumpy and ready to move on. I think it's going to be a great experience for me."
At the end of the day, Broza says it's about how he and Dalal get on not just as artists, but also as people. "Yair and I like and respect each other. The chemistry is there. There is conversation and listening between us, and you can't get anywhere without that."
David Broza and Yair Dalal will perform at the Rebecca Crown Auditorium at the Jerusalem Theater on November 19 at 9 p.m. For more information, go to: www.confederationhouse.org
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