(photo credit: Ido Izak)
The Arad Festival has been attracting some of the biggest names on the local pop and rock scene for some time now. Considering that Arad is some distance from Tel Aviv and the Gush Dan region, that is quite some achievement, not to mention the many thousands of members of the public who flock to the Arava town every year to catch music shows from across the genre board.
This year the three-day event, which opens on August 21, marks its 30th anniversary. Artistic director Marina Glezer says it has remained true to its original ethos throughout. “[Arad Festival founder] Zecharia Liraz wanted Hebrew song to last forever.
Thankfully, 30 years on, we are still going strong.”
Glezer believes the event offers the public some added value that simply cannot be had from other cultural happenings in Israel. “It’s not just another festival,” she declares. “It is the longest-running festival that preserves what it set out to do without giving in to all sorts of fads.”
That said, the Arad Festival has also demonstrated a willingness to keep up with the times. The program of the second evening of this year’s festival features a show with some of the top performers from the highly successful TV talent show The Voice. The artistic spectrum will be stretched even further on the last evening when the Beersheba Symphonette performs a program of golden Hebrew oldies fronted by veteran songstress Ilanit at the Shir Shel Yom Holin concert.
Liraz originally laid out a threepronged festival plan designed to keep the flame of original Hebrew song burning brightly, establish artistic encounters between experienced and novice performers, and provide young artists with an opportunity to strut their stuff on stage.
Glezer says the Arad Municipality, along with the festival’s other sponsors – the Ministry of Culture, Mifal Hapayis, Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry for the Development of the Negev and the Galilee – is keen to nurture a bond with our music among youngsters, too.
“We attach great importance to conveying love for Hebrew song among children and youth. That’s why I established a stage for young children some years ago, where we offer them songs by people like Naomi Shemer and the best writers and poets that Israel has to offer. I firmly believe that education should start at an early age. If we expose children to Hebrew music, they will grow up to be adults that love the music and will continue to listen to it and come to concerts all their life.”
Glezer is only too aware of the competition but feels that she and other guardians of Hebrew music are winning the culture war. “Of course, there are things like YouTube and all kinds of media that bombard Israeli children with things from all over the world. But I see all these kids, for example, that know all the words of Gidi Gov’s songs. I grew up with his songs, and all these years later kids still sing his songs. You can see that this music is important to them. That is very encouraging.”
This year’s program is certainly putting its money where its collective mouth is and paying tribute to one of the country’s iconic songwriters, Nahum “Nahcheh” Heiman. The 78-yearold Heiman has composed hundreds of songs over the past six-plus decades, such as classics like “Kanfei Hayona” (Wings of the Dove), to words by poet Natan Yonatan; “Beiti” (My Home) which was performed by Rika Zarai; and “At Ve’ani Ve’haruach” (You and I and the Wind), which was recorded by the veteran Haparvarim duo. The Heiman tribute concert will feature several top female vocalists, including Ofira Gluska, Miri Aloni and Heiman’s rock singer daughter, Si Heiman.
Other big names on the Arad Festival roster this year include veteran rock act Efoh Hayeled, which got its first big break in Arad over 20 years ago; megastar Sarit Hadad; rock band Boom Pam; and pop crooner Doron Solomon. There will also be plenty of opportunities for members of the audiences to get in on the act at any of the several perennial sing-along slots, and there will be performances by choirs and singing troupes from all over the country.
While music is front and center at the festival, the Arad Municipality has always been keen to use the event as a way of promoting the cultural, hiking and other attractions available in the town and its desert environs, and there are a whole host of activities on offer to visitors over the three days. Museums and art galleries, covering a wide range of artistic avenues, in the local artists’ quarter will be open all day long, and there will be guided trips by jeep, private vehicle, ATVs and on foot through some of the most spectacular parts of the Arava countryside.
More passive leisure time attractions include the sound and light show at Masada and a range of alternative healing treatments, which should enhance the sense of desert tranquility.For tickets and more information: (08) 995-4160 and www.arad.muni.il