treading the lines.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
When you see the name Yehonatan Geffen on a show roster you know you're in for a bumpy ride. The 62-year-old satirist-author-poet-lyricist-journalist-playwright has been churning out reams upon reams of equally charming and challenging material for over four decades.
This Saturday (9 p.m.) Geffen will team up with 35-year-old singer-songwriter Daniel Salomon for a performance of their new musical-satire show Marr'at Pla'im (Magic Mirror) at the Jerusalem Theater. Geffen has enjoyed quite a number of musical-satirical synergies over the years, the first and most memorable of which being his early work with bluesman-rocker Danny Litani, starting back in 1974, with Zeh HaKol Beintayim, Beintayim Zeh HaKol (That's All For Now, For Now That's All).
Israeli society of the early seventies was very different and far more regimented than nowadays and some of the biting humor Geffen unleashed then, stirred storms both in the public and political circles. Today, of course, we have matured somewhat and are more open to criticism and vitriolic material. Nonetheless, Salomon says we can expect to be kept upright in our comfy theater seats at the show.
"If the show and Yehonatan were politically correct it wouldn't be interesting," he states simply, adding that there are many facets to that ethos. "Non-PC involves different levels. There's also the emotional aspect. There is a lot of emotion in the show - our emotions, which we bare to the audience." While Geffen has made a career out of spilling his emotional, and other, beans in public it would seem fair to say that Salomon generally offers more palatable material.
Salomon disagrees. "Yes, I think it takes courage to bare your feelings in public, but I think I have always done that with my music anyway. In that respect I feel there is common ground between Yehonatan and I."
The seed for the Salomon-Geffen confluence was sown around five years ago, during Salomon's eight year tenure with Geffen's no less famous son, rocker Aviv Geffen. "Yehonatan was a guest at one of the shows and we did some stuff together, which worked pretty well," Salomon recalls. Last year Geffen called Salomon and asked him if he wanted to work on Marr'at Pla'im and the two toured the States with the show last summer.
For Salomon, working with Geffen is the realization of a thirty-year dream. "I fell in love with his work when I was five years old, when I listened to HaKevess HaShisha Assar (Sixteenth Lamb)," said Salomon about the 1978 hit record for which Geffen wrote the lyrics. After that I read everything he wrote and listened to all the records he worked on. I think he's an amazing artist. It's a great honor to work with him. My generation grew up with HaKevess HaShisha Assar."
Salomon says he also imbibed an abundance of humor and satire in his formative years, and credits Geffen with taking satire to a different level in Israel. "[Israel's answer to Monty Python] Nikui Rosh was before my time but I watched Zehu Zeh and Fawlty Towers. Yehonatan pioneered a new format in this country, by combining music and strong satirical statement on life in general. I think he brought a new art form to Israel."
Three decades on, one wonders whether Geffen has absolute carte blanche, or whether there are some red lines that even he won't cross. In 1982, during the first Lebanon War, even though Geffen modified the humor he presented to IDF soldiers north of the border, he was once removed from the stage because the material was considered to be overly risquÃ©. "I think Yehonatan reaches and even goes beyond some red lines," says Salomon. "Satire has to tread along those lines and to challenge us, even though it may not always be pleasant."
Marr'at Pla'im includes ten songs, featuring some Geffen classics with the tunes reworked by Salomon, and some new Salomon material. There are also performances lined up at Givatayim Theater on March 7, (03) 732-5340 and at the Zohar Hall in Tivon on March 13, (04) 983-0195