Music fans looking for something a little different are in luck. The 2006 World Music Festival kicks off tomorrow in Tel Aviv, with Israeli musicians joining their counterparts from overseas in performances at the Tel Aviv Opera House, the Ra'anana Amphipark and the Shuny Fortress near Hadera. Performances begin tomorrow evening and run through Saturday night.
First held in 1998, the festival is back after a hiatus of a few years during the intifada. After a successful return last year, this year's festival will put a special focus on music with a Latin influence, with jazz and a number of other musical styles to be performed as well.
Though the festival is still growing, organizers say they're pleased with the list of musicians at this year's event.
"It's hard to bring performers to Israel," said Dubi Lenz, the festival's creative director. "It's great that these artists and groups agreed to come."
Lenz said he dreamed of organizing concerts of music from around the world during his years as the host of a world music show on Galei Tzahal, IDF radio. Featured performers at this year's World Music Festival are Spanish singer Diego el Cigala, Mexican-American singer Lila Downs and Brazilian ensemble Olodum.
El Cigala, whose Lagrimas Negras was one of the best-selling flamenco albums in Israel in recent years, combines Cuban music with flamenco singing in a style that earned him a 2004 Latin Grammy with musical partner Bebo Valdes. Downs, best known for singing in 2002 movie Frida, performs work influenced by Ranchera rhythms, with songs that often describe life in the rural Mexico.
Olodum, a 15-member group from the Bahia region of Brazil, is known at home for African-influenced rhythms and percussion. Members of the group are known as "the Kings of Carnivale," according to Lenz, and have worked with stars including Michael Jackson. The group will make its second trip to Israel after accompanying the Brazilian team to the World Cup, where its members would have performed at the victory ceremony had Brazil won the tournament.
Lenz said he chose these artists from a list of hundreds of musicians from all over the world.
He says he's excited about this year's festival and has no shortage of ideas for the future. "I travel around the globe and hear so much great music from all over," he said. "I have lists of artists I would like for the next 100 years."