My favorite cafe in Kfar Saba was recently bought by one of the major coffee shop chains. The owners were probably aware of the shop's history, because they tried to keep the design of the place basically the same. Still, sitting there doesn't quite feel the same anymore. Somehow the allure is gone.
When I heard that the Guitar in the Desert Festival is now being produced by a company and not only by the loving hands of its founder, Alon Abutbul, as it had been in previous years, fear crawled into my heart. Fear that in the same manner my beloved cafe lost its charm, this unique festival with its intimate atmosphere where everyone brings their own guitars and just plays outside their tents under the Negev skies, would lose its magic.
Carmi Wurtman from the new production company of the festival 2b-Vibes calmed me. "We fell in love with this festival exactly because it's not one of those huge festivals sponsored by a cellular company," he explained. "We worked at the festival last year as advisers to the Mirage Foundation which supports events in the Negev, and decided that this year we'll produce it."
Wurtman reassured, "We do want to make this festival profitable, but not at the expense of losing its intimacy. We still have an open mic stage, jam sessions around a campfire and people playing everywhere. The only difference is that we lowered the prices so that more people can afford to come, and we expanded its content. However we limited the number of visitors to no more than 2000. "
The Guitar Festival was established three years ago in the Negev by Abutbul,who wanted to connect people through music via the guitar and create a dialogue among the festival's visitors. As such, the shows at the festival are intimate ones with the stage stationed close to the audience. Among the artists participating this year are Dudi Levi, Boom Pam, Michael Greilsammer, Alma Zohar and Gilad Kahana.
"The spirit of the festival is that you see things that you won't see anywhere else," says Wurtman. "Therefore we have unique combinations between artists, such as Yael Dekelbaum with Geva Alon, Ronnie Peterson with Yossi Fine and artists that you can hardly hear anywhere else such as Yehu Yaron. Furthermore, many artists stay overnight in the area and the next day they may decide to play with someone else."
This year, due to the expansion of the festival, the number of guitar workshops has increased immensely. "In general we expanded the festival to have three main areas: the stage area where shows take place all day long, an area where workshops such as Flamenco, basic guitar and Yossi Fine teaching bass are given and the children's area," Wurtman explained. "This is the first time parents can come with their children, leave them at the children's area and feel confident that they are in safe hands. The children will have games, yoga, a musical circle and much more. We want this to be an event that families can enjoy."
The camping areas have also been upgraded this year with real toilets and showers. "We also have guitars for rent," Wurtman revealed. He then added, "but you don't have to play guitar to enjoy the festival. It's similar to a bluegrass festival, where a lot of people play in every corner. You can join a jam or just sit, listen and clap your hands."
Guitar in the Desert, sponsored by the Mirage Foundation takes place November 5-7 at Khan Hashayarot. Tickets are NIS 175 for the three days. All workshops and children's activities are included in the ticket price. There are also family prices and children under 5 are admitted free. For more information visit www.guitarfestival.co.il