For immigrants to any country, getting a decent handle on the local language is often paramount to gaining a comfy perch in one’s new home. Then again, White Feather Netzer believes that the most widely spoken language in this country has universal attributes.
She and husband Ori are among the pioneers of the New Age movement in Israel. They were involved in the first Shantipi Festival in the mid-1990s and, in 2000, got their event going in the shape of the Sagol Festival, which ran for 11 years.
Now they are about to launch their new Havaya – existence – project with a concert at ZOA House in Tel Aviv, on June 21 (12:00 p.m.). This is not any old entertainment show. The repertoire will feed exclusively off mantras in Hebrew.
The couple have personal experience collateral for the new undertaking here. It all began when White Feather began singing without lyrics. That, she says, allows the listener to connect, unconditionally, with the music.
If there’s one thing I have learned over my many years in this line of work – and the thousands of interviews I have conducted with all kinds of musicians – it’s that regardless of the “quality” of the music you heard in your early formative years, it will continue to resonate within you for the rest of your life. White Feather gets that, but says she and her partner follow a different mindset in their work.
“There are so many research papers that talk about the importance of music, and how much we need it – what you hear early in your life shapes your identity,” she noted. “But music that is healing is not supposed to shape identity. It should connect you beyond your identity. We all have an identity and that’s how we function in this world, in this temporary phase.” That, White Feather believes, is not enough to have a good and fulfilling life. At some stage, we need to go further. “One day, at some point in our life, we start looking for something more. We long for something and we want to take our life in a better direction. We need to take control.”
According to White Feather, that can lead down one of two avenues. “We can choose to work through our identity. Then you follow your ego. You’ll be in control but you won’t attain true happiness.” Again, there appears to be empirical evidence on the folly of that line of action. “Research shows that true happiness does not come from what you have outside, or if you have a university degree. Genuine happiness comes from who you are inside, from your essence.”
That, she says, entails a healing process which can be attained from wordless singing. It is something she has witnessed in her work over the years. “I have sung without words in Israel for years, and that connects with people in a very deep place. I have had quite a few people cry when I sang.”
Initially, that came as quite a surprise. “To begin with I didn’t really know what I was doing that made people cry,” she recalled. Not that the show became a downer. “People were not crying from sadness. It was a sense of longing, of remembrance, of connection.” It was a beneficial two-way street. “I carried on doing that because it was rewarding for the audiences, and for me too.”
THERE WAS ANOTHER epiphany in store for the couple, and this time they took a textual about turn. “We were invited to perform in northern Italy, near the border with Austria,” White Feather related. “There were people from all over Europe. After I sang songs without words, I felt I wanted to sing birkat kohanim [the priestly blessing].” It proved to be an inspired move. “People came there expecting me to sing without words, people who didn’t know a word of Hebrew. And then they get that. I remember the absolute silence after I finished singing. People were in shock. And, after the show, people came up to me and emotionally asked me what that was. They didn’t even know it was Hebrew.” It wasn’t a one-off either. “I did the same thing at a show in France, and I got the same reaction.” Clearly she was on to something.
Soon she was trying it out on people who had a better idea of the meaning of the textual content. “I started doing that as part of the personal growth workshops I ran.” That was when her mantra departure began in earnest. “I sang ‘el na reffa na la,’” she said, referencing Moses’s entreaty to God to heal his sister Miriam from leprosy. “The workshop participants could join in, because the words are simple to say.”
For White Feather, it is not just a matter of communal chanting. She feels the language she uses offers unique properties. “All over the world, millions of people sing mantras in Sanskrit and other ancient languages,” she explained. “And it works. It heals people. They are Semitic, core languages. They have power and they impact on us, on all sorts of levels.”
But White Feather had been looking to work from closer to home for some time. “I had researched the Hebrew language,” she said. “I went into the [Kabbalistic treatise] Zohar, and all sorts of areas, to get a better idea of Hebrew. Even though it’s my mother tongue, I didn’t know much about it.”
There were deeper strata to be mined, and proffered to her audiences. “I could use Hebrew on a daily basis, but I didn’t understand the power of the language. There were all sorts of codes I didn’t know. But I could see how the mantras were affecting people.” It was an across-the-board effect. “People connect with it even if they are not religious.”
White Feather says there is a fundamental distinction between Hebrew and other ancient languages in which people chant mantras. “Sanskrit is a universal language, while Hebrew was much more identified with the Jewish religion and nationality,” she explained. “You know, for a long time, Hebrew was not spoken. It was only used in prayers and religious ceremonies, because its power. It was only in 1913 that they began teaching Hebrew as a spoken language. That’s not too long ago.”
GRADUALLY, THE couple realized the language had a wider group of people. “We traveled to different countries, and we only needed to say ‘Hebrew’ and people’s eyes opened wider,” White Feather said. “It was as if it was time, and that the heart was ready for it.”
Now the pair are ready to spread the word even further, through their Sagol eco village in the northern Negev, and an album of mantras they are hoping to release. The ZOA House is something of a head-start event, which they hope will provide some of the wherewithal for the aforesaid projects.
White Feather believes it is a win-win situation for one and all. “If people take part in this, it will have an effect on them too,” she said. That prompted the fund-raiser. “We could have done the CD on our own, but we decided we wanted to promulgate the frequency of the Hebrew language across the world. We don’t even say we are musicians. We have a vision, and if we need to realize it through music, that’s what we’ll do. We are ready to do anything needed to get this message out there. I firmly believe that spreading Hebrew is good for the whole world. I believe that every word we speak has an effect on the whole world.”
The couple are infused with pioneering spirit. “The ZOA House show will be the first concert in the world exclusively devoted to Hebrew mantras,” White Feather noted. It is quite a production. “There will lots of quality instrumentalists with us, like [former Sheva band member] Udi Ben Canaan, [guitarist] Assi Givati from [dub-dance band] Shotei Hanevua and [percussionist] Avi Agababa. We have some amazing players and, more important, they are amazing people.”
There will be more than quality music on offer on June 21. “We want people not only to experience culture on a very high level, we want them to experience a connection with their own inner world. There will be healing in there too – raising the frequency to a new place.”
At the end of the day, White Feather believes it is a simple matter of enjoying yourself. “When you get pleasure from something you raise your own frequency,” she explained. “You can raise the frequency in terms of the person’s identity – a person feels better with themselves – or you raise the frequency beyond the identity. That’s the connection with the soul.”
No prizes for guessing which game changer the White Feather and Ori Netzer are set on.For tickets and more information: (055) 910-1911, www.whiteandori.com and http://zoatlv.co.il/event/There will be a live online broadcast of the show on June 21: https://www.zappa-club.co.il/Video/Index/8495?preview=1&type=True
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