Israeli Jewish-Arab rock group to join Radiohead for US tour

Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood is married to the Israeli-born artist Sharona Katan and has collaborated with Israeli world music composer Shye Ben Tzur.

March 21, 2017 18:55
2 minute read.

Lead singer Thom Yorke performs with his band Radiohead at the 51st annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles February 8, 2009. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Pudu Tassa and The Kuwaitis, the eclectic Jewish-Arab Israeli band, will accompany legendary rock group Radiohead on their US tour leading up to a joint performance in Tel Aviv, according to online magazine publication Consequence of Sound.

The 40-year-old Tassa will join the A Moon Shaped Pool world tour on March 30 in Miami ahead of their July 19 scheduled performance at Tel Aviv’s Hayarkon Park, according to the Internet site.

Tassa’s band performs music based in part on the compositions of his grandfather Daoud Kuwaiti and great-uncle Sallah Kuwaiti, two of the most acclaimed musicians ever to come out of Iraq in the early 20th century.

As the name suggests, Daoud and Saleh were born in Kuwait, but from an Iraqi family that temporarily relocated to the then emirate. Their work subsequently took the brothers to Basra in Iraq, and then to Baghdad. From the 1920s until their aliya in 1951, Daoud and Saleh played to jampacked concert halls in Iraq, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and even pre-state Palestine. When, in 1936, King Faisal of Iraq wanted to establish a state radio station, it was to his favorite musicians, violinist-singer Saleh and oud player-singer Daoud Kuwaity, that he turned. The Kuwaitys put together a sextet and the nascent Iraqi national radio station’s official musical ensemble was up and running.

The brothers passed away before Tassa got to meet them, but their music has been a guiding force to his career, which has resulted in over 10 albums in the past 16 years. His acclaimed 2015 album, Allah Shawaiti, was the second one based on the Kuwaitis’ music and gained him international mention. The Tel Aviv-born musician told The Jerusalem Post in 2015 that he arrived at his roots only after moving through conventional types of music.

“At school I got into jazz and rock and that sort of thing, and I did nine units on jazz for my bagrut [matriculation] examinations,” he said, adding that his artistic ethos and own personality gradually came into sharper focus. “Later it all came together – my grandfather’s [Daoud Kuwaiti] influence, the eastern side and also the rock and jazz bits in there.”

The exotic blend of ethnic music must have caught the attention of Radiohead, whose guitarist, Jonny Greenwood, is married to the Israeli- born artist Sharona Katan and who has collaborated with Israeli world music composer Shye Ben-Tzur.

Radiohead’s connection to Israel has been tight since the beginning of their career. They played three shows in Tel Aviv after their debut album was released in 1993, before they had gained wide notoriety. They have gone on to become one of the most popular and critically-acclaimed rock groups of the past two decades.

Barry Davis contributed to this report

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