If it’s the right sort of genes you’re looking for, Kaley Halperin has certainly got them. “My father was at Woodstock,” says the singer-songwriter mother of two. That’s not bad for starters. “And my grandmother was a singer,” Halperin adds. “She sang folk songs and things in Yiddish.”
All of the above, and more, inform Halperin’s output. It is also present and correct in the 30-year-old New York-born former Jerusalemite, now Jaffa-based, musician’s debut release, called Kan (Here), which came out last March. Some of the tracks will be featured in Halperin’s gig, which will take place at her apartment, at 28 Azza Street, at 9 p.m. on March 9.
It will not be the only home entertainment on offer in Jaffa next week. It is part of the three-day Spot BaSalon (Living Room Spot) Festival which is described as “a unique urban music festival” conceived by artistic director Yamit Hagar. Exactly 25 shows will take place at 25 residences of local musicians from March 7-9 around town.
Domicile-staged musical fare may, to most, infer a program of lesser known artists who may or may not be gifted. Either way, it is assumed that their public profile is not particularly high. As far as Spot BaSalon is concerned, that would be missing the mark by a mile, or two. The artist lineup spans several genres, from pop to rock and folk music, and also includes quite a few big guns, with the likes of Rotem Bar-Or, of Angelcy fame, Kobi Farhi from Orphaned Land, and Mahmad Mograbi from multilingual hip hop band System Ali all on the festival agenda. Not bad at all for a first run out. All the shows are absolutely free.
While Halperin may not be the best known of the bunch, she appears to have a lot to offer both on a musical and on a spiritual level. The artist is not only keen to entertain her audience with her homespun material, she also likes to join forces with her fellow musicians and to connect with the music-loving public. “There is a sort of community in Jaffa, which has come together over the last five years or so, of people who are returning to Judaism,” she explains. “Some are more religious than others, and there are a lot of artists among us.”
The community members eventually began to hold musical get-togethers, choosing an eminently suitable thematic figure for the initial gathering of what became to be known as Lev Saduk (Splintered Heart). “It was Carlebach evening,” Halperin continues, “a memorial evening for Carlebach,” she notes, referencing the late rabbi.
The venture stepped up a notch about a year ago, when the get together took place at Jaffa Port. It was a magical mystery jamboree of styles and sounds. “We did Carlebach songs, old Israeli songs, The Beatles, eastern stuff, you name it,” Halperin recalls. “People danced and sang. It was wonderful. For the past half a year we have tried to get together on a monthly basis.”
Halperin not only has an eclectic, accommodating take on herself and her religious beliefs, it also extends to the world around her. “The album has instruments from all over the world,” she laughs. “There is a song that sounds Irish, and there’s one with a Chinese flute, all sorts. Itamar Assaf Tal, my producer, is a virtuoso with a wonderful open mind. And I feel that my influences all come into that too.” By that, Halperin means the quotidian sounds she hears on her own patch. “From my home I can hear a mosque, and the bells of a monastery, and there is a beit midrash of Hassidim. All the voices of these cultures are constantly mingling. All that may not seem trivial, but for me they are the most normal thing in the world.”
The multicolored critters fluttering around Halperin in the clip exude something of a psychedelic ambiance. She says part of that comes from her familial backdrop. “My parents were hippies. My family made aliyah when I was six. I grew up in an English-speaking home of new olim, but I also grew up as an Israeli kid from first grade. I grew up with Joni Mitchell and all that, and with Arik Einstein and all that Israeli music.” The rich cultural-sonic mix was further enhanced on shabbatot. “We attended a Carlebach synagogue. That was also a big part of my formative years, in a musical sense too.”
The young Halperin bought into all of that with gusto. “My mother said I started making up songs when I was three. I began on the piano in second grade, and guitar in eighth grade. In high school, I was in the music stream. It was always a major part of what I did, wherever I went. When I went somewhere on National Service, I had a children’s choir. Music has always been an important part of my life.”
However, it took Halperin a while before eventually deciding to make a go of it. “It is only in the last three years that I have gotten around to focusing on music professionally.” With hindsight, one could see all that led up to next Saturday evening’s gig. “It started with a living room gig,” she says.
In fact, Halperin had already accrued a modicum of stage time. “When I was in my early twenties, I’d taken part in some open mic events. But then I got married and I started studying.” The latter refers to a degree in music education, which comes in handy with the singer-songwriter’s daytime job. Conviviality was also the order of the day from the outset. “When I started performing I was a bit exposed, so I began asking musician friends to appear with me at home. I printed out the chords to my songs, and people just played and sang with me. It was great fun.”
It also produced some practical fruits, and some added value for one and all. “I had a band on the spot,” Halperin laughs, “and it was less daunting for me. People told me it was a very special experienced for them,” She realized she was connecting with other people, through her music, but also that she wasn’t going to the conventional performance road. “I knew I wanted my shows to be a little different.”
It was time to hit the road. “I went on a nationwide tour, with my band. I called it Kaley and the Present. Anybody who was present was part of what we were doing.” Her academic training kicked in. “I used things from the world of musical education to involve the audience. So it was a show, because I performed my songs, but the audience is always very much involved.”
Should you find your way to 28 Azza Street in Jaffa on the evening of March 9 be prepared to be entertained.
It should be interesting to see how the Spot BaSalon Festival develops in years to come.
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