Tel Aviv’s electronic music fans are ready to feel the beat… along with 2,500 others. The White Night Shavuot Fest is taking place Thursday at Tel Aviv’s Hangar 11 with the headliner the internationally known duo CamelPhat.
DJ Dor Dekel, a veteran mixer at 100 FM radio station, says he’s been organizing these events for 10 years while hosting his club radio show – and never has the event been this big. Every year, the production crew tries to bring a popular DJ or an electronic act from abroad, but since this year was a milestone, the entertainment had to match.
“We did some parties over the years and this is totally the biggest event we are associated with,” Dekel said.
Before this year, events were cozier – being held in clubs and private venues to cater to Israel’s underground electronic music scene. This year, everything is bigger, including the stage, the venue and the budget. That means more artists and DJs, too. In fact, there are at least six set to perform outside of CamelPhat, thought to be a cross-genre of electronic music.
The group is famous for a song called “Cola,” which went from the underground electronic music scene to the more mainstream electronic music scene, picking up attention all over the globe. In 2018, the song was nominated for a Grammy. Dekel recognized CamelPhat’s talent early on and has been playing their tracks for years. Making use of his strong ear, Dekel was playing tracks from Avicci, too, long before the Swedish musician was making waves across the seas. Dekel made it a point to interview him on his show and also nailed down some time on air with David Guetta among a wad of other DJs who became mainstream as well.
It’s CamelPhat’s first visit to Israel and Dekel believes it will be very interesting for Israeli crowds, as the genre is different than what the locals are used to.
“They’re niche and different,” Dekel explained. “They’re in a sub-genre. It’s kind of hard to say what CamelPhat’s genre is because they cross tracks. Some are more progressive, some are tech house, some techno. It will be different than what they know.”
Aside from CamelPhat, (the crew preferred not to take interviews to remain true to the underground scene), popular Israeli DJ duo Jos & Eli will be controlling the vibes of Hangar 11 with their music, too. The pair met when Jos (Yossi) was 15 and Eli, 22. Eli waited for Jos to complete army service and when it came to an end, the two vowed to continue working on the craft together. The pair have played sets around the world, including at the famed Heart club in Ibiza. On Thursday, they will lay down tracks for their loyal fans.
In years past, electronic music was often lumped together under the umbrella of techno, but the genre has evolved since then. There are a variety of sub-genres like psytrance, techno, tech house and others. Dekel proposes that while the United States was exploring country and soul, Israel was more in line with Europe’s electronic scene. In his eyes, Israeli culture lends more to tribal sounds like drums and energy that soul music doesn’t provide.
“WHEN THE US had ‘I got 5 on it,’ we had hits like ‘Bump up the Jam,’ and that was the dominant sound in Israel,” Dekel explained. “It’s always been about climax. It’s really hot here and people want energy. They want stuff to lift them up. They want the kick drum – what we call ‘fall to the floor.’ In America, that didn’t happen until 10 years ago. You had hits here and there, but it didn’t dominate.”
While CamelPhat is well-known in the world, Dekel explains that concert-goers won’t necessarily be there for famous tracks from their favorite artists. Underground fans frequent festivals and shows like these as an opportunity to hear more music from musicians they’re getting into and enjoy the ambiance. Dekel has observed that Israeli fans are paying so much attention – that artists from abroad choose Tel Aviv time and time again to test out their music.
“This crowd does their research. They go and listen to stuff beforehand. It almost feels like they’re part of this whole thing. The crowd wouldn’t come because they [CamelPhat] have a hit record. Maybe the hit record exposed them to more music they like, but you don’t come to an underground party to sing along and dance to songs. It’s more about atmosphere, vibes, lighting and your friends coming along with you,” Dekel explained.
JOS & ELI are no exception. Since they have a strong rapport with their audience, they’re gearing up to test out some of their latest pieces at the festival. Eli says nearly 80% of their set will be new tracks, which are typically between 5 and 8 minutes long, unlike average pop songs. Jos says they try to take every song to a high maximum melody and work at 120-122 beats per minute. The EP, called Armada, is set to be released mid-June and will have nearly 12 songs on it.
“We love to play unreleased tracks in our sets. It gives us so much motivation and inspiration for the future when we get to hear them in the real time on the stage and sometimes there are tracks that don’t work like we thought they would work,” Eli explained. “Sometimes in the studio we so love it and then on stage it doesn’t work like we thought.”
Though music is thought to be the art that brings people together, it would be naive to ignore the fact that artists are routinely pressured into boycotting Israel and canceling shows. Lana Del Rey pulled out of an Israeli festival last year and other members of the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement – like Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters – have urged artists to stay away from playing tunes in the Holy Land. Dekel says in the world of techno, that culture doesn’t exist. The Israel electronic music scene is just too strong.
“It’s almost opposite to pop culture – like the BDS movement,” Dekel explains. “It almost doesn’t happen in electronic music. When you talk to DJs as opposed to pop artists, they know that Tel Aviv is it. They know it’s a thing. They know it’s a major crowd and that it’s a good crowd and most of them want to come here. In a way it’s kind of good publicity for Israel.”
The DJ makes it his personal responsibility to show artists he brings to the country a good time – sans politics. Dekel turns himself from DJ to tour guide when it comes to hosting techno artists from around the globe.
“All the people who are handling the nightlife scene in Israel will tell you that if we would run things, things would be different. It’s a whole different scene. It’s about love and music and bringing people together from different countries. We have a lot of experience in bringing DJs from Arab countries here, too. And that’s really unusual.” The pre-Shavuot party costs between NIS 190 and 380. The beat drops at 11 p.m. and will continue on until you… well… fall to the floor.
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