"Jewish music is something unique and uplifting. For five years, the Tzama Festival has been a hit in Jerusalem,” said festival director Ronen Peled Hadad, adding that more than 50,000 religiously observant music fans arrived during Hanukka for last year’s annual event at the Jerusalem International Convention Center.
Peled Hadad was one of the Jerusalem attendees, and he came away impressed. Hadad is experienced in creating large and important celebrations in Israel, such as the Maccabiah Games’ opening and closing ceremonies; staging the opera Nabucco with Daniel Oren on Masada; and the torch-lighting ceremony on Independence Day.
Intent on bringing the Tzama experience to Tel Aviv, he spoke to Na’or Carmi, the festival's musical director in Jerusalem, who readily agreed, and together they began their plans. Tel Aviv supporters and backers greeted their combined vision with support and enthusiasm, and Hadad remarks they were both surprised how smoothly and quickly their undertakings fell into place for the Tel Aviv event, which begins on March 17.
Tzama Tel Aviv will have separate days for men and women (March 17 for women, March 18 for men), at Hangar 11 in Tel Aviv Port, with a varied lineup of musicians: Shuli Rand, Natan Goshen, Shai Tsabari, and Avraham Fried.
“Each artist is different, representing our searching souls who have come down to Earth to fulfill a mission,” Hadad said. “Jewish music touches our souls and connects one to another. I have done research about Jews and hassidim outside of Israel. You are a Jew there, not a member of a Jewish stream. Jewish music connects human beings. For Jews, it connects you to the Jewish people, to our soul, as one united entity. The Tzama Jewish Music Festival in Tel Aviv gives us an opportunity to connect through music, books, and wine. I want to provide the experience in which they can connect to their roots, language, and symbols.”
The Tzama festival began as a project of Lubavitcher hassidim, to celebrate the birthday of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, “the Rebbe.” Schneerson wrote a melody to the words of the Psalm 63, which uses the word “tzama,” and it remains as festival’s centerpiece.
“Tzama means ‘thirsty’ in Hebrew, and is used by the psalmist, King David, to express his longing for God, the thirst of his soul and fervent wish to incorporate God into his life,” Hadad says.
“It’s not only a desire of King David,” he points out. “The 50,000 people who attended Tzama in Jerusalem, want it also. They came from all streams: datim
[religious] and hilonim
[traditionally, Lithuanian opponents of hassidim], kippa seruga
[knitted kippah] and no kippah."
“Why are we thirsty for Jewish music? Not only in Israel, but Jews and even non-Jewish people all over the world need and love it. Jewish music festivals are a big trend and great success globally,” Hadad says. “How else can you explain 15,000 ecstatic Polish people in Krakow who attended the Jewish music festival in Poland last year? Clearly, Jewish music has the unique ability to uplift the soul, to connect one to another. Connections come in different ways. Each of our stellar artists brings a different ‘color’ to the performance.”
SHAI TSABARI, who is appearing at the Tel Aviv festival, fuses traditional Oriental music, rock, pop, electronic and world music. His concerts break down barriers because they are a “soundtrack” of the life here, reflecting the diversity of Israel. The words he chooses come from a variety of sources.
“I find inspiration and am moved by the words of Chabad; from the piyutim
[poetic prayers] of Ibn Gvirol; the words of Rabbi Sa'adia Gaon; the words of Ahuva Ozeri; and Yehudah Amichai” Tsabari told The Jerusalem Post
. “My favorite song is ‘Kol Dodi.’ The words are from Shir Hashirim
[Song of Songs] by King Solomon, and melody composed by my uncle. It is a wonderful connection for me."
“Jewish music has the power to take a person out of their ordinary day, and put him on a different level,” says Tsabari. “Jews are a spiritual people and our music is enriching. It is a connection with our neshama
[soul] – a connection to our inner being.”
Avraham Fried will bring the world of hassidism and Chabad to Tzama Tel Aviv. In his mind, a life without hassidism is half a life. With it there is joy, meaning, energy; there’s life. “These songs are based on the pillars: wisdom, understanding and knowledge: chochma
in Hebrew,” says Fried, “and are uniquely connected to the soul.”
The Jerusalem festival’s Carmi says it makes perfect sense to bring the annual Hanukka celebration to Tel Aviv for Purim.
“Tzama Festival in Jerusalem always takes place in the month of Kislev when we celebrate Hanukka, a festival of light and happiness. Tzama Tel Aviv will be two days before Purim, our holiday of boundless delight and happiness. These are two perfect times for Tzama festivals,” he says.
Hadad says he believes the entire atmosphere of Tzama Tel Aviv will be great.
“Art has no limits," he says. "We are delighted to have Natan Goshen, who is young, charismatic, and tremendously popular with the young crowd. The star Shuli Rand is an artist of the highest caliber.”
Rand is best known to the English-speaking world for his role in the 2005 film Ushpizin
, for which he also wrote the screenplay. Hadad says he believes that Rand delivers to the audience the message that faith is not static. "Everyone has highs and lows in life, and can mobilize himself to break down barriers. Music is beautiful. It is conversation with the almighty.”
All four performers will sing together at the beginning and end of the show. “I am sure the audience will feel the neshamas
coming down,” says Hadad with confidence. “Each is living a different experience; each has his own life story. In between, will be duets and solos, and at the close, a coming together, a feeling of togetherness.”
“My goal is to have audience and artist feel uplifted by the Jewish music which I am sure will touch your soul,” he says.
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