Nir Yaniv with King Cano 248.88.
(photo credit: )
Visitors to the funky Tel Aviv neighborhoods of Florentine or Nahalat Binyamin, the seaside Tayelet promenade, or those who were present at the opening this past July of the Maccabiah Olympics in Ramat Gan, have all been dazzled by virtuoso funk, reggae and groove singer King Cano Huricane Kwa-Zulu. Together with Tel Aviv-born Nir Yaniv, the duo have been performing across the country and at venues as disparate as the Glastonbury Festival in England, Womad in Scotland and the Red Sea Jazz festival in Eilat, creating a unique, genre-breaking freestyle entertainment sound - called beatboxing - that embodies post-modern Israel.
"Our music is done completely from the heart and soul. No waiting for the next draft, no rehearsals. We perform live with no preordained ideas," the Lesotho-born King begins. "Nir and I are both long-time musicians. He's an established artist, composer and science fiction writer for many years here in Tel Aviv, known for his past projects including Funkapella, Vocaliens, and The Universe in a Pita. His music style and repertoire are astronomical."
Earlier this year, Nir and Lavie Tidhar published their novel, The Tel Aviv Dossier (ChiZine Publications) - a somewhat bizarre supernatural thriller combining biblical allusions, contemporary culture and meditation - set, of course, in the Big Orange.
"As for myself, for the past 15 years since leaving South Africa, I have been studying world beats, sounds and music - all the while improvising my style," continues King.
Performing before 30,000 people at the Ramat Gan stadium in August at their biggest gig yet, King observed, "It was amazing. Their mouths dropped open. It was great to send a message of self-empowerment.
"My music transcends boundaries and nationalities. Everybody, every age, gets my message of oneness," he smiles.
THE SOUTH African globetrotter first visited Israel in 2007, driving east through Europe from Holland on a bio-diesel bus burning felafel and French fry oil, and arriving on a cargo ship via Cyprus.
"When we landed in Haifa, Customs detained us for two and a half hours, and my pitbull for six hours. We didn't have a piece of paper stating the dog was castrated. I told the man to look between his legs to check the dog was fixed. He said I needed a piece of paper. I ended up going to an Internet cafÃ©, typed in 'dog castration' in Wikipedia, and printed out a form. The man didn't even look at the damn paper, and that's how we got here," King relates.
"Performing in Tel Aviv clubs such as The Block, Comfort, Lima Lima and Levontin 7 with artists like Danny Bar, Yonatan Oppenheim, MEWE and Blacklist, many people told me I had to perform on my own. But I needed a vocalist to musically talk to on stage," he says.
In true Israeli style, one improvisation led to another until King met Nir. The two collaborate, performing all their music live using only their voices, a four-channel loop sampler, an octaver (for the bass parts, reverbs and distortions) and a vocal FX pedal. Now the duo are working on their premier album.
"This is a live vocal-only operation!" says King, based at "the Nir Space Station" - his partner's apartment on Rehov Ibn Gvirol.
Judging from the song "Music" by Blacklist featuring King, currently enjoying air time on the IDF's Galei Zahal radio station, and 102 and 106 FM, that record promises to make a deep impact on Israeli hip hop music.
"Be ready," he warns with a dash of hip hop hyperbole. "This is going to be the hottest music that ever came out of Israel."
King has a deep respect for his adopted homeland. "This country is amazing. Here I have the whole world in one place. Israel transcends history and culture. This place is all about love. It's a very cool scene, and that's what I try to project in my music."
Turning to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, King - with the benefit of having traveled and lived in 86 countries, and as a practicing member of the Baha'i faith - believes that holding onto the past and being fixated with fear perpetuate the conflict.
"As long as you keep continuously picking up a gun, as long as you keep saying that they're gonna attack us or they're gonna attack us if we put down our guns, as long as you keep fearing war, of course, there's going to be a war. That said, as an outsider, I also have respect. You've got to respect that fear. You've got to respect that situation of mourning, the reason why people come and fight for their right to be here. You have got to respect that," he said.
For more info, check out www.KingAndNir.com, or on Facebook at King Cano.