Dialing up fame

"Elbaz has the right voice and musical sensibilities to break out big time" - Radio Tel Aviv music director and DJ Yoav Kutner.

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September 11, 2008 08:58
2 minute read.

 
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If you're a Jewish music singer and you want to get your music heard, the first and last address is Radio Kol Chai. Despite a plethora of both local and pirate radio stations catering to the sensibilities of the religious public, Radio Kol Chai remains the only nationally sanctioned kosher music station. At 93 on the dial in the center of the country and 92.8 in Jerusalem, the 12-year-old station is broadcast out of studios in Bnei Brak. But according to Yoav Dilion, the station's music director, its appeal isn't only to religious listeners. "We attract plenty of secular listeners too, who perhaps happen to like our cantorial programs or prefer to listen to our news broadcasts. Our on-the-hour news contains none of the 'yellow' elements of regular news broadcasts - it's just news, period. You can listen to it with your children and not have to change the channel," Dilion says. That type of haredi self-censorship is apparently appealing to a growing audience, as Dilion claims the station attracts 250,000 listeners each hour. "According to polling company TGI Seker, we're in the top place among all radio stations in the country in percentage of rise in listeners over the last three years," he says. It's at Radio Kol Chai that Gad Elbaz finds his largest fan base and the primary radio outlet for his music. His new album Between the Raindrops and its first single "Children's World" is on heavy rotation and is among the station's most requested songs. "Gad is very popular on our station, to say the least," says Dilion. "Between the Raindrops has become hugely popular, and you can tell he's singing from the soul. There's quiet, spiritual songs there, but also songs with rhythm and even Latin beats. We're playing them all, even the dance tunes, despite the fact that we're a haredi radio station." But observant radio isn't the only place that Between the Raindrops is being played. Mainstream stations like Army Radio and Reshet Gimmel are regularly playing overtly spiritual music by artists like Yonatan Raziel and Ehud Banai. And according to Radio Tel Aviv music director and DJ Yoav Kutner, the trend is widening all the time. "We choose songs to play based on their musical merit, not whether the singer is religious or not," Kutner says. "Lately, though, it seems like a lot more songs are arriving from the religious community. At our last staff meeting, someone even said jokingly that we're in danger of turning into a Chabad radio station. But there's some truth to that." Kutner differentiates between Jewish music as performed by artists like Gad Elbaz and other, less contemporary, more liturgical music. "In my eyes, there are two types of 'Jewish' songs. One has a religious element, but it's still a pop or rock song at its core. And then there's the real religious songs, which just have too high a dosage of religion in them and sound like prayers, and aren't really that musical at all," he says. "Gad Elbaz makes soul music - and it's very musical, despite whatever the lyrics are saying. I have no problem playing his music. Elbaz has the right voice and musical sensibilities to break out big time." That thought is echoed by Radio Kol Chai's Dilion. "I think if anybody has the ability to cross over into the secular, mainstream market but stick to his religious ideals, it's Gad."

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