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On shortwave radio, Reshet Bet's new talent show can be heard as far as Europe and beyond. Today with the Internet, listeners can tune in from anywhere around the world.
The Olim al Hagal ("new immigrants on the wave") radio program was first conceived to give exposure to new artist arrivals in Israel. Artists can express themselves in any language, and if a newcomer doesn't understand Hebrew when being interviewed, somehow the flexible and warm DJ skills of Iris Lavie help guests find their way to communicate.
For Tadlik N. Doolin of the band the Goldoolins, it was important that her songs reached her ears of her grandmother in Rehovot last November.
"The songs we played that night were from our debut album which had just been released that week. Sadly, my grandmother passed away two days later," says Doolin, who sings in English and plays the glockenspiel and percussion.
"She never had the chance to listen to the whole album. Those were the only songs she got to hear. We were guests on Olim al Hagal, where we played a few of our songs and talked a little bit about ourselves. None one of us three are olim - we're all bona fide sabras, you could say, although our spirits are definitely from other times and places - such as 16th-century England, 1930s Appalachia or 1960s California," says Doolin who, with her two bandmates, has played in Canada's Yukon and Northwest Territories as part of a three-month tour across the frosty north country.
Falling into the category of the yet-to-be-discovered, the Goldoolins believe they will never be mainstream in Israel. While their two albums received enthusiastic reviews from music magazines in the US and Europe and they have played in the legendary Cavern Club made famous by the Beatles in Liverpool, here in Israel they have essentially been ignored by the local press.
That is exactly the kind of talent that Zipi Bayrav, producer of Olim al Hagal, looks for. Bayrav says that in the beginning the show was meant to feature only new olim, but it became too difficult to find fresh talent every week. Reshet Bet opened the two-hour evening slot to alternative Israeli performers who otherwise would not get much exposure on mainstream radio.
The two-year-old band enjoyed the opportunity to play on Israeli radio, and on the featured night they shared the airwaves with an Israeli-Russian duo, an Israeli flamenco dancer and a Russian poet.
As artists, the Goldoolins know the importance of getting exposure in order to acquire a following. One drawback to the Olim al Hagal show, the band felt, was that too much focus was placed on the anchor guest of the show (typically a better-known Israeli artist).
The night they played, singer Etti Ankri was also showcased.
"We were quite surprised, frankly, [that Ankri was there] because we thought the show was intended only for lesser-known artists. Famous mainstream singers have many other opportunities to appear on radio and TV shows. We felt it was a pity that a few relatively unknown artists were squeezed in next to one well-known singer who was given half the show's time."
Last year, the program was broadcast on Saturday evenings after Shabbat. Now it can be tuned in to on Sundays from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. and features actors, musicians and singers.
The show used to host painters and sculptors as well but, says Bayrav, "It didn't work out so well. It's hard to show a painting over the radio."
About half a year ago, the program - based in a studio not far from the Tel Aviv Cinematheque - invited a handful of musicians including singer and piano player Lilach "Leela" Eyn Habar, Greek-style singer Eyal Nardia, bayan player Evgni Tickocky and ethnic crossover musician Yisrael Borochov as the anchor guest for the night.
About half an hour before the show went on the air, the guests began arriving through the Fort Knox-like security of the radio station, clutching CDs and instruments. Borochov, an established musician who co-founded the legendary ethnic Israeli band Habreira Hativit ("The Natural Gathering"), has developed projects with the likes of US-born Laurie Anderson and Stephan Micas from Germany. Olim al Hagal featured work on his latest music project The Hidden Spirituals, a CD of unique melodies sung to Jewish text from Kabbalist sources.
The night kicked off with Ukrainian-born Tickocky, who made aliya in 1999, playing the bayan - a kind of accordion. For a living, Tickocky composes music and teaches in schools. The enthusiasm in the studio was contagious as producer Bayrav clapped gleefully behind the glass partition during the songs, while DJ Lavie interviewed the musicians between sets.
About halfway through the two-hour program, the station received a phone call from a filmmaker interested in hiring Tickocky to work on a new project. He had heard Tickocky moments earlier.
"See, the program really helps olim join the country," said Bayrav, who made sure Tickocky got the call.
Habar, the only female performer that night, was clearly excited. She, like others, had brought in a collection of recorded music for Lavie to play. Describing herself as a cross between Tori Amos, Dido and Shakira, Habar goes by the stage name Leela and sings mostly in English.
While some Israeli artists such as MC Carolina have expressed the difficulties of getting radio airplay when songs are written in English, the opportunity for Habar at Reshet Bet afforded her some good exposure.
The same was true for Jaffa singer Nardia, who grew up hearing Greek music at home and has since adopted the style, which is popular in Israeli nightclubs. He was accompanied by a 19-year-old bouzouki player, Alan Tomer.
Susan Hadash, an American-Israeli in Israel for 16 years, was also featured on the show on another date. She sang jazz standards alongside a mixed bag of artists that included Russian singers from the Yiddish theater, an Ethiopian actor reciting lines from a play he was in, and a harmonica duo.
Hadash says DJ Lavie is a warm person who creates an informal but supportive atmosphere during the two hours.
In terms of its being worthwhile for artists to be on the show, she says that a few people who didn't know she would be featured on the program called her to say that they had heard her songs, "So there is definitely an audience."
Guests are welcome from all over the country, says producer Bayrav, who invites artists to get on the waves.
Reshet Bet (www.bet.iba.org.il), Israel Radio's news network, also features round-the-clock broadcasts, guest chat shows, traffic updates and sports programs, as well as local and overseas reviews and special programs devoted to foreign, economic, judicial and legal affairs.
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