Beating through borders

Kobi Hagoel and his cohorts marry the great streams of Eastern music with jazz and rock.

Kobi Hagoel 298 (photo credit: Courtesy photo)
Kobi Hagoel 298
(photo credit: Courtesy photo)
Master percussionist Kobi Hagoel brings his ensemble Kav Hatefer (The Seam Line) to the Confederation House this Saturday night for a rare Jerusalem performance. Founded back in 1996, the group is an ambitious and ongoing project that seeks to combine the many cultures of Israel and to express this synergy through original compositions. Through the marriage of the great streams of Eastern music with jazz and rock, Hagoel and his cohorts articulate the unfolding cultural landscape of the Holy Land. "Kav hatefer" is a political term referring to the area surrounding both sides of the Green Line. "It is the unwritten, unofficial border [of Israel]," explains Hagoel. "Kav hatefer always had a negative connotation because there Israelis and Palestinians are close to each other and that's frightening. I took the name because I wanted to make a switch ... If the cultures can meet, then there can be harmony." "This was a little naive," he admits, reflecting on the changes the region has undergone since the band's founding during the Oslo period. "But I still think this viewpoint is good to hear." Hagoel is one of the leading Middle Eastern-style percussionists in Israel, and he's worked with many international artists including Israel's Yair Dalal, Turkey's Omar Faruk Tekbilek, French/Algerian pianist Maurice el Medioni and Armenian legend Djivan Gasparyan. Besides his work with Kav Hatefer, he performs regularly with the East/West Ensemble (one of Israel's original ethnic music groups) and the Esfahan Ensemble (Persian classical music). He is a prolific teacher and has authored a comprehensive manual on Middle-Eastern percussion cataloging over 300 rhythms. He has also designed an acoustically superior darbuka (an hourglass-shaped drum), known affectionally among the music community as "darbukat kobi." Kav Hatefer currently consists of Hagoel on Middle-Eastern drums/percussion and lead vocals, Asi Givati of the Shotei Hanevuah band on guitar and oud, Ofer Ankori on saxophone and nai (Middle-Eastern flute), Hadas Goldschmidt Halfon on violin, clarinet and saxophone, and David Otterman on bass. "It's a salad of edot (communities)," Hagoel explains. He composes by singing the melodies, and the other group members transcribe and elaborate on them. He often sings in a made-up gibberish that almost sounds like a real language, and the other members all do double duty as back-up vocalists. Despite its myriad influences and unique sound, Kav Hatefer remains rooted in traditional Middle Eastern music and is one of the original ensembles pursuing a distinct Israeli voice by combining different strains of ethnic music with Western influences. The group released its self-titled debut CD in 2003 and is working on its follow-up release, but Hagoel laments the current state of modern ethnic music in Israel. "It's difficult to perform original music now or to get publicity," he says. "Israel has some of the best musicians in the world [in this style], but on the radio there is not one hour devoted to it. Israelis want to listen to this music and don't accept labels. We are sushi and hummus, Moroccan couscus and ketchup. This is us ... each one has his salad." Saturday, 9 p.m., Confederation House, 12 Emil Botta St., Jerusalem. Information and tickets: (02) 624-5206; NIS 65.