Crossing the ethnic divide

Two Docaviv films may have more in common than first meets the eye.

yair dallal 88 298 (photo credit: Courtesy)
yair dallal 88 298
(photo credit: Courtesy)
On the face of it, Enrique Morente - Alhambra Daydreams and Got No Jeep and My Camel Died are worlds apart. While the two documentaries being screened at this year's Docaviv Festival both focus on music, the former profiles a Spanish flamenco singer while the other is about Israeli musician Ya'ir Dalal. However, as the films progress, it becomes apparent that there is much common ground between them. In Enrique Morente - Alhambra Daydreams the eponymous singer traces his origins in quintessentially folksy Spain. We follow him through the narrow, twisty alleyways of his native Granada, where he offers his personal take on the roots of the folklore, and looks ahead to his forthcoming concert in the Alhambra Palace. For him, it is the realization of a lifelong dream. Oud player, violinist and sometime vocalist Dalal, also has his dreams. Dalal is one of our most prominent ethnic music artists. He has put out 10 albums in the last dozen or so years and regularly performs across the globe. Three years ago he was nominated for a BBC Radio 3 World Music Award as Best Artist from the Middle East and he has become one of our highest profile cultural ambassadors. All that, however, does not guarantee him success on the domestic scene. In Got No Jeep and My Camel Died we follow his efforts to find a home for his music school. It isn't easy, and the kudos from the foreign media count for very little when it comes to negotiating with the municipal authorities and the arts powers-that-be here. But the Dalal film is about far more than wrangling with officialdom. It traces 50-something Dalal's own fascinating artistic and spiritual odyssey as he rediscovers his Iraqi roots after feeding off his generation's staple western diet of Sixties pop and rock, with a modicum of Arabic music and some liturgical nourishment thrown in. Dalal has become something of a spokesman for his contemporary counterparts and for the burgeoning generations of ethnic music artists. He has also taken it upon himself to trying to keep the genre torch ablaze, educating Israelis of all ages and ethnic extract about the likes of the Al-Kuweiti brothers and Salim El-Nur who were famous throughout the Arab world before making aliya from Iraq. THE COMMON denominator between Enrique Morente and Got No Jeep emerges when Morente teams up with Algerian rai (based on a mix of Arabic poetry and Bedouin music) singer Cheb Khaled. Morente has been known as one of the foremost exponents of flamenco singing for close to 30 years. However, more than any of his counterparts, he has explored other cultures and genres, from jazz to Indian rhythms, and rock to Andalusian music. Besides Khaled, Morente also teams up with stellar jazz guitarist Pat Metheny. Added to the powerful aesthetics of the Alhambra Palace and Granada, Enrique Morente offers an impressive multi-sensory experience. Got No Jeep also provides fertile cinematographic ground as Dalal naturally heads for the arid landscapes of the Arava. We also follow him to Brazil where he performs at an annual WOMAD (World of Music, Arts and Dance) gathering where he tries, in vain, to get a Palestinian group to share the stage with him. Dalal also memorably performed at the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993 and is seen, abroad, as something of a symbol of Israeli-Arab friendship. Besides their cross-cultural explorations, Morente and Dalal also represent an interim generation of artists who are both deeply linked to their ethnic roots while searching for new cultural terrain. Morente offers a succinct description of his ethos when he says: "I didn't get my singing from the Internet, I can tell you." In a global village where cultural boundaries are becoming increasingly blurred, perhaps that is the principal message proffered by both documentaries - that one can adopt an eclectic approach, but still maintain cultural and artistic integrity. Enrique Morente - Alhambra Daydreams will be screened at the Suzanne Dellal Center in Yaffo on March 22 at 10:30 p.m., and on March 23 at 12p.m. and 10 p.m. Got No Jeep and My Camel Died will be shown at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque on March 23 at 12 p.m.