And Jake Makes Three

Jacob's Ladder has proven to be one of the most durable cultural events in this country's history.

Jacob ladder 298.88 (photo credit: Courtesy photo)
Jacob ladder 298.88
(photo credit: Courtesy photo)
Besides being "our" festival, Jacob's Ladder has proven to be one of the most durable cultural events in this country's history. 32 years after the first modest attempt at an Anglo folk-based gathering in an old stone building on Kibbutz Mahanahim on the Golan Heights, Jacob's Ladder now caters to thousands of Anglos and sabras keen to groove to the folk, blues, pop, bluegrass, Celtic, you-name-it musical entertainment laid on around the festival's now permanent home of Noff Ginosar by the Kinneret. This year's bash offers even more in the way of musical fare, plus the usual dance and instrumental workshops, Tai Chi, storytelling sessions for kids etc. For the first time since 1989, perennial Jacob's Ladder bosses Yehudit and Menahem Vinegrad have added a third day to the weekend boogie by the sea. Considering the crowds that flock to both the spring festival and its winter version, the temporal stretch has been a while coming back. "We sent out a newsletter after last year's spring festival and most said they were in favor of the extra day," Yehudit explains. "Some were concerned the feel and format might change but we assured them the Friday-Saturday part of the festival would retain the same format. The extra day also allows Sabbath observing musicians, like Sandy Cash, to take part." This year's festival roster duly appears to be richer than ever. Local "fixtures" - the likes of Galilee duo Ada and Diane, Shay Tochner and Bracha Ben-Avraham - will all be there along with a plethora of foreign acts. The biggest being US import Sonia Rutstein, a singer/songwriter who goes by the high-techy lettered professional moniker SONiA. Over the past 15 years or so, she's released a dozen albums, nine of which garnered awards of various ilks, and her No Bomb Is Smart CD was in the running for a Grammy. SONiA is certainly one of the most eclectic artists to have graced the Jacob's Ladder Festival and her new Tango album features material in Spanish, Arabic, Hebrew and English, fusing world music, folk-pop, Latin and Middle Eastern rhythms. During the Second Lebanon War, SONiA helped to keep our spirits up as she leapfrogged from shelter to shelter in the north. Another American at the festival is Utah Green, who hails from western Northern Carolina and has been described as a "song painter and story teller." Green's soulful folk singing and playing style culls influences from the four corners of North America. Pete Morton, who spends much time in the States, has a vocal and instrumental disposition from a very different mindset and cultural backdrop. Attune with the global village, 43-year-old guitar playing-singing Morton, hails from Nottingham in the Midlands region of Britain and is set to perform twice. He sometimes finds himself having to "translate" some of his lyrics for American audiences. "I think, with the Internet and multi-channel TV, people are more aware of different cultures these days. People in the States know about Monty Python. But, when I say I am from Nottingham, some Americans immediately ask me about Robin Hood. And there is some dialect stuff that I have to explain before I perform some songs." Morton has traveled a long road - literally - to be where he is today. "I grew up listening to [early seventies rock acts] T-Rex and Slade and the punk and new wave of the late 70s, like the Ramones, Sex Pistols and Elvis Costello," he says. At the age of 16, Morton's contemporary musical upbringing took a sharp and unpremeditated turn. "I was at a friend's house and his dad played a record by [Native American folk musician] Buffy Sainte-Marie. That changed everything for me. I discovered the power of early 60s protest songs and the ability to change the world with music and lyrics." Morton duly swapped his electric guitar for an acoustic version and, despite being considered something of a "weirdo" by his pals, he ventured deep into folk terrain. After school he spent five years busking around Europe before hitting the international folk club scene. "The busking was great. I learned a lot from it. It gave me the chance to come into contact with people of different cultures. I still do that today. That also allows me to feed off different situations for my songwriting. I can get ideas in the post office or in a pub. I used to worry if I hadn't had an idea for a song for a while, but now I just let the stories come to me." Jacob's Ladder festival runs from Thursday to Saturday, April 15 to 17 at Noff Ginosar. For more information visit