Concert Review: Majuda

Everything about this fledgling group seems to shout "only in Israel."

Majuda 88 248 (photo credit: Aharon Hyman)
Majuda 88 248
(photo credit: Aharon Hyman)
Majuda Cana'an Music Bar Jerusalem July 8 Majuda, a new fusion band that brings together African beats and hassidic Zionism, treated friends old and new to an intimate breakout show at Cana'an Israeli Music Bar in Jerusalem on Wednesday night. Everything about this fledgling group seems to shout "only in Israel." With tzitzit sticking out from under the colorful African-print tunic sported by lead vocalist/guitarist Chanan Rosin, lyrics in English, Hebrew, French, Zulu and Xhosa, and a fresh sound that borrows from Israeli, African, French and folk traditions, it's hard to imagine a show like this anywhere else. "The root of our sound is African, but the leaves and flowers are definitely Jewish in origin," said Rosin in an interview with The Jerusalem Post. "The lyrics include a lot of lines from the Bible… a lot of the concepts are drawn from hassidic Zionism and infused with an African likeness. It gives it color, and a simple happiness that I think both hassidic Jews and Africans have in common." Though Rosin admits that most white South Africans like himself are cut off from the black African culture he claims to be drawing from, he says, "I was fortunate enough to be open to it growing up there. I learned music on the streets. It's on the minibuses, in the taxis - it's everywhere. Something rang true over there, and I'm trying to bring it back to my Israeli brethren and sistren." The small but enthusiastic Cana'an audience needed no convincing at Wednesday's show, which comes about two months ahead of the band's debut album. By the third song, the bar felt like a traditional Jewish simcha: The tables were against the walls and everyone was laughing and dancing in front of the stage - there was even a toddler crawling along the makeshift dance floor, her mother dutifully in tow. "It's such an interesting crowd," said Jordana Shapiro, wife of saxophonist Raphael Bar Katz. "It's Nahlaot hippies, proper people, Labovitchers… The band is half religious and half not. It's very eclectic." Musically, the band members touted an impressive range of vocal and instrumental abilities, artfully blending a standard guitar, bass and drum kit with a saxophone, mouth organ and several African percussion instruments. The set mixed original songs with new renditions of traditional Jewish folk music, such as "Shalom Aleichem," "Kol Ha'olam Kulo," and "Etz Hayim" - and even sprinkled in some good old-fashioned Jewish shtick and African call-and-response motifs.