Dedicated to the ones we love

Susan Cogan and Fran Avni release a double album in memory of friends murdered in the Maxim bombing.

singer ladies 298.88 (photo credit: )
singer ladies 298.88
(photo credit: )
Songbirds Susan Cogan and Fran Avni are back. The well-liked Canadian-Israeli duo from the 1970s hasn’t re-made Aliya. Instead, they’ve released a new double format album, The Merciful Moon (B’chemlat Hal’vana), for folk consumption. “The Merciful Moon was an Israeli hit years ago, called ‘Rak Hayareach Zoreach‘. It was from the Israeli festival of songs when I was a teen,” says Cogan. “I always wanted to record that song.” Cogan and Avni released The Merciful Moon in two versions one in Hebrew, one in English. Both albums are dedicated to their friends who were murdered two years ago in a suicide bombing. In their album cover they write: The Merciful Moon is dedicated to “our dear friends the Almog and Shtayer family who suffered a heartbreak greater than anyone should have to bear in this life. They suffered the loss of five family members from three generations, and the maiming of four more when a suicide bomber struck as they sat down to lunch at the Maxim restaurant in Haifa on October 4, 2003. In memory of Zeev, Ruti, Moshe, Assaf and Tomer, we send our love to all the wounded and to all who have lost loved ones. Strive to find joy in life again. May peace come.” Twenty-one Israeli Arabs and Jews were killed in the Maxim bombing. The CD is described as Hebrew songs of peace and celebration. “The CD is dedicated to [the Almog/Shtayer families] with the hopes to find light and life,” says Cogan. “Like Iris, Zeev and Ruti’s youngest daughter says, the best revenge is to live well. It was really in the spirit of making something beautiful to bring to Israel in this time of pain and difficulty.” Thirty five years ago Cogan and Avni began harmonizing together in a Jaffa night club. “We started as the opening act for bands that came through the club,” reminisces Cogan, who came to Israel to promote the album. “Misha Segel and his jazz group came along, he took us under his wing, and became our arranger. He composed a song which became one of Israel’s most loved songs, ‘The Second Bird’.” “The Second Bird” (Tzipor Shniya) is indeed one of the few songs to conquer all generations. It was played at late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin’s funeral and continues to be heard on local radio stations. “The music business is difficult anywhere and no one can tell what will be a go and what won’t be a go, and it doesn’t even seem to be related to if it’s good or bad music,” says Cogan. “Our story happened very quickly.” From the night club in Jaffa, Cogan and Avni went on to collaborate with artists like Matti Caspi, Ehud Manor, Chava Alberstein, Misha Segal, and The Dudaim. Other popular songs they released included “Leylot Lilac”, “Derech Yishana” and “Lo Dibarnu Od”. After hitting it relatively big in Israel, Avni returned to Canada to care for her parents, while Cogan left to try out the wider world of music. And while they both have solo careers, they also continue to record and perform as a duo for Israeli audiences. Their new album, The Merciful Moon, comes in two editions one with English lyrics (purple cover), one with Hebrew texts (red cover). “We’re both Canadian and for years we’ve been talking about putting something out in Canada. These songs are so beautiful. I thought an English version was a great idea, it took a little bit of convincing to persuade Fran,” says Cogan, w h o ended up c o m i n g to Israel alone to promote t h e a l b u m while Avni was on tour in Los Angeles. The versions are not necessarily translations of one another, some songs are translated others feature different words completely. Cogan says of the 11 tracks, some songs like “Someone” started out in English and was then translated into Hebrew, while the title track was given new lyrics in English rather than a translation from the Hebrew. And the song “Not By Might” features in both languages on both CDs. They also recently released a video clip to the song, “Keep on Walking,” which Cogan says “we hope will be a hit, but who knows what will be a hit?” Their music is difficult to classify. It is folksy with a twist of something else. The Hebrew version takes a minute getting used to as Cogan and Avni's North American accents are quite heavy in Hebrew. Nevertheless the music conquers as their harmonies are so pleasing. “I think with this CD we expand out of the border of folk,” says Cogan. “We don’t quite go into jazz but there are a lot of popular influences. Those who are pop aficionados might call this folk and those who are folk purists might call this pop. I don’t know where we stand. For me it’s a musical palette. These songs take us through an emotional journey of love and loss, joy and sorrow, and ultimately refresh our spirits.”