Downsizing at Janana's desert festival

Janana takes an extensive look at rhythm and movement, featuring workshops on African drumming, Native American drumming and Indian percussion.

drum 88 224 (photo credit: Courtesy )
drum 88 224
(photo credit: Courtesy )
A three-day festival out in the desert? Sound a bit familiar? For the past decade or so we have gradually become accustomed to a growing plethora of "New Age" festivals that take place up and down the country at opportune times of the year, like Pessah and Succot. First there was Shantipi, offering a taste of the chill-out shanti ambiance thousands of young post-IDF Israelis had experienced in India. Then came Beresheet, Boombamela and various other three- or four-day gatherings somewhere beyond the rustic pale, where youngsters and - increasingly - even families could escape the rat race and traditional holiday fare for some, well… "shanti." And now we have the Janana Festival which will take place, for the first time, this Thursday to Saturday at the Desert Ashram on Route 40 roughly halfway between Beersheba and Eilat. According to Janana co-producer Roni Heffer, the three-day event offers a refreshing alternative to the dinosaurs that Shantipi and its ilk have become. "I went to all those festivals when they started out, but they all grew so big and I think they lost their direction," says 42-year-old Heffer. So, where did the Janana idea come from? In fact, Heffer had no designs on running the show himself - along with cousin and co-producer Yuval Burstein. "I got into drumming myself, and I felt there were so many people interested, and actively involved, in drumming that it was time we had a festival just about that," he says. "But no one took up the gauntlet so, eventually, Yuval and I decided to do it ourselves." Janana takes an extensive look at rhythm and movement, featuring workshops on African drumming, Native American drumming and Indian percussion, as well as belly dancing, flamenco dance, movement meditation, yoga and even Jewish philosophy. There will also plenty for the kids to do, including guided short night hikes through the desert. In fact, the Janana program is impressively varied. Master percussionist Zohar Fresco, for example, will present drumming workshops while Shlomo Bar, of Habreira Hativit fame, will offer the festival-goers the benefit of his four-plus decades of drumming experience, along with his knowledge of Jewish philosophy and Kabbala. Elsewhere in the Janana program there are belly dancing and flamenco dance workshops, Bukhara percussion, documentaries about related subjects, Jewish liturgical music and body drumming. "We wanted to create a sort of boutique festival, with depth rather than size," Heffer explains. "I expect upwards of 300 people to come this year and, hopefully, more in the next few years. But we don't want to grow too big. We won't sacrifice quality for quantity. That is not what Janana is all about. Besides, there is something about the desert - the purity and expanses. I am sure that will make Janana even more special." For more information about the Janana Festival go to: