Eyes (and ears) abroad

Oleh! Records aims to fill a void for English-singing Israelis in a global market.

hadarah levin areddy 88  (photo credit: )
hadarah levin areddy 88
(photo credit: )
If Jeremy Hulsh has his way, the world will be hearing a lot more from Israelis, and not politically speaking. On Friday, US-born Hulsh will launch Oleh! Records, a non-profit organization that aims to achieve global market presence for Israeli artists who perform and record in foreign languages. For now, the label will focus on musicians who work in English. It's no secret that increasing numbers of Israeli artists are recording and performing material in English. Jerusalemite singer-songwriter Hadarah Levin-Areddy, for example, has been churning out records in English for several years now, and has even grabbed the odd minute or two of airtime on Galgalatz radio - generally considered the country's rock-pop barometer. Rock Four, too, have been plying their energetic vibes around the States and elsewhere, and one can periodically catch their English-language gigs at venues like Tel Aviv's Barbi, Levontin 7, and at the Music House in Jerusalem. Click for upcoming events calendar! However, while the trend is gradually gathering momentum here, Hulsh feels some help is in order to get the message out. "With the exception of one or two artists, there has never really been any success for Israeli artists abroad. There have been a lot of people here waiting for something like Oleh! Records to happen. Hulsh certainly has the credentials to make the dream come true. Before moving here in 2001, he spent several years at Sony Music's New York offices, and did not intend to stay in the business when he came on aliya. "I wanted to get into other things here, I thought of politics or something to do with security," he says. However, he gradually came to realize there was a musical void here waiting to be filled. "I have been helping Israeli artists here for a while," he explains. "It's not necessarily just a matter of connecting them with foreign labels, but also teaching them the process of how to go on tour, what tour marketing is about and what they should have in their press kit. Things that are very basic for me are lacking here." According to Hulsh it's more down to what and who you know than anything else. "I see the music industry as mostly being about knowledge and access. You also have personal connections, money and a little bit of luck. Knowledge and access are the two components that are completely lacking in this country, and that's what Oleh! intends to provide." While there may be an abundance of musical talent here, there is still a question mark over the added value that Israeli artists have to offer the world. There are, after all, enough musicians out there who perform in English, in all genres, without our input. "What Israelis have to offer, that musicians from other country don't have, is their perspective," says Hulsh. "You can listen to a punk song from the States and punk song from here and, while the style may be similar, the content is completely different because of the personal narrative of the artist." Pure musical endeavor aside, it can do Israel's image no harm to have musicians out there offering the world a glimpse of life here entirely devoid of politics. David Brinn, pop music critic for The Jerusalem Post, and Editorial Director of the ISRAEL21c website, is a member of the Oleh! advisory committee. His committee colleagues also include Galei Tzahal radio station music editor Dubi Lenz, TV music channel 24 director Yoav Kutner and Ayelet Yagil, former site editor of Mooma, Israel's leading music website. Brinn is suitably enthused about the impending label launch. "I got involved with Oleh! because its goals are exactly the same as ISRAEL21c's - to expose Americans to a different side of Israel which is hidden due to the emphasis on the conflict," says Brinn. "Connecting American youth to the vibrant musical diversity that's taking place in Israel - and having it sound familiar because it's in English - will be a wonderful way to build affinity between the two countries." The Oleh! Records website, www.olehrecords.org, will be up and running as of this Friday's launch.