Indie edge

The highly popular Indie Negev music festival comes to Tel Aviv.

3421 (photo credit: Nimrod Rotem)
(photo credit: Nimrod Rotem)
If you’re looking for some mainstream musical entertainment provided by, say, the likes of Aviv Gefen or Shlomo Artzi, you don’t want to be hanging around near 42 Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv on Thursday evening. Then again, if you’re into some energized, fresh sounds from the freer, and possibly more insouciant side of the musical tracks, then the From Edge to Edge show, courtesy First International Bank of Israel’s Culture and Community project, should be right up your alley.
The premise for the event, which is produced by the people behind the highly popular Indie Negev music festival, is to assemble a bunch of promising acts and to let them loose on stage. The bands lined up for Thursday’s rhythmic shenanigans come from all over the country, and bring all kinds of influences, genres and styles to their performance craft.
The fun starts at 6:30 p.m.,ends at 11 p.m., and is free.
While the vast majority of the members of all five participating bands are not exactly of the mainstream radio playlist variety, the name Itay Perl is instantly recognizable to anyone who has any interest at all in Israeli pop and rock music of the last decade or so. On Thursday, Perl will team up with indie rock duo Nadav Azulai and Gil Nemet, in a showcase of the pair’s new Ze’ev Ze’ev (Wolf Wolf) album.
Meanwhile, rock quartet Marioneta Sol – founded by Beersheba childhood buddies singer Amir Gruman and guitarist Idan Karov in 2030 – will join forces with folkiebluesy artist Albert Sofer for a show that will feed off the darker side of the rock sector. Haifa will be represented by the 3421 duo that will unfurl a high energy mix of dubstep and electronic, while another numerically named band – 2013 – will, no doubt, get the audience shaking a leg or two, and probably other bodily bits too, with their hard-kicking techno offering.
But if soul and spirit and positive vibes are where you’re at, then the Shivat Zion show should hit the nail on the head. The band was established by guitarist Araleh Keren and singer Asher Kugel five years ago, but the twosome’s output has been enhanced by three other instrumentalists for some time now, in the shape of lead guitarist Meir Haim Dan, bassist Itamar Weiss and drummer Hai Ohana.
According to Keren, for the Shivat Zion gang, the accent is very much on joie de vivre. “I come from reggae and the music of [late troubadour Rabbi Shlomo] Carlebach,” he states. “The idea is always to bring happiness to people, even if it comes from the most painful place. The outward expression will be a joyous one.”
That sounds something like blues music, which generally has some sorry tale to tell, but there is generally a smile in there, too.
“That’s exactly what it is,” continues Keren. “Someone once asked [late Jamaican reggae megastar Bob] Marley what reggae is, and he said it’s the blues. It comes from the same place.”
The informational material on From Edge to Edge has it that Shivat Zion “creates music that is both prayer and hafla [jam].”
“I’d say that’s pretty accurate,” Keren notes. “We don’t come from prestigious music schools. We come from the hafla scene, sitting around bonfires singing and playing music and just going with the flow, singing at [end of Shabbat] melaveh malka get-togethers and just enjoying ourselves, and making each other happy.
“We also went to senior citizens homes and hospitals, to cheer people up, and it gradually turned into live shows on stages, and all the requisite equipment.”
However, although Keren, Kugel & co. started to get more professional, Keren says they have always done their utmost to preserve the original off-the-cuff mindset.
“You don’t always get that spirit when you see musicians on a stage,” says Keren, “you know, the sort of ambiance you get when you all sit around a bonfire. You get on a stage and you have to adapt to the setting. You have to make sure the sound is right, and that everyone is in tune and technically right. You have to make it more into a performance for the people watching you. There are bands that play four-minute numbers, and that’s that. But our songs can go on for six to 12 minutes live.”
But for Keren and his bandmates, their shows are always two-way streets.
“Of course, our audiences get something from us but, to tell you the truth, we sense our audience and then go with it. That means that every show we do is different, because the audience is different. That’s important.”
Keren explains that that also involves the band members running with events as they evolve.
“We can start out with a playlist but, in the middle of a show, we can suddenly decide to do something we hadn’t scheduled. We might break into 15 minutes of grunge, or set off with some trance. We often surprise ourselves, too. We like that.”
Although reggae hails from Jamaica, Keren says he and the band have made the music their own.
“I’d say it’s something like Canaanite reggae, Israeli reggae,” he muses. “The music we play really comes from Israel. The fact that the genre is called reggae doesn’t mean to say we have to sing about things happening in Jamaica.... We have to sing about what we feel, about the things we are connected to.”
When he’s not on stage, one of the things Keren is most connected to is his work with at-risk youth. He finds his tough day-job highly rewarding.
“Music can lift someone’s spirit in a moment,” he notes. “I remember one show when there wasn’t much of an audience, and the other members of the band were pretty down about it. Then this young kid comes up to me and tells me he was really depressed before the show but that the music had made him feel happy. That’s worth more than anything for us.”
From Edge to Edge will take place in the piazza in front the 42 Rothschild Boulevard branch of First International Bank of Israel in Tel Aviv on Thursday, from 6:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Admission is free.