Infusing ancient music with a heavy metal sound

Jerusalem's International Oud Festival has spread its wings.

oud feach 88 298 (photo credit: Courtesy Photo)
oud feach 88 298
(photo credit: Courtesy Photo)
Jerusalem's International Oud Festival has spread its wings. Starting out seven years ago as a modest 3-day event devoted exclusively to ethnic music from the Middle East, the festival has expanded its program this year to 15 days and a new genre of music: heavy metal. Local metal act Orphaned Land will combine rock sensibilities with the festival's traditional liturgical and ethnic material for its Wednesday show at Jerusalem's Beit Shmuel, in a concert that will be the first of its kind for the popular music festival. Despite their work in a decidedly modern musical genre, Orphaned Land members consider their show a good fit for the festival. "Everyone in the band is impacted by ethnic energies from all over the world," says vocalist Kobi Farhi. "I think we mix it all together very comfortably." The band's mixed sound has won it an enthusiastic following during tours of South America and Europe - and also among an unlikely fanbase from the Arab world. "We've played a few big shows in Turkey where fans from Arab countries - Syria, Lebanon, Jordan - have come to see us," Farhi says. "In some of those countries, listening to our music is illegal [because we're Israeli]. But these guys come to our shows and we've spoken to quite a few of them afterwards. We all belong to the heavy metal community." Established 15 years ago, Orphaned Land has found a new fan in festival director Effie Benaya, who says he expects the band to draw a younger crowd to the still-growing oud festival. Farhi sees the band as a natural fit for the festival, saying the group exemplifies the power of music to bridge cultural, and sometimes political, gaps. Traditionally, metal bands have been anti-religious, anti-social and anti- just about everything," he says. "We're sort of an anti-rock rock band. We embrace all religions and cultures."