Jerusalem on the Frontier

For one week a new radio station will showcase the best alternative music acts the capital has to offer.

DJ Ryskinder 370 (photo credit: Courtesy)
DJ Ryskinder 370
(photo credit: Courtesy)
There is this commonly held view that genuine cultural and artistic endeavor in this country begins and ends in Tel Aviv and its environs.
If you subscribe to that blinkered idea, and happen to find yourself in Jerusalem between August 4 and 9, you are in for a real eye (and ear) opener when the Hachazit (“The Frontier”) bandwagon starts rolling. The package is the brainchild of Jerusalem Season of Culture artistic director Itai Moutner, and Tel Avivbased Teder Radio.
Hachazit is a six-day slot that incorporates radio transmissions and concerts that will showcase the best alternative music acts the capital has to offer. Actually, there are a number of bands in the lineup whose members do not reside in the host city.
But, more than anything, it is the spirit behind the artists that is the crucial factor.
“Most of the artists are Jerusalemites, or grew up here as people and as musicians,” explains Hachazit artistic director and local DJ Gili Levy (aka Gili Da Kid). “There are some artists coming over from Tel Aviv, like Ryskinder, but they have the Jerusalem spirit in them. That’s the important thing. And [Teder radio boss] Itai Drei was born and grew up in Jerusalem, and he knows the scene here really well.”
Levy notes that, in terms of physical infrastructure and finances, the situation in Jerusalem leaves something to be desired, certainly compared with the entertainment scene in Tel Aviv. Then again, he believes that it is precisely that downside that spawns a unique Jerusalemite breed of creativity.
“Culture in Jerusalem is impacted by the fact that the city is, first and foremost, a political powder keg and that is always the first thing that the media headlines home in on. They talk about religious apocalypse, or the real estate sharks, with stuff like the Holyland project. The media has sort of given up on the cultural side of the city. As a Jerusalem artist it is hard to get media exposure, it is hard to get gigs and to make money on them. You have a problem with getting audiences, advertising and money.”
In plain marketing and existential terms, these three factors amount to a death knell for any incipient artistic endeavor.
But Levy feels that is just such adverse working conditions that spur local musicians to produce envelope-pushing work.
“Artists here are not obliged to follow any particular avenue of creation,” he declares.
“They don’t try to cater to the taste of some audience or other, because the audience doesn’t exist. That means that, when they get down to work, they create from their own individual state of mind and creativity. It makes their artistic work pure. And that’s the way it should be.
“You know, people outside Jerusalem have this idea of a divided city that constantly lives in conflict – you know, Jews and Arabs, the religious and the secular, and all sorts of squabbles over property development and land – but there is just so much going on here on the artistic front.”
Levy has lined up an impressive offering over the six days of Hachazit, which takes in radio broadcasts courtesy of Teder Radio that are not only designed to entertain, but also to enlighten listeners about some of the history of alternative music in Jerusalem. There will also be live shows at various locations around the city, including some which, for some, might dredge up memories of off-the-cuff rave events that took place at building sites and all manner of non-institutional – and often illegal – venues in years gone by.
The artist roster includes the likes of Jerusalem rock outfit Yuppies with Jeeps, Ohad Fishoff, who was a founder member of highly successful 1980s Jerusalem rock band Nossei Hamigbaat, rock artist and author Assaf Gavron and Die Welt.
The latter Jerusalem group’s heyday was in the late Eighties, when it released such well received numbers as “Paris” and “Manchester United” but, after just one album, it broke up when one of the members became religious and switched to a spiritual quest of a different nature.
Die Welt vocalist Alon Avnet says he is delighted to get the band back together again, even for a one-off gig, and that the alternative Jerusalem music scene was a good place to be in – in creative terms – in the Eighties.
“We were just one link in a long chain of music and other artistic stuff going on, on the margins of the mainstream scene in Jerusalem back then,” Avnet recalls. “We were not the first. We were a part of the Jerusalem underground scene.”
Things have developed a bit in the city since then. “Most of what went on back then took place at a single venue, the Pargod,” Avnet continues. “There were maybe 20, 30 or 40 artists who performed there at various times, and that was basically the whole local underground scene in Jerusalem.”
While Avnet happily notes that things have moved on in the capital, there is still plenty of ground to be covered.
“The things we played 20 years ago, which people found hard to digest, are much more acceptable today, but the scene still isn’t very developed in Israel.
This is still a pretty conservative country.
But the music revolution is still in full swing.”
The radio broadcasts will kick off each day, at noon, with an intriguing documentary series, called Hamapatz (“The Bang”), which will examine important junctures in the history of alternative artistic endeavor in Jerusalem since the 1960s.
“There is a guy called Maurice, he’s in his late 60s now, who knows everything about all that,” says Levy. “He’s a walking encyclopedia about things like the Pargod scene, and all that. It should be very interesting for people to hear about that stuff.”
Other radio slots include Tikshoret Zara (“Foreign Media”) which will enlighten listeners about the left-field media vehicles, such as Misibot Bitchoniot, Radio Periscope and HaAf. Meanwhile, Dudu Menachem will salute the late and sorely missed House of Music record store and label, and Amit Hai Cohen and Reuven Abergel will cover the history of the haflot (impromptu get-together) scene in Jerusalem since the 1950s.
On the live entertainment front, London- based electronic star DMX Krew will do this thing at Uganda, one of the leading alternative music venues in Jerusalem, while dubstep pioneer Mala, who also hails from London, will perform in the yard of the Bezalel Architecture Department building on Shmuel Hanagid Street.For more information: