Klezmer combo

The program of the Klezmer Festival, now in its 24th year, embraces an ever-widening genre hinterland

Klezmer musicians (photo credit: courtesy)
Klezmer musicians
(photo credit: courtesy)
Eyal Shiloah does not originate from the klezmer world, which may go some way to explaining his broad take on the genre. The classically trained violinist who, for the first time, has joint responsibility for putting together the program of the Klezmer Festival in Safed (August 15-17), says he wants to draw on as many musical worlds as possible while maintaining the klezmer core of the event.
Despite the fact that he has not had his hands on the helm for long, Shiloah has accrued a rich history with the event, having performed there for over seven years to date. Mind you that association began in a highly serendipitous and chaotic manner.
“I come from the classical world, and someone who knows me got me into the festival program at the last minute,” Shiloah recalls, adding that he almost didn’t make it to Safed at all. “The bus got a flat tire, but I still got to the festival on time. Then the side stage I was supposed to perform on collapsed, and one of the musicians who was due to play on the main stage fell ill.”
The amazing chain of events led to a baptism of fire: “I suddenly found myself, with only my pianist, playing to an audience of several thousand.
I’d prepared a 20-minute show and there I was, having to play to this huge crowd for a full hour.”
There was also the notinsignificant matter of being a musician short. “My drummer was short-sighted, and he missed the turning to festival location.”
Shiloah says that some sort of collective or genetic memory came to his rescue. “I can play lots of klezmer works, and I don’t even know where I heard them.
On one side, my grandparents came from the region of Kishinev in Moldova, and I must have heard klezmer there. I also heard a lot of hassidic music, even before I became religious. That ability, just to take the violin and play klezmer music, saved me that first evening at the festival seven years ago.”
The program of the Klezmer Festival, now in its 24th year, has stretched exponentially over the years and now embraces an ever-widening genre hinterland. Next week’s lineup in the Galilee includes many of the usual suspects – the likes of hassidicrock fusion multi-instrumentalist Aharon Razael, ethnic flutist and clarinetist Eyal Sela, rock-spawned hassidic music vocalist-guitarist Adi Ran, renowned klezmer clarinetist Hanan Bar Sela and world famous septuagenarian clarinet player Giora Feidman, whose 75th birthday will be marked by a tribute concert during the festival.
But Shiloah has cast his net far further to bring in, for example, exponents of classical, Andalusian and Arabic music. British classical and klezmer clarinet player Joy Farrall will be one of the star turns in Safed next week, and some of the more surprising names on the roster include all-female klezmer outfit Neshot Hava (Eve’s Women), soft rock artists Erez Lev Ari and Kobi Aflalo, jazz saxophonist Daniel Zamir and the Andalusian Orchestra.
Besides his leapfrogging between classical and klezmer music, Part of that Shiloah’s eclectic mind-set feeds off one of Shiloah his many professional capacities.
“I am the artistic director of the Safed College of Jewish and Ethnic Music,” he notes. “I am a great believer in fusion. I play fusion myself – Arabic music, with klezmer, classical music, you name it. We have Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Druse students at the college. I am a great believer in communication between people. For me, fusion applies to all levels, not just music.”
Shiloah’s role at the college has also produced one of the more intriguing slots at this year’s festival, when he joins forces with oud player Imad Delal, who also heads the college’s Eastern Music Department.
“The concert with Imad is based on a model which is called Klezmer Arabesque,” Shiloah explains. “We will play with a quartet of Muslim musicians, all sorts of things like something we call ‘Hava Nargila.’ It will be a lot of fun.”
Today, the Klezmer Festival also feeds off a wealth of local artistic endeavor, from at the grassroots level.
This incorporates the Ir Menagenet (Playing City) project, which started out last year, with the support of the Karev Foundation and Safed Municipality under local mayor Ilan Shohat, and which provides school students from the area with musical instruments and tuition. An orchestra of local school students will perform at the festival.
With over 100 show lined up for the three days of the Klezmer Festival, the veteran event is spreading its wings, and next week’s audiences will, no doubt, mirror that eclectic take.
Safed, August 15-17. For more information: 04-6927484 and www.klezmerf.com