New world chaos: AndraLaMoussia's second album is released

Ethnic music outfit skirts the pitfalls of the genre.

AndraLaMoussia (photo credit: Tal Yizrael)
(photo credit: Tal Yizrael)
For Ittai Binnun it is, first and foremost, about feeling right and flowing naturally. Binnun is the founder of the world music group AndraLaMoussia, which has just put out its second album in four years.
Binnun says there are several reasons for the choice of the compact album title. “‘Bet’ is the first letter in the Bible. There was nothing before that. And if you look at the shape of the letter you see that its back is closed – because nothing came before it – but the front part, the left side, is open to what follows.”
There is also, apparently, a more prosaic explanation. “‘Bet’ is also the second letter in the aleph bet, and this is our second album.”
When the group’s self-titled debut was released in 2005 it was a refreshing breath of air among the hordes of cross-cultural material being recorded and performed all over the country and elsewhere in the world. The genre-fusing approach has been around a long time now and, on more than the odd occasion, the output tends to be a multihued blur of disciplines and energies rather than an earnest attempt at producing a cohesive artistic statement. That wasn’t the case with AndraLaMoussia’s first release, and Bet – which incorporates a wide stylistic swathe, from ethnic Middle Eastern music to rock, from liturgical material and dub to klezmer and gypsy inflections, and much betwixt – patently reflects a move further down the road to plain old musical and artistic authenticity, with a generous helping of technical ability.
Binnun, who plays wind instruments and baglama (a Turkish string instrument) and sings on the new CD, says that Bet offers listeners considerable added value compared with AndraLaMoussia. “The main difference between the first album and this one is that we are now a really cohesive unit, and we really feel comfortable with the music we play.”
BINNUN SAYS the group, and Bet, have also benefited from the four year furlough, despite – or, possibly, due to – the material for the second release being ready and available for some time. “In practice, we could have gone into the recording studio over two years ago, but there were all sorts of mundane logistical hurdles to be overcome,” he says. “But when we finally got around to doing the recording, we had performed the material so many times, at gigs, that we knew it inside out. The numbers also evolved naturally, and we fed off the reactions of our audiences, so that we were all completely comfortable with our respective roles and with the collective output. I think you can hear that in the CD, and that the album has a sound of its own.”
Binnun says he prefers to work from a physical and cultural comfort zone, artistic-envelope-pushing notwithstanding.
That, for him, also means working from the right place. “It’s a great advantage to have my own studio in my own home. The acoustics are great here and there’s none of the pressure you get when you hire a commercial studio, with time limits and having to work with all sorts of sound engineers.”
There is also a titular caveat to the new album which alludes to another type of comfort zone. On the side of the CD box spine are the words “Music from the streets of Jerusalem.”
“This album could not have been made anywhere else,” says Ein Kerem resident Binnun. “All the different ethnic genres and cultures exist here, naturally, and our music feeds off those energies and colors.”
At the end of the day, it is all about getting the message across the listener.
“It’s got to be communicative,” Binnun states. “It’s got to be fun, and moving, and the audience has to get what you’re trying to give them. If they don’t, you can take your concept and your playing skills and your musicianship and throw it all into the garbage can.”
Judging by the wildly enthusiastic response of the audience at AndraLa- Moussia’s Israel Festival concert last month, there was clearly no need to place the band’s collective and individual artistic efforts anywhere other than the heart.
AndraLaMoussia will perform at Levontin 7 in Tel Aviv on July 27 at 8 p.m.