The pursuit of harmony

Releasing its second album, Jerusalem-based world music band Andralamoussia performs with ‘one leg in the past and eyes fixed forward.’

AndraLaMoussia 311 (photo credit: Tal Izrael)
AndraLaMoussia 311
(photo credit: Tal Izrael)
In Andralamoussia’s first album, there’s a magical moment where Itai Binnun, the lead singer and baglama player, went to record prayers at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. The prayers didn’t come out well, but his microphone picked up a yeshiva boy singing and playing his guitar as the muezzin from a nearby mosque began his call for prayers. The two voices combine in unexpected harmony as if inviting collaboration.
It is that harmony that the Jerusalembased world music group seeks.
Andralamoussia’s main core are Binnun, bassist Victor Ezus, drummer Uriel Sverdin and percussionist Moshe Nuri. The four met 13 years ago at a project called Hamishte (the feast), portraying the story of David and Saul with an added political touch and a lot of food and drink. When the project ended five years ago, they continued and three other players joined – Vitaly Podolsky on accordion, Ofer Mizrachi on guitar and trumpet and Daniel Hoffman on violin.
“I had this idea about creating a new sound that mixes contemporary music with traditions, without crashing the traditions as many of the modern songs do,” says Binnun. “I was searching for my roots and the roots of our society. We’re in a cultural crisis where many of the songs are pop songs that sound like every other pop song in the world. This crisis can be solved if we all relate to our traditions.”
Binnun, a religious man, emphasizes that he means “traditions” in the plural. “For a sound to be local, it has to involve everything of its region. So we mix klezmer music with Arabic music with liturgical poems with contemporary music. You have to combine the old with the new.”
Their first album was closer to familiar world music. With it they toured Europe.
On their recently released second album, the dub, rock and contemporary music in general are more evident. “This album is one step forward. It’s a more polished album,” says Binnun. “We’ve been performing for the last five years, and everyone found their own sound.”
The album’s title is the Hebrew letter bet “I love that letter,” Binnun smiles.”First of all, it’s our second album and there is no reason to use regular numbers or Roman numerals. If we were Roman, we’d use Roman numerals. But that letter is also the first letter in Genesis, and that’s very symbolic. There was nothing before Genesis. And like Genesis, it’s closed in the back but open in the front, looking forward. But it’s not entirely closed. One leg is rooted in the past. And that’s our music. One leg in the past with eyes fixed forward.”
On the album they play with Arab violinist Amin Sayegh, who will perform with them in their upcoming show in Jaffa as well.
“Although we have played in many places around the world, we don’t see ourselves as missionaries of world peace. Yes, I believe that music can open doors. If harmony is possible in music, it can be possible in other places, but we come to present our music. If by listening to it some questions are raised in the listeners, that’s a great added bonus.”

Andralamoussia perform at a free concert in Jerusalem’s Mahaneh Yehuda market at 5:30 p.m. on August 16. On August 26 they perform at The Mizrach Ma’arav House in Jaffa at 9 p.m.