'We create something new on something old'

This year, every big artist is going back to essential Israeli sounds.

Eyal Golan (photo credit: Hadad Eliran)
Eyal Golan
(photo credit: Hadad Eliran)
The headline sound familiar? If you read our cover story, you’ll recognize that this is The Young Professionals’ tagline. Interestingly, this slogan also perfectly encapsulates what has been popular this year in the world of Israeli music. It seems like every big album this year, whether from a megastar or an emerging artist, is going back to essential Israeli sounds.
According to Nadav Menuhin, editor and music writer for Walla! News, even the big name Israeli artists have more classic touches this year. Interestingly Mizrahi singer Eyal Golan, perhaps the current king of Israeli pop, went against the typical, loud, emotional sounds of Mizrahi pop in recent years. Instead, his new album Nagat li Balev (You touched my heart) takes from older Middle Eastern pop music, with gentler, quieter songs. Menuhin believes “he came back to his origins.” Additionally, Menuhin claims that Golan’s most recent album was, “smarter, better produced, and had better lyrics” than before, and hopes this will be the beginning of a new trend in Mizrahi pop music.
When asked what the best album of this year is, Menuhin stated that Shlomo Artzi’s new album, Osher Express (Happiness Express), is firmly in the running.
Beyond the fact that it’s a solid album and Shlomo Artzi is one of Israel’s most famous musicians, something appears on the album that has never happened before in Israeli music: the ultimate power duet. Shlomo Artzi sings with Arik Einstein, who is arguably the most famous Israeli musician of all time. The single is titled “Hozrim Habaita”, which literally means “coming home.” Although it’s received mixed reviews – in part because of the single’s inevitable hype – Menuhin still believes it will be considered one of the top singles of the year.
Although Menuhin thought this wasn’t a huge year for emerging artists, both he and Tal Lado – Jerusalem Post Lite’s music editor – mentioned Elisha Banai Ve’Arbaim Ha’Shodedim (Elisha Banai and the 40 Thieves) as one of their favorite new bands this year. (You can read more about them on page six in our special “Ma koreh” section this month.) Some of you may recognize the “Banai” name, and indeed, Elisha Banai is the son of Yuval Banai from the influential Israeli pop rock band Mashina (which also had a new album this year). A simple band – just a guitar, drums, and bass – their sound echoes classic Israeli rock and has the critics raving.
In terms of what was lacking this year, hip hop came up from both Menuhin and Lado. The only exception to this lull was Shabak Samech, Israel’s first prominent rap band, who released a highly acclaimed comeback album this year. Otherwise, there was nothing else of note in the world of Israeli hip hop.
Additionally, there was a clear absence of protest-oriented songs. Even though this has been a pattern since the Second Intifada, it was revealing to see that no big songs came in response to 2011’s summer protests. Perhaps time will still tell on that trend.
It seems that Israeli music this year was less impacted by politics, and more by global market trends.
Because of the internet, more and more small bands have emerged in the last few years with a “doit- yourself” business style. Many have no record labels, and are able to garner digital sales without any official album. Similarly, many of these bands, which would not have been as popular in the recent past, made a name for themselves this year in Israeli music.
The most notable example is Riff Cohen, Tal Lado’s favorite artist of the year (and a feature story on the next page). Cohen has no label or PR Company, and yet her first single, “A Paris”, has garnered more than 300,000 views on YouTube since its debut a year ago. Her mix of hip hop, Mizrahi, and Moroccan-style songs infused a refreshing sound into the Israeli music scene. Plus she did it all herself. Now that’s something to celebrate.
In the same line of old school, North African- Mizrahi- meetsrefreshing pop, Karolina also released a wonderful second album this year (along with Elisha Banai and the 40 Thieves, she is featured in our list of emerging artists in “Ma Koreh” this month).
Whereas Cohen’s music is ebullient and easy to dance to, Karolina’s melodies are earthier and warmer. One of the strongest vocalists to appear in recent years, Karolina is a favorite of the critics and will surely continue to impress Israeli listeners.
Another trend influenced by the global market has been Israeli artists increasingly singing in English. Because of the internet, connecting to international fans has never been easier for Israeli artists. TYP is the most successful emerging example of this trend. However, this has been going on for a few years.
For example mega band Balkan Beat Box, which released a new album Give this year, continues to climb the international charts with its gypsy influenced funky music.
Both bands’ cross-over dance and pop sensibilities characterize this group of English-singing, internationally-oriented artists.
Not surprisingly, this group also takes more of its influences from international pop music than Israeli standards.
If the global market does not change, we can expect to see a similar combination of megastars and a lot of smaller, indie bands next year. However, how do we explain this year’s return to classic sounds? This trend could be partly explained by politics – instead of focusing on the conflict, most news this year focused on Israeli internal politics and identity issues. Perhaps this also made this year’s music more internally-inclined, soulsearching, and root-digging. It will be interesting to see if this trend, both musically and politically, will continue into 5773.