A Stage for Culture

An informal jam session in Acre that blossomed into a series of live concerts is livening up the formerly sleepy town.

Guitar concert music performance audience Jazz 390 (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Guitar concert music performance audience Jazz 390
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Talk about a dream come true: A series of jam sessions among friends grows into a full-blown music venue, complete with financial backing, aimed at building a community among the area’s young people who share a desire to participate in music and art. This active participation is what makes The Jam: A Home for Shared Creativity unique.
“We were a bunch of friends who got together to play music in our spare time,” says Koby Davider, 30, a member of the Dror- Israel Movement. For the past seven years he has lived in Acre, in an “Educators’ Kibbutz,” one of the movement’s many urban kibbutzim scattered around Israel.
“We got to know people through work and if they had any musical interest we invited them to join us. At some point we thought maybe the jam sessions could be something bigger – something we could do for the city of Acre and for people our age who live in the periphery,” he says Singer Noa Tene, 31, was involved from the beginning.
“I got to be friends with some of the people in Dror-Israel and I’d go to the jam evenings at the kibbutz. About four years ago we had the idea: ‘Let’s bring events and performers. Let’s make it inexpensive so that anyone who wants to can participate.’” The Acre Municipality has been supportive from the start. According to Galit Perry, project coordinator for the Acre Economic Corporation, a branch of the municipality, Acre Mayor Shimon Lankri is very supportive of the whole idea. The city is not known as a place to go for entertainment and Lankri wants to change that.
“We wanted to open The Jam up to everyone so we only charged NIS 15 per ticket for the very first shows,” Tene remembers. Early performers included Shem-Tov Levy, Rona Keinan, Noam Rotem and Eran Tzur. “They played in the Knights’ Hall or in Acre Theater.”
The Economic Corporation, which contributes a good-sized budget toward the project, has recently given them a home.
This past January, The Jam moved into the basement space of the MED Center, a building on the city’s northern beachfront promenade, in an area with plenty of free parking. The performance space is comfortable and attractive.
Attending a concert there is like going to a concert at a friend’s house – a friend with a huge living room, a nice bar, good lighting, and a fantastic sound system.
Dror-Israel, organized as a nonprofit, donates the sound system, mans the bar and takes care of ticket sales, hosts The Jam’s website and Facebook site and more, all on a voluntary basis, along with a core of about 10 people like Tene, who aren’t members of the kibbutz.
Others pitch in to help as needed.
“It should feel like family,” Perry explains. “The artist and the audience – anyone who wants to participate – provide the soul and the spirit of the place.”
This spirit of volunteerism is what sets The Jam apart from other music venues, and what makes it successful.
“For me, one of the best moments came at the end of Shem-Tov Levy’s concert, when he invited the audience onto the stage to jam with him,” Davider recalls. “There was such an open feeling. Since then, it’s become standard. At the end of every concert the audience is invited to jam with the artist. That’s what we’re all about: the shared experience in making music and art. Culture is for everyone.”
In an effort to widen the audience base among both Arabs and Jews, The Jam is making an effort to move beyond the usual offering of rock-and-roll. Billed as “Between Cultures – Meeting on the Road of Live Music” the first such concert featured violinist and oud player Yair Dalal, performing with percussionist Avi Agababa.
An Israeli of Iraqi descent, Dalal is influenced by Jewish and Arab musical traditions.
“We also have themed jam sessions,” Tene explains. “For instance, in June there was a ‘Poets’ Evening’ in honor of Hebrew Book Week. It’s a type of ‘open mike.’ People sign up ahead of time; a band will form for that specific event.”
“I don’t play a musical instrument but I come every couple of weeks. I like the music and the atmosphere,” says Eyal Tarchitzky, 29, from Kibbutz Hanaton in the Western Galilee.
Perry, who worked in various media capacities before she joined the Economic Corporation, was born in Acre and is a firm believer in the project.
“Acre is a very beautiful and a very complicated city. When I was growing up there was no nightlife, no clubs or pubs – no culture.
Right now The Jam is at the very beginning. If you ask me how I see the future: In three years I see us as a central body with the goal of supporting developing artists.
We will give them a stage. And not just musicians. A painter or a photographer who is looking for a place to showcase his or her work, for instance, would come to us.
“I’m happy with the way The Jam is developing. It fits in with the ideology of Dror-Israel. Culture should be open and available to everyone… Anyone who wants should be able to participate. So far, that’s exactly what is happening. I’d like to see us branch into other areas – offer workshops in art and music, open an art gallery, a coffee shop, sports clubs. We love Acre and we want to do something positive in the city. Our goal is to encourage people to meet; and to provide a fun and productive context for them to meet. I think we’re moving in that direction.”