Alternative sounds

Indie City comes to the capital.

The Kutiman Orchestra (photo credit: BEN FALHOV)
The Kutiman Orchestra
(photo credit: BEN FALHOV)
Jerusalem has been building up an artistic momentum that many have started to notice, and the Indie City cultural festival – which will be taking place in the capital for the second year running this Wednesday – is a good reflection of that trend.
Although the one-day event’s lineup features acts that largely hail from Tel Aviv, artistic director Betina Feinstein points out that the locale is a major factor in the festival mix.
“There are such wonderful locations in Jerusalem that you simply don’t find anywhere else,” says Feinstein, who was born and bred in the capital but now resides at the western end of Route 1.
Originally scheduled for the summer but postponed due to the hostilities down south, Indie City incorporates three locations in downtown Jerusalem – Hahavatzelet Street, Heleni Hamalka Street and Horkanos Street. The artist roster spans genres from indie rock to ethnically-inclined sounds, and from singersongwriter fare to blues and jazz.
Although this is the sophomore edition of the festival’s Jerusalem version, it is Feinstein’s fourth time at the helm, with the first two rounds having taken place in Tel Aviv.
“It is completely different, doing this in Tel Aviv and doing it in Jerusalem,” she says. “This whole project engages in the interface between people, the street and the locations. So the fact that people in Jerusalem are so different from people in Tel Aviv also impacts powerfully on the spirit and nature of Indie City this year, as it did last year.”
Feinstein has cast her artistic net wide for Wednesday’s bash, as befits a city with such diverse cultural, religious and social milieus. An ethnic-cultural cross-section of the acts includes Ethiopians, Russians, Jews and Arabs, secular and religious alike. As a former Jerusalemite, the artistic director is keenly aware of the varied parts that make up the city’s human tapestry – as well as of the less-than-ideal financial circumstances in which many Jerusalem-based artists have to work.
Aldous Huxley, in his comic novel Antic Hay, wrote that “perhaps it’s good for one to suffer. Can an artist do anything if he’s happy?... What is art, after all, but a protest against the horrible inclemency of life?” Feinstein, it seems, subscribes to that view.
“I think that the difficulty of daily life in Jerusalem, the constant tension in the city, all that brings out something very ‘underground,’” she says. “Jerusalemites are very different from people who live on the coast. There is something tougher and deeper about them. And that generally comes through in their music, too.”
While Tel Aviv may be awash with galleries and concert halls, she believes that the real deal happens here.
“Despite the lack of budgets, Jerusalem has really starred in terms of cultural events in the last few years,” she notes. “I think that Tel Aviv is satiated in terms of cultural events, and Jerusalem offers more off-center stuff, which I think is far more interesting. There are things going on at [artistic venue] Hansen House, and all the artists’ studios. Jerusalem is surprising a lot of people with the breadth of cultural activity and the events taking place there.”
Among those events was the indie musical event “Hahazit” (Frontline), which took place at the Mazkeka venue over the summer. The Uganda venue also hosts a rich selection of underground music shows.
“I wanted to bring as wide a variety as possible of acts to Indie City,” adds Feinstein.
“I wanted to have all sorts of genres, including electronic music.”
But with all due respect to the talented artists she has lined up, she says the real stars of the event are the venues themselves.
“I put a lot of effort into checking out all the locations,” she says. “Don’t forget, there is a strong visual side to all of this.”
Indeed, this year’s Indie City is based on 66 video clips that Feinstein shot, showing various artists performing around Jerusalem. The clips – which were broadcast on TV channels 8 and 24 and on the Internet – include a video of the Kutiman Orchestra playing at the Augusta Victoria church, a stirring clip of the band Yemen Blues doing its thing in the Old City and the duo Echo and Tito entertaining passersby at the Mahaneh Yehuda market. The previews allowed the public to get to know the artists before getting a taste of the real thing.
Feinstein says that running Indie City is also a kind of homecoming for her, and a way of paying tribute to her hometown. “You know, all the Jerusalemites who moved to Tel Aviv really miss the city. We all leave with a bit of heartache, and having an opportunity to do something in Jerusalem, for me, is wonderful.”
The festival begins at 7:30 p.m., and all the shows are free. In addition to the live music, there will be stalls selling arts and crafts, LPs and other paraphernalia, and the music at the aforementioned spots will gradually gravitate toward bars and cafés around town.
“There will be lots of things going on in Indie City,” says the artistic director. “There’ll be an after-party and a drag queen evening. People might be surprised by the variety of stuff in Indie City. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”