Good young Israel

The weekly items take in music, the culinary arts, street parties and all manner of cultural outings, at various locations around the city center

Neta Elkayam (photo credit: GAYA)
Neta Elkayam
(photo credit: GAYA)
This year’s Shaon Horef is in the offing. Now into its fifth year, the Jerusalem Municipality Young Adult Authority-initiated venture has become a fixture on the capital’s annual cultural calendar, with hundreds of slots taking place around town on Mondays throughout February.
The weekly items take in music, the culinary arts, street parties and all manner of cultural outings, at various locations around the city center, including the cozy Mazkeka joint and other spots on Shushan Street, such as Sobar, and there will be an outdoor music gig on the corner of Koresh and Hasson streets just down the road, and other items on Hillel and Yanai streets – all within easy walking distance of each other. The latter will host a delectable fusion of art and tasty physical victuals.
Besides providing Jerusalemites and out-of-towners with a good reason to get away from the central heating and out into the crisp evening air, the initiative is designed to provide downtown businesses with a much-needed financial shot in the arm.
The entertainment at Bell Wood Bar on Rivlin Street, on February 20 (8:30 p.m.), should warm the cockles of visitors’ hearts as well as get some cold toes atappin’. The featured artist is Tomer Yeshayahu, who will proffer a fun, captivating and alluring program of pop music that tends toward the melodic, with some intriguing psychedelic seasoning stirred into the mix.
The twentysomething singer-guitarist is something of a refreshing throwback to seemingly simpler days of yore. That comes across, for example, in the artwork on the cover of Boidem, his latest CD, which exudes a sense of innocence of a much smaller Israel, both in a geographical sense and in national and individual mind-set.
“It took me a while to understand that all this technology we have today really bothers me,” says Yeshayahu. “Me and my friends who play music with me, every time we get together we strive to find a simpler world, to try less complicated things – in music and life.”
That elemental ethos, says Yeshayahu, actually leads him and his cohorts into all sorts of interesting and unexpected channels of expression, and discovery.
“When there’s less noise around, you can suddenly find more and more things. It’s fascinating.”
Boidem followed a debut release called Electric Bicycle, with a bootleg Shavshevet (Weather Vane) coming out in the interim.
That basic approach to music making and life came into play when the gang – Yeshayahu’s colleagues include Roi Hermon, who plays Farfisa keyboards, which started life back in the halcyon 1960s, as well as trumpet, and does some programming, dynamic drummer Shahar Haziza, and bass guitarist Amir Sadot. The band leader plays electric and acoustic guitar, bouzouki and percussion, and provides lead vocals, with more singing courtesy of Daniella Tourjeman.
Computer-enhancement notwithstanding, Yeshayahu says that the Boidem production process was largely organic. “These days you get to a recording studio, and most of the sounds for the album are already in place, as is the whole approach to the recording. I try hard to avoid that philosophy.”
Of course, steering away from readymade computer-implanted elements means you have to work that much harder to achieve the desired end result.
Yeshayahu is aware of that, and says he is more than happy to put in his elbowgrease bit for the cause.
“You get to the studio, and they use such high volume levels. I don’t like that. People hear loud music and they think they are excited by it, but they aren’t really. Your body responds to that, and it seems thrilling, but that doesn’t mean the music has really touched you, deep down.”
Boidem was duly captured on analogue tape, which entailed some logistical difficulties.
“It’s quite hard to find that kind of equipment these days, but it was important for me to work that way,” says Yeshayahu, adding that the more hands-on approach offers benefits for all. “I think the listener gets the rewards of that warmer sound, too.”
It comes as no surprise to learn that Yeshayahu’s early formative choice of music predates him. “When I started playing guitar, I liked listening to the Beatles. I was fortunate to be surrounded by people with good taste in music – friends and family,” he says. A relative channeled the youngster’s evolving musical horizons in an unexpected direction.
“I started getting into Mediterranean music. I got into Aris San,” he says, referring to the Greek singer who moved to Israel in the 1950s and became a mainstay of the busy Greek music scene in this country in the 1950s and 1960s.
“My grandfather told me about him, about how he used to go and see him perform at all sorts of clubs and hotels. He was crazy about Aris San, and he brought me cassettes of his music, when I was around 16.”
It was a natural fit for the teenager, and he embraced the Greek’s music.
“I tried to play the music on guitar. I felt at ease with it – and it was certainly simpler than trying to play [Led Zeppelin lead guitarist] Jimmy Page,” Yeshayahu laughs.
There were subsequent forays into other non-Western musical climes, such as Indian material, although today Yeshayahu says he feels very Israeli. “I have done songs in English, with [the] Isaiah [band], but I am Israeli and I feel that artists should be faithful to their roots, too. Singing in Hebrew feels natural for me.” For Isaiah, Yeshayahu joined forces with Mika Avni on a project that incorporated elements of American and Greek folk music alongside North African influences.
Yeshayahu comes across as a young man who feels pretty comfortable in his own skin, and our chat is peppered with humorous asides. I ask him if his Shaon Horef gig is going to be a loud affair, or a more gentle, folksy sort of “good old Israel” show. “I think it’s going to be more in the direction of a new good Israel, in the hope that it is good,” he comes back at me, tongue in cheek.
Regardless of the political sentiment the show may or may not have, the Bell Wood Bar crowd is sure to get some topnotch entertainment, with possibly a twinkle or two in the band leader’s eye.
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