Music: Sofar sogood

Sofar Jerusalem brings the international live music movement to the Holy City

The group Folly Tree performs outdoors at a recent Sofar Sounds concert in Jerusalem (photo credit: WARREN BURSTEIN)
The group Folly Tree performs outdoors at a recent Sofar Sounds concert in Jerusalem
(photo credit: WARREN BURSTEIN)
Asher Parkes lives and breathes music. It is this passion that led him to a career as a music producer, and that more recently led him to becoming the director of Sofar Sounds Jerusalem.
Parkes made aliya about a year ago and was trying to find ways to become more involved in the Israeli music scene. Around the same time, a friend was attending business school in London and heard a lecture from Rafe Offer, the founder of Sofar Sounds, which began in London in and has since spread to 392 cities around the world.
Sofar is a global live-music community that showcases local bands in each city, offering monthly shows in various intimate spaces – hence the tagline “Songs from a room.”
“My friend mentioned it to me and suggested that I get involved and maybe start it in Jerusalem,” Parkes recalls. “I’m from Melbourne originally and I had heard of Sofar from there. I looked into it and sent them an email asking about starting it in Jerusalem. They sent me a form to fill out with info about the city and culture. They said it sounded like an awesome place to do it. They suggested that I put together a small team and get it off the ground.”
A Sofar Sounds community manager helped Parkes as he assembled his team: Haim Peskoff, who handles artist booking; Andrew Pico, in charge of locations and logistics; Jonathan Friedlander, the sound engineer; Maya Hadash, who films and edits the concerts; and Chananel Benarroch, who mans the second camera.
Parkes first met Peskoff, a well-known jazz drummer in Jerusalem, with connections to many other musicians there and in Tel Aviv. Once Peskoff signed on to be in charge of booking the acts in March, Parkes began putting the rest of the team together.
Friedlander, who made aliya about five years ago, and who does studio and live music mixing and recording, came highly recommended. “It’s a dedicated team,” Parkes explains. “We film every show and then we talk with the band and choose one song that they like for the video and for the recording, which I mix and master.
“Jonathan does the live recording and mixing. It’s a small team, but we come up with a very professional- sounding product and the bands have been really happy to have material for promotion.”
The first Sofar Sounds Jerusalem show was in June at Parkes’s friend’s home in the German Colony. With exposed Jerusalem stone and enough room for 70 people in the audience, it turned out to be an amazing venue, with a concert featuring jazz musician Danielle Rubin, and Orly and Yagel.
It was immediately evident that the Sofar Jerusalem team had created something special that both the audience and the artists loved.
“It was an amazing success and was definitely a confidence- booster in terms of continuing to do it,” Parkes adds. “At that point, we knew that we had a product that worked that we could present to other artists. Once we had the videos and the recordings, we had something to offer bigger artists. We’ve been able to secure a really high-caliber lineup.”
Sofar Jerusalem events have featured artists such as Flora, Anat Alamood, Geshem, Kim Kedar and Orri Dror, Shelly Alma and Yona Schnitzer. The Sofar Jerusalem team receives a lot of requests from artists who want to play at upcoming events. With a show every four to six weeks, they can’t accommodate everyone, but are glad that there is such interest, which extends to venue hosts and concert attendees as well.
The Sofar website includes an option to apply to be a host, and the team has fielded many such requests. Venues range from private apartments to community spaces and everything in between, with typical audience 50 to 70 people.
The most recent show was held in a private apartment with approximately 60 people in attendance. It was a more of acoustic, stripped-back concert that complemented the venue where it was held. Sofar places importance on diversity in location as well as sound.
“We want variation and not to have the same thing every time,” Parkes says. “It’s been nice to have that diversity. We’re trying to open up and expand to different genres.”
Sofar Jerusalem would like to feature more Arab and world musicians in the future. The only things standing in the way are space, production and budget. Bigger bands mean larger-scale productions, so the team must constantly evaluate what it can handle.
Past events have enjoyed support from organizations such as Ruach Hadasha, which has sponsored concerts. In terms of ticket sales, while there is always a suggested donation price, tickets are free. Would-be concert goers have only to sign up on the website once a new event is advertised, which happens two weeks in advance on Facebook and the website, and directs people to sign up there.
They then receive confirmation that they are in the running to attend the event, but that not everyone who “applies” wins entrance due to the limited space. Those who don’t make it on their first try are invited to try again next time.
Once attendance is confirmed, an email is sent with the date and time of the concert, but the exact location is not given out until about 36 hours beforehand. The artist line-up is also announced just before the show.
“There is a twofold aim with the shows,” Parkes says. “People can come and enjoy live, local music in a nice setting. It’s also great for the artists. We don’t pay them, but they get a recording and a video out of it, which are professional quality and would otherwise cost them thousands of shekels.
“The Sofar YouTube channel has about half a million followers and they’re getting their content on there. It’s also good for Jerusalem, because it projects the city in a culturally relevant light. It shows a really good aspect of this city.”
The most recent Sofar Sounds concert was scheduled to be held in Nahlaot on December 26 and is a collaboration with Jerusalem Village. The slightly larger venue was able to accommodate approximately 100 people.
To find out more, you have to become part of the community. In this way, Sofar has ingeniously created events that foster curiosity and loyalty. Above all, Sofar Sounds Jerusalem promotes the sounds of the city itself and all those who love it.
To find out more about Sofar Sounds Jerusalem and/or to sign up for future events, visit: