Anat Malamud has done her homework. In this day and age of user-friendly, relatively inexpensive technologically advanced recording apparatuses, it is so much easier now to lay down a bunch of tracks and put out an album for the world to hear. Well, probably not the entire world, but to as many pairs of ears as possible.
But, as internationally acclaimed Israeli double bass jazzman Avishai Cohen once sagely remarked, that facility can also tempt young artists to release their first fruit too early, before they’ve done a bit of this and that, and attained a level of maturity whereby they have something of worth to say.
Malamud put in her stage hours and paid her dues prior to crafting her debut disc, Lifnei Hasheina (Before Sleep), which came out in 2016. The pianist and singer-songwriter was 28 at the time and had already performed her self-penned charts for all kinds of audiences, the length and breadth of the country, and back.
That challenging, and enriching, experience will no doubt shine through when Malamud plays at this year’s Jerusalem Arts Festival (May 30-June 3). The now 33-year-old artist will appear at the Nocturno café and music venue on June 2 (9 p.m.), with material she is studiously piecing together as she builds up a head of steam for her sophomore release.
“I did loads of gigs, all over the place,” she laughs. “I did small venues and played on really big stages and little pubs, from the Golan Heights down to Sderot.”
“I did small venues and played on really big stages and little pubs, from the Golan Heights down to Sderot.”Anat Malamud
It wasn’t always a happy experience.
“I really wanted to learn the business,” she explains, adding that back then she had little to lose. “No one knew who I was. I played at pubs where they were serving food while I played. It was noisy, and I don’t know how many people were really listening to my music. That isn’t fun. My music really demands proper listening.”
IT WAS time for a change of tack. “I started looking for places where people really consume culture and want to hear what I have to say. Then everyone has a good time. I also enjoyed it and everyone was happy. That was great.”
She evidently did have something to say. Lifnei Hasheina brought her a prestigious Composer of the Year award from ACUM, the Society of Authors, Composers and Music Publishers in Israel, to give it its full nominal due. Not bad going for a twentysomething pop artist having her first professional tryout.
Malamud’s music tends toward the gentler, more earnest and emotive side. As such it suits more intimate surroundings. Following her noisy pub baptism, she sought cozier venues to ply her trade in. “I started doing a lot of home gigs. I felt that was better for me.” Mind you, it wasn’t all bad out there. “I liked places like Pubella [in the Galilee] and also Nocturno,” she notes. “I felt that people, there, really came to listen.”
Malamud began imbibing, and thereafter making, musical sounds from a young age.
“My dad really pushed me to play music,” she says, “all of us.” There was quite a brood in the Malamud family home. “There are seven of us. We used to have family haflot [jam sessions], with the spirit of South America. You know, happy music.” Malamud’s parents made aliyah from Argentina, and infused the family home with the joyous spirit and sounds they’d taken on board in their own youth.
It wasn’t just about South America. “We listened to Israeli music, like [hugely successful late 1960s pop trio] The High Windows and that sort of thing, but also Spanish music, and Brazilian music like bossa nova.” Malamud and her siblings seem to have had plenty around to fire their evolving musical consciousness.
All of the above, and more, fed into Malamud’s nascent oeuvre.
“I tried a bit of jazz, but I realized I should work with my own material, the stuff I write myself. I don’t have any particular style. I just go off in all different directions,” she chuckles.
She eventually began proffering her own stuff in public, in 2013, three whole years before she cut her debut record.
“I believe in taking a fade-in approach, building things up one at a time, little by little,” she declares, somewhat superfluously.
There is more where that lot came from, which will make its way out – as slivery-tongued Sir Bernard of Yes Prime Minister fame might have put it – in the fullness of time.
“I have put out a few singles in the last few years, and now I am gathering material for the second album,” she says.
ONE OF the more fascinating aspects of following an artist’s career is tracking the changes in their personal development timeline, as they go through new experiences, mature and evolve. All of which should come out in the lyrics and/or music, as well as the manner of their presentation for our listening pleasure. It is a fair bet that Malamud’s next release will reflect the epiphanous stages she has traversed, as well as her unfolding artistry. “I have moved around a lot in recent years, and I am going through all sorts of processes, in all areas of my life, and that comes out in my music.”
We get some inkling of that, too.
“I am very open to sharing the processes I go through,” she adds.
That takes guts, an indispensable element of any true artist’s professional arsenal, and Malamud clearly has that in abundance.
I mentioned to Malamud that I recently read a quote about her that claimed that she “feels beholden to the grace of words.” That expression had me a little stumped, and I asked her if she could shed a little light on that. After initially, and quite rightly, noting that those were not her own words and, hence, she was not obliged to interpret them, she relented and offered one possible meaning.
The observation in question was made after Malamud put out, online, a number called “Nigun” (Tune). The lyrics make for powerful and stirring reading. “Speech can change the direction of the tune. A tune can become water. Water can seek to comfort the heart. With the heavens opposite,” goes the opening stanza. The bridge later reads: “There are eyes in the world, which see me. There is hope within me. There is water there.”
There’s a lot to sink one’s teeth, and imagination, into there.
“That song, in general, was written after I experienced spiritual enlightenment,” she explains. “I sensed some sort of insight. It was after my first show. Before that I was very critical of myself, and I had stage fright. I jumped in at the deep end, for the first time, with my own material.”
It turned out fine in the end, and the monster turned out to be a friendly pup.
“The audience was wonderful. I felt their support, and they asked me to sing the songs over and over again,” Malamud recalls. “Suddenly I realized that they were not being judgmental. They weren’t being critical of me, the way I was with myself. That gave me a fresh perspective on myself. I was very young then.”
Not that she’s exactly a senior citizen now, but, partly with the wisdom of that eye-opener, she approaches her work from a very different standpoint. “I realized there was a big difference between the image I have of myself inside my own head, and the way people see me. I wanted to thank God for that.”
THAT WAS a game changer and, naturally, produced creative dividends. “‘Nigun’ came out of that. I just sat down and wrote it, in just one evening and night.” It is, she feels, a matter of knowing how to go with the flow. “Everything in life is about the flow. Everything is a never-ending reflection of God. If you connect with that flow, good things come out of it. You can connect with inner richness, with love.”
One of those “good things” happens to be Malamud’s music which, indeed, exudes warmth and plenty of emotion.
With that in mind, the name of her new show seems a given. The Nocturno audience will get to hear numbers from “Le’ehov Oti” (Loving Me), produced by keyboardist Gal Golani, and gain a handle on where Malamud is at right now. “It offers a capsule of a new psychological perception,” she elucidates. Sounds like we are in for some out-on-a-limb material.
It is, Malamud says, part and parcel of making progress and undergoing a kind of catharsis.
“That means letting go of a lot of things that are no longer of benefit to me,” she notes, returning to the “grace of words” sentiment.
“Words have a lot of power. I need to invest a lot [in words] in order to create the life reality I want. It is the same on the stage. It is important to generate the language that is appropriate for the occasion.” It is about spilling the creative and personal beans. “I have to put myself in the center, with my new song arrangements, and new song selection, around the subject in question.”
The latter is, first and foremost, the artist herself. That stands to reason. This is not about ego-strutting; it is about imparting her heartfelt fare to the public, and stripping her mind and soul bare in the process. “The subject is love, but, in fact, I am a philosopher. This is my way to express my view of life.”
Given all of the above, I am not surprised by Malamud’s response when I ask when she expects the second album to take on corporeal form.
“I have no particular date in mind,” she smiles. “I am taking my time with this, as much time as it needs. I don’t set dates. It will be born when it’s good and ready.”
As a wise Indian musician once remarked to me, many moons ago, it is always happening now. Right on.
The festival kicks off with a bang, at Beit Ha’am with the Protest Song show with a stellar lineup that features the likes of Karolina, Eran Tzur, Elisha Banai and Alma Zohar.
Elsewhere across the multidisciplinary Jerusalem Arts Festival spread, there are intriguing dance and performance works, theater, movies, exhibitions, kiddies’ events and exhibitions. ❖
For tickets and more information: jerusalemarts.co.il