Teder FM’s jazz kissa: Tel Aviv’s rising sun

Their latest opening, a jazz kissa (Japanese for “cafe”), opened this past summer, with live jazz shows a few nights of the week and DJs playing records until the early hours.

 THE JAZZ kissa in full swing. (photo credit: Teder FM)
THE JAZZ kissa in full swing.
(photo credit: Teder FM)

Teder FM got its start around 13 years ago as a pop-up radio station, from the idea that since there was nowhere else like it, they would make it themselves. 

A collaboration between two promoter groups, Tabak and Chagol, Teder came together in the summer of 2010 in the yard outside of what is now their restaurant, Port Said, to open an Internet radio station to play music for their friends and the bar downstairs.

After a few successful summers off Tel Aviv’s Allenby and Rothschild boulevards, Teder found their home in 2015 at the Beit Romano complex on Jaffa Road. Since then, the group has continued to grow, bringing many ideas to life and keeping a strong connection with their crowd. From Port Said to Romano, Rafi, Mirage, Nuweiba, the yard and their artist spaces, each Teder location has its own identity, from programming to menu and design.

Their latest opening, a jazz kissa (Japanese for “cafe”), opened this past summer, with live jazz shows a few nights of the week and DJs playing records until the early hours.

 LIVE SHOW at Beit Romano. (credit: Teder FM) LIVE SHOW at Beit Romano. (credit: Teder FM)

A lifetime in the music industry and a thriving Tel Aviv jazz scene

Zack Bar is one of Teder’s founding members and a partner alongside Eyal Shani, Schachar Segal, Asaf Yackobi, Dror Sher, Itai Drai and Shlomo Zidan. He is a member of the Tel Aviv-based Fortuna Records, a well-known DJ, and has been in the music industry most of his life. 

“The Tel Aviv jazz scene is really happening,” Bar says. “A lot of jazz musicians are traveling the world, some of them living in New York, some in Europe. It’s been a big scene for more than 25 years now, and there are not many proper places for live jazz here. There’s a place, Beit Ha’amudim, which is doing very well, and very well programmed, an important institute. Other than that, you don’t see it as much, and we said, ‘Why not?”

“A lot of jazz musicians are traveling the world, some of them living in New York, some in Europe. It’s been a big scene for more than 25 years now, and there are not many proper places for live jazz here. There’s a place, Beit Ha’amudim, which is doing very well, and very well programmed, an important institute. Other than that, you don’t see it as much, and we said, ‘Why not?”

Zack Bar

The kissa is located at Park Hamesila next to the Mirage cafe. Behind the coffee tables, the sounds of the open-air kitchen and buzzing conversations, the entrance to the kissa is through a sliding glass door, opening to a wooden, furnished interior surrounded by low lighting, as the kissa’s design pays homage to its Japanese origins.

“I get a lot of my inspiration from traveling, mainly from Japan,” Bar says. “The kissa is super-influenced by the Japanese jazz bars.

“This place is the fifth or sixth place in our operation. It’s something that only now we could have opened because it took us time to get more mature and more defined. This is not an old or heavy place. It’s still casual, where you can just come for a drink. It’s more focused on jazz, but jazz as a lifestyle, not as a genre. 

“I’ve collected records for 30 years now, and with time I’m into jazz more and more. We said we might as well make a space for it. This is what we did back in the day. We did events, parties, because there were no parties. We opened Teder because there was no place like it. We opened Port Said because there was no place like it.”

Port Said, the first place Bar and his friends opened, brought together two things they have a love for – food and music. If you walk into any one of their rooms, you will find a turntable and a menu experimenting with fresh and local ingredients. 

“In time, the space that we had as the first Teder – we didn’t want to leave it. But we thought that Teder had to leave, so we opened Port Said,” recalls Bar. “The concept was to tag with chef Eyal Shani, who back then was kind of known to some people. It was before he became a household name as one of the pioneers of the Israeli cuisine that is known all over the world. We collaborated with him on a fun basis; we just loved what he did and said ‘Let’s do something together.’ 

“In the beginning, it was meant to be a coffee spot with sandwiches. But in time it became Port Said. First and foremost, because we are record collectors and vinyl-crazy addicts, we said, ‘Why don’t we do one turntable and let it play, instead of all the places that you hear on computers. Bring back the media, as a whole, just play the record.’ 

“Till today, Port Said has only one turntable and a big library of records. This is the concept. Just playing records, on one turntable, with the silence in between, as you flip sides [of the record]. This is what we like. We think it’s the magic. 

“The idea was to put this analog medium of playing with Eyal’s kind of analog food. He’s very basic; he uses only fresh products, and he doesn’t play with a lot, no spicing, dressings. So it’s kind of what we do. Keep it simple, keep it fresh. This is the connection that we had, with food and the music.”

TEDER’S LOCATION on Jaffa Road connects the Arab and Jewish parts of the city. The road could also be an analogy for Teder’s aesthetic, bringing together different groups of people. 

Beit Romano, built in the 1940s, was a home for clothing salesmen and textile manufacturers. Shops on the ground floor are still open during the day, along with the artist studios and residencies that Teder supports. 

“In time, it became like a cultural center,” Bar says. “A hub of creative minds can meet and be there and create things. Upstairs are a lot of artists’ studios, a couple of techno producers, and a jazz musician. We are also trying to support them, having a space to create. 

“The building is huge; we use maybe 8% of it. It’s four buildings and about 2,000 meters per floor. During the day, everything is open. It’s good to see the old-school merchants and a hipster music producer, designer, small office. It’s a mix.

“In time, Teder became a platform not only as a radio but for live shows. We extended it to art exhibitions, film and open-air cinema screenings. All sorts of disciplines that are not only music. Every week or so we have a pop-up space we give to designers, any artists to do an exhibition or shop. We give it away, and they do their thing.

“We never take money from them; we just let them showcase what they are doing, which is really nice. This is important to say – we never charge tickets for any of our events. “We manage to do it because we sell food and beverage. 

“Some institutional, some commercial support allows us to do that. Sometimes it’s a record fair or a wine exhibition, sometimes it’s a crazy live show, jazz or rave for a few thousand people. We are happy we can have these programs, about 50 to 60 events each month. Some are for 50 people, some for 5,000 people. It varies. 

“This is something unlike any other place in the world because you can consume your culture for free. When we do our thing, we try to challenge the artist to do something special at our place. It’s not ticketed, it’s open. The artist can decide where they want the stage to be. It’s more interaction with the artist so they don’t have to do their standard show. 

“We do book international artists and have special events here. We do that a lot with DJs and some bands. We had a global pandemic, now we are coming back, booking artists again.

“We come from the music; this is what we love and know the best. Yet the whole lifestyle is something that we are exploring. We are privileged to have a place that can integrate all of these elements into a holistic experience that you can enjoy.

“Then we opened a record shop [Nuweiba], then we opened a sort of community center. It’s all things that we felt are a good thing to do, a trial-and-error thing. We invented this new kind of experience; where you come not only for dinner or drinks, a meeting or a date – it’s all mixed. I think Tel Aviv also provides this option in terms of the weather, the open-mindedness, the mixture of people.”

NUWEIBA IS a record shop and listening room on the ground floor of Teder. At night, DJs play from their record collections, while locals and out-of-towners hang out and have drinks at the shop’s bar. Nuweiba’s large selection of records ranges from local collectives such as Raw Tapes, Fortuna, and Red Axes to sounds old and new from the Middle and Far East, Africa, Latin America, jazz, rock, electronic and more. There’s always a chance to discover something new when you visit. 

“Ofer [Tal] is one of my mentors in terms of music,” Bar says. “I’m so happy to have him as Nuweiba’s record store manager. I help with stock, shipping, the overall strategy of the shop. We get records from wherever – Egypt, Japan, Seattle.”

Web radio is where it started for Teder. The station currently broadcasts six days a week, from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. Programs range from DJ sets and talk radio to live shows that take place at Romano. 

“We were the first web radio here in 2010,” Bar notes. “Because we were a pop-up, it didn’t become sustainable in terms of listeners. But since the years we are here in Beit Romano, the radio has been broadcasting every day. Sometimes it can be played from the kissa, from Nuweiba, from Romano, Rafi – everything is connected. All the big, live shows are streamed, so we’ve also added this feature. 

“I must say that it’s more for the archives. All the things are on demand now, so we are happy to record everything for future reference. It’s good to document all these crazy things happening here; so much good music and amazing talent. People can be all over the world, click teder.fm and see what is happening here every day.”

THE JAZZ kissa isn’t Teder’s first relationship with Japanese culture. In 2012, Teder went to Tokyo for one month as part of an exchange organized by the Israeli Embassy to broadcast Teder FM and put on events. In turn, Japanese artists came to Tel Aviv and broadcasted back east. 

More kissas are now popping up around the world, becoming a destination for music heads and people looking for something different. 

The kissa first opened in Tokyo before World War II, as a place to listen to music from abroad. American troops introduced jazz to locals during their military service; later jazz musicians, such as Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers, toured Japan. With the price of import records being high, the kissa became a place for people to listen to the music they loved, which they couldn’t hear anywhere else.

“We felt ready with this, we had it in our drawer, to do a proper jazz kissa,” Bar notes. “But it took time and a budget to be confident and know what we are doing. The kissa is our new baby. We have live shows here [at least] three times a week, and every day DJs are playing. 

“I’m not satisfied yet; there are many things to do now in order for it to be tight. It’s still in the opening stages. We are working on it – service, hospitality, music, sound, everything. This place is very late night, it’s open sometimes until 5 a.m. 

“Another good thing about Tel Aviv is that there is no curfew. This also allows you to do things; to begin a live show at 2 a.m. This is something you wouldn’t see anywhere else in the world, maybe in Japan. Mirage is next door. It’s a coffee place, so it’s open from 7 a.m. The kissa is open ‘til 4 a.m., so it’s like a 20-hour place. There’s a backyard here, so we’d like to do brunch, and weekend live shows Friday or Saturday,” Bar says.

No matter the night, the programming at Teder is always different. The trust that Teder has with its audience allows them to experiment. According to Bar, “there’s a wide scope of ages and generations, people from the city and from out the city. Tourists. Everyone is welcome. You can feel it by the texture of people; it’s wide, it’s open, it’s fun. 

“More institutions want to do events with us because it’s free. For them, for the embassies, the big festivals that are happening like DocAviv [the Tel Aviv International Documentary Film Festival]. We do collaborations with them every year. 

“We collaborate with InDnegev, the biggest indie festival in Israel. We do a pre-event here showcasing the festival. We do a once-a-year concert weekend with The Chamber Orchestra, we do crazy stuff with them. Sometimes we do events outside of Romano house at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, the Jerusalem Film Festival. When we go out of this place, it’s usually for bigger events and festivals that we are collaborating with. 

“It’s a big company now, a big operation in terms of the content and creative side. We don’t use public relations companies; everything is in-house, without paying a sponsor for Facebook or billboards. Everything is organic, our community is organic. The crowd knows us. I’m happy this is it,” Bar says.

“We chose to be more physical, to open places, with all the difficulties living in this place. In business, if you don’t expand, you fade out. I don’t think we can do the same thing in other places around the world. Also, because we are native to Israel, we know the scene, and it took us time before we opened Teder to know everyone.

“It’s something you can play with, see how it goes, then regulate it,” he concludes. “It’s kind of on-the-go.” 