Gypsy soul

Percussionist and singer Liron Meyuhas prepares to release her debut album, ‘La Gitana’

Love affair with Italy: Liron Meyuhas (photo credit: GAYA SA’ADON)
Love affair with Italy: Liron Meyuhas
(photo credit: GAYA SA’ADON)
Liron Meyuhas was born and raised in Jerusalem.
Like the city itself, the 33-year-old’s music is a radiant melding of cultures and styles, undefinable and captivating. A percussionist and singer, Meyuhas is preparing to release her debut album, La Gitana, which means “gypsy” in Italian. Meyuhas sat down with The Jerusalem Post to discuss her love affair with Italy, her new single, which draws from the Passover seder, and of course, her favorite drum.
You just released a single, ‘Ana Pana Dodech.’ The video is so beautiful, as is the song. Where did you shoot it? Near a goat farm in Nataf, which looks a bit like Tuscany.
I also sing in Italian, so I wanted to combine the Tuscany vibe with the Israeli, so it was perfect.
I read that you spent time in Italy as a shepherdess? Yeah, for three months after the army. I traveled for a year in Europe, volunteering and studying agriculture in Italy, Sicily and Spain. I got stuck in Italy for most of the time because I really fell in love with the language.
I also walked around with goats and made cheese. That was 12 years ago now.
Was that an influential time for you? It was the first instance where I spent time on my own. It was the first time I really started to explore other cultures. It was influential in terms of music as well. Since that time, I realized that the world is small and I have the luck to do everything I want and go everywhere I want to go. It was a big realization.
You learned to speak Italian? Yeah, in the beginning I kept notebooks and wrote everything down. Then I returned after that first trip and studied music there, percussion, in the Siena jazz academy. I started working with music for circus companies and street performers. I got connected to the West African community in Tuscany and started working with them musically. I also became connected to the jazz community there. I toured all over Europe. When I came back to Israel six years ago, I went back and forth to Italy between two and four times a year to tour with two of my groups who stayed in Florence.
So you have a lot of projects going on? Yeah, I have the two projects there, and sometimes I do solo concerts and give percussion workshops. Now that the first song is out for La Gitana, which combines English with Italian lyrics, I think it will bring more of an Italian audience and more options to perform there.
‘La Gitana’ is your solo album? Yes, I’m in the beginning of the Headstart campaign.
I recorded the album, based on all these melodies, grooves, and languages that I love and became connected to through traveling over these years. Now I’m working on raising the funds to release it through the campaign.
‘La Gitana’ means the gypsy in Italian. What connotation does that have for you? It means a colorful collection of cultures. I was born in Israel, but I know for sure that I have many, many influences in my roots and DNA that attract me to different styles, melodies and colors. This is the gypsy; a big fusion of everything that I love. If you think about it, it’s what the Jews always did.
We are gypsies in a way. Anywhere we got stuck, we knew how to handle the situation and keeping our own traditions while accepting influences from the cultures we were living in. This is how I felt when I traveled and studied music. I tried to stay with the locals as much as I could and not do tourist things.
So the album is the most important thing in my musical career now. Up until now, I did everything in a more indie way, on my own. Now I have a team and a great producer, who did an amazing job with vocals and all kinds of arrangements.
How long will the Headstart campaign go on? Until April 5 – and we are just over 50% funded! Passover is coming up. Going back to your single, which is taken from the Song of Songs and from the seder. Can you talk about it more? I studied musical education at Davinsky College in Tel Aviv. One of the missions we had was to teach kindergarten children. We were teaching that song, “Ana Pana Dodech,” and I wanted to explore how to create the rhythm. It came out really nice. I realized that the song was familiar. That same year in the Pesach seder, after we ate, we stayed around the table with my family, and we sing all the Song of Songs, from the beginning to the end. We were singing that song and the light went on in my head.
I decided to make it my own.
I was working with a musical producer and she suggested I add some words in Italian, since the name of the album is in Italian and it’s such a big influence on me. So I did and it felt so natural. It became a mix between Italian and Jewish tradition.
I didn’t plan to release it before Pesach; it just happened that way. It was quite amazing.
What’s next for you as an artist? I want to perform as much as I can with my band; get a larger audience and be in venues where I’ve never been before. To play more festivals, collaborate with more Israeli musicians and world musicians.
I really like to collaborate. Almost every concert I do, I’m always thinking how I can collaborate.
This is my mission now.
What’s your favorite drum? It changes every few weeks. Right now, my favorite is a Pakistani darbuka. It’s similar to a normal darbuka, but has symbols inside, which gives it a high frequency and a very happy sound. But if you ask me next month, something else will probably come up. I own about 15 different drums that I use and 40 that I don’t use.
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