Sabra sounds

Our Israeli music critic eulogizes what she considers a truly dismal decade.

Thank goodness for dreadlocked musician Idan Raichel. Without knowing it, this singer-songwriter has all but saved the decade music-wise.
It can be said that the last 10 years were rather anemic for Israeli music. That's not to say there weren't hits, or hyped albums, or the discovery of new talents. There were, but even those who topped the charts or garnered headlines didn't really leave the local music scene with an indelible mark.
In recent articles in the Hebrew media, a number of local music critics point to the reality television shows, ring-tones and the restricted Army Radio play list as the reasons for the demise of original Hebrew song. Others say the artists themselves are responsible for trying to be commercial successes instead of inventive music-makers.
It doesn't really matter what the reason, the result is the same: Overall, the years 2000 to 2009 hardly produced anything memorable.
At a recent awards ceremony put together by the local television station Music Channel 24, and Army Radio, music fans chose the Idan Raichel Project as Band of the Decade and Raichel's song "Out of the Depths" as Song of the Decade.
The highly acclaimed 2002 breakout album, The Idan Raichel Project, all but hijacked the radio waves. It took just three days for the sophomore offering, Out of the Depths, to secure gold status in 2005. Then in 2008, Raichel released his third CD, Within My Walls, and proved his ability to stay inspired and unique when making music.
The multitalented Raichel offered the local music scene a blend of ethnic tunes (African, Latin American, Caribbean and Middle Eastern sounds), coupled with sophisticated production techniques. This mix won over critics and fans similarly.
THAT'S NOT to say Raichel is the only one to have excited rock/pop music lovers.
Each year during the past decade had its stars. But it's tough to know whether any of the hit makers - including Miri Mesika ("Lesham"), Harel Ska'at ("Ve'at"), Arkadi Duchin ("Mi Ohev Otach Yoter Mimeni"), Ivri Lider ("Zachiti Le'ehov") and Shiri Maimon ("Hasheket Shenishar") - will be remembered for their overall contributions to the first decade of the 21st century.
There are two other artists, however, who deserve distinction.
Folk-rock artist Asaf Avidan showed that it's too early to eulogize original Israeli rock. His high-quality musical arrangements and one-of-a-kind voice give hope for a new decade of innovative "made in Israel" rock.
Alma Zohar presented one of the decade's most exciting debuts with her blend of rock, pop, soul, jazz and country on her 2008 album, Speak. Assuming she sticks with music, Zohar will no doubt be a major talent to reckon with during the coming 10 years.
And while the rock-pop scene endured, the much hyped, local hip-hop/rap field all but plunged into oblivion.
The first half of the decade was all about native Hebrew hip-hop and rap. The genre really gained popularity during the 1990s, and it looked like this decade was going to continue the wave. Hadag Nahash served up a number of hits including the super popular "Sticker Song," which, like the band's other stuff, was satirical in lyrics. Subliminal and The Shadow (who are no longer on speaking terms) introduced Zionist hip-hop and managed to keep it popular for a few years. There were a handful of other rappers to hold the spotlight for a couple of years this past decade, but as we enter 2010, none of them is overly fashionable.
Of course, there are those like Mook-e and Shabak Samekh who are still performing. And while they influenced the music scene this past decade, their biggest breaks were in the 1990s.
The demise of the hip-hop/rap scene can be explained by a flood of mediocre talent. The scene was inundated with solo rappers and groups trying to take a bite out of the commercial success that Subliminal and friends had achieved. Music fans responded by dismissing the genre.
And then, just weeks before 2009 came to a close, Hadag Nahash released a new single, off a new album set to kick off 2010 in style. It looks like the group of seven musicians is hoping to revive Hebrew hip-hop during this new decade.
As for the Mizrahi scene, Eyal Golan and Sarit Hadad were unsurprisingly chosen by music fans as those who best define the outgoing decade.
Golan's first CD came out back in 1993, but it took him a decade to really hit his groove. The Oriental crooner released an amazing seven albums between 2001 and 2009. Some of his most memorable songs during this time include "Hozeh Otach Muli," "Zeh Ani" and "Tzlil Metar."
His counterpart, Hadad, has also been winning over fans since the early '90s. In the 2000s, she released 11 albums (including collections), with the chart-topping songs "Light a Candle," "In the Heat of Tel Aviv" and "Celebration."
In addition to Golan and Hadad, runners up Amir Benayoun (who wowed listeners with his unique voice and passionate music) and Kobi Peretz (who counted five successful albums this decade) will also be remembered for their roles in moving Mizrahi music forward during this decade.
But more than any specific style of music, probably the most tremendous recollection this decade will provide insofar as the music industry is concerned will be file-sharing and the Internet.
The Internet caused the major record labels to score financial difficulties, but it opened the doors for individual artists. Suddenly it didn't seem to matter what a few top music executives thought about one's music - fans were called on to be the real judges of what was good and what was not.
And while nothing really outstanding came out as a result of the Web this decade, there's no doubt that in the last 10 years, more music was made by more people and was spread to more spaces.
And so, while Raichel scored top marks this past decade through the customary record label channel, the chances that the next big names in the music business will shine thanks to file-sharing seem pretty good.
Just look at the surprise winner of Britain's Christmas No. 1 single.Rage Against the Machine's "Killing in the Name" beat out the usualsugar-coated, poppier singles connected to the holiday season thanks toa Web campaign by two fans.
It just goes to show that anything is possible.
So log on to the Internet, there's much to look forward to music-wise this coming decade.