Start-up spot: The giving tour

A ‘Livetronica’ band of American immigrants uses charity as one of its primary instruments.

The G-nome project (photo credit: Courtesy)
The G-nome project
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Making music by night and volunteering by day is not the usual formula for a band’s tour abroad. The quartet of 20-something musicians who comprise Israel’s G-Nome Project believes these activities can harmonize beautifully.
Their “Giving Tour” to the US, planned for three weeks in late summer, aims to combine performing for their overseas fans and performing charitable work in their fans’ communities. The only catch is the need for $12,000 to bankroll the 10-city tour to Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
As the band of immigrants from the US explains on its Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign page (
“Building on the inherent altruism and good nature of the G-Nome community, and knowing that we can’t ask from others without pushing and challenging ourselves to give more in return as well, we are mapping out opportunities along the tour route to spend time with those in need. We want to bring joy to recovering patients in children’s hospitals, serve the needy in soup kitchens, and bring song and dance to a local nursing home or two.”
Neither the little ones nor the senior citizens are likely to be acquainted with “livetronica” music, but the G-Nome Project simply aims to get audiences on their feet with largely improvised songs that are not inherently Jewish.
“Our music is organic electronica with a funkbased dance feel,” says guitarist Yakir Hyman. “The whole point of our music is to keep people moving the whole time. It is based in dance and wanders into other genres.”
During his teens, Hyman played in a series of jam bands along with his childhood buddy Zechariah Reich, a bass guitarist. Raised in suburban New Jersey and educated in yeshiva day schools, the friends gradually became more serious about their music and their religious observance following a post-high school year at Bar-Ilan University. They made aliya on the same Nefesh B’Nefesh flight in August 2005, shared a Jerusalem apartment and served in the same IDF unit.
They honed their talents in a band called Holler with Reich’s Tel Aviv-based brother Jason on guitar, and recorded with Shlomo Katz and Chaim Dovid, American immigrants who have made a name for themselves in the Israeli Jewish music world.
Now they both live in Gush Etzion – Hyman in Efrat with his wife and two children, and Reich in Neveh Daniel with his wife. The other members of the band are single and live in Jerusalem: keyboardist Eyal Salomon, originally from Cleveland, and drummer Chemy Soibelman from Brooklyn.
Soibelman volunteers with children who have cancer, and this inspired his bandmates to propose the Giving Tour.
“We believe that when a bunch of religious guys are seen doing some cool thing (playing great music), while still being religious, and also being nice guys, and also doing hessed [kindness], it’s a huge kiddush hashem [sanctification of God’s name],” says Reich.
“Hanging out with secular Tel Aviv friends, playing music and being regular people shows we are not all stone-throwing messianic crazy people and all those other stereotypes.”
Fans do, of course, notice the musicians’ kippot.
When they appear at clubs, pubs, music festivals and private parties, the sight of their headgear can prompt anything from an SMS wishing them “Shabbat shalom” to a heartfelt conversation concerning lapsed faith. But not all their followers are Jewish and most are more focused on the music than the musicians.
Thanks to the digital age, the G-Nome Project is sharing its sound far and wide. Since the band was founded in November 2012, its fan base has been growing most steadily in the US.
“We’ve had 2,500 Americans downloading a concert in Jerusalem,” relates Reich, who spends his workdays at the Knesset as the employee of a corporate lobbying firm. He is finishing a master’s degree in Hebrew at Bar- Ilan University.
Fans, talent buyers, promoters and booking agents have contacted the band from across the US making the Giving Tour a real possibility.
“The only reason we considered doing this is because of the positive reaction we’ve been receiving from people on the ground, and promoters wanting to book us,” says Hyman, who works at a digital marketing agency.
He explains that the band’s name riffs on the Human Genome Project, “an intense biological project to decode very mysterious DNA. When we play, we try to decode what’s happening in the moment with our music, so we see that as our own genome project.”
Reich adds, “We call it a ‘project’ because it’s less a standard band than a musical experiment that’s constantly developing. In a given show of an hour and a half, 10 to 20 minutes is devoted to composed music and the rest is improvised.”
The band has played at venues including Blaze Bar, Buba, Mike’s Place and the Mamilla Hotel rooftop in Jerusalem, Levontin 7 in Tel Aviv, Bourbon Street in Herzliya, and the SoulShine Reggae Festival in Beit Zayit.
Booking gigs is much less difficult in New York City, where any group of musicians can get stage time with the promise of bringing a certain number of listeners to cover the venue’s costs. In Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, club owners want to see the band’s credentials.
“The difference between playing music here and in America is that the challenges are also the advantages,” says Hyman. “Because the clubs’ screening process is more rigorous here, that weeds out the musicians who are not serious or determined enough. So most of those doing shows in Israel really know they want to play and perform and get their music out there. Here, you have to be somebody.”