Amore from Amsterdam

Holland-based singer-songwriter Noam Vazana, appearing at this year’s International Women’s Festival in Holon, has been putting her thoughts and feelings into lyrical form from a very young age.

Noam Vazana expresses the ‘Love Migration.’  (photo credit: VICTOR LACKEN)
Noam Vazana expresses the ‘Love Migration.’
(photo credit: VICTOR LACKEN)
Noam Vazana is clearly adept at going with the flow. When the Beersheba-born singer- songwriter first relocated to Amsterdam seven years ago, typically she kept her options open.
“I came here [to the Netherlands] to study at the conservatory. I started out as a classical trombonist and I was invited over here to study, together with an internship at the Concertgebouw,” she says, referring to the venerable concert hall.
Then 26 years old, the musician had been looking to mix things for some time.
She had spent four years studying at the music academies of Tel Aviv University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, but had developed an interest in following a more commercial direction.
“There were no pop music studies in Israel back then and I wanted to develop my skills as a singer-songwriter. Moving to the Netherlands offered me an opportunity to engage in that, and also in classical music.”
No doubt, both backdrops will come through in Vazana’s show here on March 11, as part of this year’s International Women’s Festival, which will take place at the Mediatheque in Holon March 10 to 12.
Vazana says that growing up in Beersheba, then considered a cultural backwater, helped her to develop an ambitious streak.
“When I was a kid, Beersheba wasn’t the best place for a young person,” she recalls.
“There wasn’t much going on, in terms of music, theater and that sort of thing.
Things have improved there incredibly, with the performing arts center and theater and other events there. But, in those days, you basically had to go to Tel Aviv to catch that stuff.”
Far from depressing the youngster’s quest for a personal musical outlet, Vazana says the dearth of entertainment offerings only served to make her hungrier.
“I think that gave me the drive to forge my own way ahead. In those days it was easy to get bored, at least as a kid, especially as a kid who was drawn to the things going on in the big city. That made me seek out new things. I think that when there is a void, you try very hard to make something out of nothing.”
That maybe a national trait, not just a personal one.
Vazana is still highly motived to create, and make her mark on the music scene, and has carved a significant slot for herself in the Dutch and European market, and elsewhere. She performs extensively in her adopted country, as well as in Germany, and has even appeared in Bangladesh; she does her best to pay us some working visits, too. The forthcoming foray here also takes in gigs in Mitzpe Ramon, Jerusalem, Givat Ada and Tel Aviv.
The current trip here follows the launch of Vazana’s second solo album, with songs in English, which goes by the fetching and pertinent name of Love Migration. The lyrics contain numerous references to matters of the heart, and numbers such as “Urban Sketch” evoke pictures of someone settling into a foreign environment.
Vazana started putting her thoughts and feelings into lyrical form at a very young age.
“I think I was about five or six years old when I started learning to play the piano,” she says. She was something of a natural.
“I started composing right away. It was pretty simple, you know, you play chords.” The words took a bit longer to emerge, and were generally complemented by airs of a pre-classical nature.
“I think I was about 16 when I started writing actual songs. I liked to play fugues because I liked Bach.”
Love Migration is not Vazana’s first public offering, but she says it is the first she feels she can really call her own. Her discography to date also includes an EP and a debut album, but she says her creative impulses on the latter were constrained by commercial considerations.
“The label that issued it wanted me to go in all sorts of directions that I didn’t really like,” she says. “I feel that Love Migration is the first album I can call my own. It is the first one with artistic integrity.”
The personal input in the disc is evident on every track. The refrain on “Moonlight,” for example, transmits a sense of longing: “You come, you go, you’re never there. You seem to have the moon light.”
The opening stanza of “Waiting,” which has all the makings of a hit single, references emotional, cultural and meteorological alienation: “I’m alone and the rain drops outside. I’m away and the wind blows hard now.”
The album bubbled under for a while before coming to tangible and audible fruition.
“I worked on it for about a year and a half to two years,” says Vazana.
“It is about my relocation, and all the internal and external changes I went through,” including her musical meanderings.
“I came here to study [on a two-year program]. I left that [after a year] and went in a singer-songwriter direction.”
There was plenty of dues paying along the way.
“It wasn’t easy to try to find my own way, and there were financial difficulties.
It was quite a balagan.”
There were romantic complexities, too.
“I started a relationship with someone in Israel,” continues Vazana.
“I met him two weeks before I received approval for my visa to Holland. I had considered staying in Israel.” Luckily, it all eventually worked out, on all fronts, and Vazana and her boyfriend now happily live together in Amsterdam.
“There was my migration, and later his,” she explains. “That’s why I called the album Love Migration. We wrote the words for the CD together.”
The geographic transition also spawned a linguistic shift. Prior to her relocation, Vazana had written songs exclusively in Hebrew. So, when she managed to arrange an audition for the pop program of the conservatory in Amsterdam, she had to get some English pieces together quickly.
“I found a piano at some friends’ place and I worked through the night. I wrote some songs in English and translated some old Hebrew ones. That’s Israeli creativity par excellence!” The hastily arranged audition went well, and Vazana’s Dutch odyssey duly began.
She has made a name for herself on the Dutch scene over the years, and makes regular forays to Germany and elsewhere in Europe. She has also built up a decent fan base, as evidenced by the response she received to her crowdfunding campaign to get Love Migration off the ground.
“The first album was all single-oriented.
The record company liked it, but the fans liked it less. You can’t fool the public.”
Vazana knew she was on the right artistic track when more than 1,000 people opted to fork out for the new record, and Love Migration came into being.
“That was a great surprise for me. I thought that maybe 150 people would buy the album in advance. I got so much encouragement and support from that.
Also, I am older and wiser now than I was when I made the first album. I feel happier with the result, and with my life.”
Elsewhere on the Women’s Festival program is rich offering of theater, music, dance, literature and movie items, with the local roster enhanced by the intriguing French vocalist-double bass player Pauline Dupuy, who will offer a female- centric take on the works of iconic French troubadour Georges Brassens.
For tickets and information about the festival, call (03) 501-4950 and