The long party

For the 10th year, Tel Aviv celebrates its White Night Festival.

A portrait by video artist Doris Bloom. (photo credit: Courtesy)
A portrait by video artist Doris Bloom.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
White Night artistic director Zvi Joffe, who is also a top-notch vibraphonist and percussionist, and will perform at the festival along with fellow Spheres Ensemble duo member pianist Arnon Zimra, says he simply feels impelled to keep on pushing the musical envelope.
“I can’t possibly envisage music without this little festival, and without this endeavor,” he declares. “If this festival goes, a very fundamental part of the literature of evolving music will go with it.”
The 10th annual White Night Festival will take place at the Einav Center in Tel Aviv on February 6 and 7. That is no mean feat for an event that showcases some of the best we – and the world – have to offer in decidedly non-mainstream musical domains.
Despite the event managing to stick around for a whole decade, it can’t be easy going. Judging by the quality of acts Joffe has lined up for this year’s frontier-shifting two-dayer, there are still plenty of artists out there who are constantly taking the plunge and attempting to – as Star Trek commander Capt. Kirk may well have put it – go where no musician has gone before.
For starters, there is 48-year-old Austrian composer and percussionist Lukas Ligeti, who, besides being the son of late iconic composer György Sándor Ligeti, is a world leader in his own right. His oeuvre spans numerous musical disciplines, from jazz to contemporary classical music, and takes in sounds and rhythms from various cultures around the globe.
Other imported standouts include 23-year-old Austrian resident, Turkish-born pianist Emre Yavuz and the longstanding Skraep experimental music trio from Denmark, which comprises bass player Peter Friis Nielsen, saxophonist Lotte Anker and pianist Olga Magieres. Yavuz will play works by two of Turkey’s most important composers, Adnan Saigun and Ulvi Cemal Erkin.
And there is plenty more where that came from, in our own adventurous music community. Veteran cohorts comprised of Americanborn Jerusalemite saxophonist and 2013 Prime Minister’s Prize for Composition recipient Steve Horenstein, and Tunisian-born, French-bred Jerusalemite bassist and record producer Jean Claude Jones, will team up for the curiously named Temperamental Duo – Two of a Kind show. And no such left-field musical enterprise in this country would be complete without a contribution from octogenarian South Africanborn clarinetist Harold Rubin, who will front a quartet at the Einav Center.
Joffe firmly believes there is an audience for “challenging” music, that there are enough people out there not only to keep the festival afloat, but also to fuel burgeoning interest in the work of artists intent on maintaining a creative continuum.
The flames of Joffe’s optimism were fanned by a recent foray to Paris, where he attended an avant-garde music festival. “There were 1,200 people there in the audience,” he notes, young and old alike. “I came back here feeling encouraged. I thought if they can do that there, maybe we can do something similar here.”
Well, that may take a while, if in fact it really does materialize, but Joffe has certainly pulled out all the stops to ensure the Einav Center audience if provided with quality creative offerings. Tickets are very reasonably priced – NIS 35 to NIS 50 – to allow people who prefer their music to do more than just give them a feel-good glow, on limited budgets, to come to the festival. “I don’t want people who really want to explore new areas of music to be deterred by the price of the ticket,” Joffe continues. “The Einav Center is helping by subsidizing the cost of the tickets, and that is wonderful.”
The artistic director wants to bring in culture consumers of all ilks, and from all sectors of society. “To begin with it was mostly youngsters who came to White Night, and then the average age started to climb a bit,” explains Joffe. “I’d like to appeal to people who go to concerts by the Israel Philharmonic and similar ensembles to come to us, too. I think there is a lot of openness these days to other kinds of music. I think people are getting a little tired of hearing the same old things the whole time.
It has happened in the dance sector, and I think it is starting to happen with music, too.”
Naturally, you have to be exposed to something before you can consider its merits, and whether you’d like to get to know more about it. “A lot of people simply are not aware of the kind of music we bring to White Night,” Joffe observes. “I feel dutybound to try to pique their curiosity and to offer them something new, something they don’t hear every day.”
Music fans don’t see or hear the instrument Ligeti will bring over here – the marimba lumina, which is a digital version of the original African xylophone-like marimba, which is connected to a laptop computer.
The Austrian-born composer and instrumentalist feeds off his famous father’s oeuvre, as well as other contemporary classical music and root sounds from Africa.
FESTIVALGOERS WILL also be able to enjoy some visual aesthetics courtesy of South African-born, Danishresident video artist Doris Bloom, who will join forces with Skraep pianist Magieres in the free I Phone You 2 performance in the Einav Center lobby.
Joffe is naturally delighted to be at the helm 10 years after the festival came into being, and feels the event has had a positive knock-on effect across Tel Aviv. “After we started going, all sorts of places that offer this kind of music began sprouting around the city,” he notes. “There’s Levontin 7 and other venues.
[Levontin 7 owners, saxophonist and clarinetist] Assif Tsahar and [pianist] Daniel Sarid played with us in the festival back then.’ Joffe and Zimra will dig into one of our most iconic songs for their show.
“We will present a tribute to Eliyahu Gamliel, who wrote Eretz Zavat Halav Udevash (Land of Milk and Honey),” says the vibraphonist-percussionist, adding that the numbers has been performed by a surprisingly wide range of top artists, from all kinds of genres.
“When I was 19 [legendary jazz trumpeter] Dizzy Gillespie played at Heichal Hatarbut [in Tel Aviv], and he played Eretz Zavat Halav Udevash. [Renowned jazz singer and pianist] Nina Simone also performed it.”
Joffe feels it is high time the song was given its due in its country of origin.
“It’s really crazy that the song is performed by all sorts of artists and abroad, and it’s been forgotten here.
I thought that if such a great jazz musician like Dizzy Gillespie, whom I love, performed the song, then I should also pay tribute to Gamliel.”
And music fans who hang around long enough on the first day of the festival will be rewarded at half an hour after midnight with the offering of young Israeli trio Tatran, which fuses modern jazz with rock and classical music, folk, avant-garde sounds and electronics. The band played before a packed crowd at last summer’s Red Sea Jazz Festival and should pack ’em in at the Einav Center as well.
For tickets and more information about White Night: (03) 574-5005 and