THE VOCA People get ready to take off to the cosmos. (photo credit: IDO LAVIE)
THE VOCA People get ready to take off to the cosmos. (photo credit: IDO LAVIE)
The Voca People return for a new 'Cosmic Tour' of Israel
 

We all – well, the vast majority of us – know that music adds spice and color to life. But, for the folks from Voca it is much more than that.

If the name doesn’t ring a bell, you are probably not familiar with the planet in question, or with the “musical beings” that came over to Earth to enrich our terrestrial existence with dense harmonies, infectious beats and more than a dollop or two of joie de vivre.

The Voca People – the troupe’s motto is: “Life is music and music is life” – is an Israeli a cappella ensemble that dresses up in weird and wonderful galactic costumes, and delivers singular renditions of all kinds of hit songs. 

Performing versions of classic songs from artists as varied as Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Beyonce and Bruno Mars, the members of the singing septet prance, prowl, jive, smile, grimace and stare in wonderment, as they produce sumptuous textures and tones that cover most of the human octave range, with some added instrumental and rhythmic apparatus imitating vocal layering for good beat measure.

They have been doing the rounds of the global touring circuit for close to 14 years, with aggregate audience figures topping three million, and are now bringing their latest production, Cosmic Tour, home. 

The Voca People. (credit: Courtesy)The Voca People. (credit: Courtesy)

Time for a Cosmic Tour of Israel

Fresh from a highly successful foray to France, the 13-date national tour kicks off in Rehovot on January 19, with gigs lined up in Tel Aviv, Rishon Lezion, Karmiel, Herzliyah and Haifa, to name but a few of the stop-offs up and down the country. The current schedule is due to wind up in Netanya on March 23, but judging by past experience, it is a fair bet that more shows will be slotted in to meet public demand.

Founders chief writer Lior Halfon, and arranger and music director Shai Fishman, enlisted the help of 34-year-old, actor-director Yotam Kushnir as director of Cosmic Tour. With a slew of theater, TV and cinema roles behind him, and several directorial gigs, including musicals, Kushnir seems to have the requisite experience and creative overview to get the job done.

“The reason why I found myself in this field is to follow my natural tendency to run free,” he says. “That’s the fun of it, to see the big picture. That’s the thing for me. And, having been an actor, it was a natural transition.”

“The Voca People is unique. They are singers who also act.”

Yotam Kushnir

He is also a fan of the a cappella bunch he now oversees on the stage. “The Voca People is unique. They are singers who also act.” They may be a one-off, but Kushnir says he has encountered similar artistic mindsets before, “when I directed Hapundak (The Inn) at the Simta Theater [in Jaffa], and my work at Rimon [School of Music in Ramat Hasharon] in the last few years. I have a lot of experience of working with musicians.”

HE ALSO got a good early cultural education at home. His father is 62-year-old acclaimed comedian-actor Avi Kushnir and, he says, he grew up with a rich varied sonic diet. “I heard all sorts of music at home, like The Beatles, Queen, Billy Joel, and Israeli stuff like Gidi Gov, Tislam and Arik Einstein.” Presumably those were sounds his parents imbibed during their own childhood and youth, and at some stage, Kushnir took that and began running with it. “When I grew older I started choosing my own music to listen to. I have very eclectic tastes,” he says.

That left Kushnir primed for working with the Voca People who traverse broad swaths of musical genres and styles in their projects. “In this show with its new music, you have lots of classic megahits, and also music which is a little younger, modern and contemporary. That includes hip-hop. I think this is one of the few shows in the world that can put together a 4-minute medley that includes the Bee Gees and Lizzo,” he says, with a nod to the 34-year-old American singer, rapper and flutist.

“In this show with its new music, you have lots of classic megahits, and also music which is a little younger, modern and contemporary. That includes hip-hop. I think this is one of the few shows in the world that can put together a 4-minute medley that includes the Bee Gees and Lizzo,”

Yotam Kushnir

That may appear to be a bit of a stretch for the older folks, but Kushnir says the Voca troupe manages it with aplomb. “They have the ability to do that, to fuse different kinds of music. That is what really drives the show.”

In loose terms the narrative behind the Cosmic Tour sees our friendly extraterrestrials taking off from planet Earth with a human on board. “The show opens with liftoff, as the space rocket leaves Earth for Voca,” Kushnir explains. “The human on the spaceship is there as a sort of flight attendant, janitor, you-name-it.” Therein lies the rub of the evolving storyline. “The contrast between him and the Voca beings fuels the tale. There is romance, a comedy of errors, and acceptance of others who are different – how we behave with people who don’t look like us or sound like us.”

That gives the impression of some kind of educational message woven into the production fabric. “Educational is a bit of a heavy didactic word,” Kushnir protests. “But I would say there are stories here which bring some kind of added value. Based on the Voca philosophy that is a value of closeness and love, togetherness and connection.”

So, it seems the Cosmic Tour has plenty going for it, in the way of wholesome, heartwarming offerings. It also sounds like just the ticket to banish some of those post-pandemic blues. “That is always something to feed off,” Kushnir observes, “and particularly these days.” He’s right there.

Kushnir may take an unfettered approach to his own musical horizons, but the nature of the current project does not lend itself to too much rule-bending. This is a carefully crafted show in which timing and cohesion are of prime importance. “When I came on board there were drafts of the medleys, which were really the original versions of the hits cobbled together. We started looking at ways of tweaking it all – taking a bit more from one song, and cutting another. That sort of thing, to make it all flow better.”

With hundreds of sellout performances around the globe behind them, the folks from the planet from the dark side of the sun look to do the real entertaining deal with their new Cosmic odyssey too. “This is a musical play with an actual storyline, but we don’t take life too seriously,” Kushnir laughs. “We want to have fun, and that goes for the audience too.”

For tickets and more information: to-mix.co.il/product/voca-people and www.voca-people.com



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