Flute roots

Hadar Noiberg performs in a concert based on the poetry Rachel Shapira.

Hadar Noiberg performs in a concert based on the poetry Rachel Shapira. (photo credit: PR)
Hadar Noiberg performs in a concert based on the poetry Rachel Shapira.
(photo credit: PR)
Hadar Noiberg plays music.
While that may seem like a selfexplanatory epithet for someone who has been earning her keep by playing the flute for the past 12 years, it also sheds some light on the 32-year-old’s approach to genres, styles and all that jazz.
The latter discipline will certainly be in the performance mix when Noiberg takes the stage at Beit Avi Chai in Jerusalem on Thursday night, along with internationally renowned pianist Anat Fort, New York resident bassist Hagai Cohen-Milo and drummer Shai Zelman, for a concert based on the words of poet Rachel Shapira. Sixtysomething Shapira will be on hand to read some of her own works, and there will be some added quality vocals courtesy of Yael Deckelbaum. Not a bad lineup.
It is clear after even the briefest of spins of Noiberg’s sophomore release Journey Back Home, which features compatriot bassist-oud player Omer Avital and dynamic drummer Ziv Ravitz, the New Yorkbased Israeli flutist takes an allembracing approach to her craft.
Yes, there is a strong jazzy spirit to the release, but there are also Yemenite trills in there, bluesy intent, classical motifs, plenty of grooves and Persian lines, to mention but a few of the cultural strands that run through the nine tracks So, can the “real Hadar Noiberg” stand up? Wherein lie her musical roots? “That’s a good question,” she admits equivocally. “I often ask myself the same question, particularly in a world that is so concerned with quick-fire definitions and neat labels. I have always felt divorced from any particular [musical] scene. I am not quite a classical musician, and I don’t really fit into the jazz mold. Maybe I just always liked to make good music rather than fitting in to any niche.”
Naturally enough, Noiberg takes the same free-flowing approach to her upcoming gig in Jerusalem.
“I don’t relate to the show as a jazz concert that feeds off the spirit of the singer but as coming from the words of the poems, wherein lies their heart,” she says.
Despite being based in New York for more than a decade, Noiberg is clearly an Israeli – in spirit as well as in music. That, she says, probably comes from her childhood.
“My parents liked good old Israeli songs and, as a kid, I’d go with them to Israeli folk dancing session, and that is certainly an influence on me,” she says.
We’re not just talking about the body movement styles that went with the dance music or even the sense of rhythm which the young Noiberg must have taken on board at those family activities but also the eclectic range of sounds that accompanied the hoofing.
“Israeli folk dancing is such a mishmash of styles – you suddenly get some Yemenite music and, of course, Russian music and all kinds of things. That was one of the first things I heard.
And there was a lot of Arik Einstein around when I was a kid, and Yoni Rechter,” she recounts.
Noiberg recently achieved some sort of closure with regard to the latter veteran Israeli-folk-rock-pop music pianist and singer, who also displays the odd jazzy leanings.
“I had the great honor of playing with Yoni not so long ago,” says the flutist. “That was great.”
Noiberg says she found a kindred spirit in 62-year-old Rechter.
“He is someone who understands me. He plays so many different styles of music. I don’t think people really appreciate the depth of his artistry,” she says.
That may be true, but Rechter certainly packs ‘em in every time he performs.
Not surprisingly, Noiberg started out on her instrumental path, like many a child before and after her, on recorder. She first set lips to flute at the age of 10.
“It was my sister’s – she’s 10 years older than me. She is very talented but, for some reason, never took playing too seriously,” she says.
Noiberg certainly took her flute playing seriously, obstacles notwithstanding.
“When I went to the Holon Conservatory of Music, they said I should play the trombone,” she recalls. “I refused. I think they were just short of a trombonist.”
So she stuck with her sister’s flute. And it was anything but smooth sailing.
“It was a particularly problematic flute and, for the first four years, it made me adopt an incorrect playing position, and I had all sorts of back problems,” she recounts.
But all that was set to rights when Noiberg got to high school.
“The music teacher there said I could use the flute as a drainage pipe and nothing else. It was so much easier when I got my hands on a normal flute,” she says.
The road to a career in music was much smoother from then on.
She soon began playing and touring with the Israeli Young Philharmonic Orchestra and studied at the Tel Aviv Academy of Music with Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra principal flutist Yossi Arnheim. Later, she transferred to the City College of New York, where she completed her bachelor’s degree in flute and composition.
“Initially, I thought I was going to take the New York jazz scene by storm, but I soon found myself playing in a salsa band – and having great fun in the process,” recalls Noiberg. “Right now, I play a lot of Brazilian music in New York, and also jazz, but not straight-ahead jazz. I like music that has a lot of things going through it, like world music. Mind you, jazz is really world music too, but I mean Middle Eastern stuff or African or Arabic music. I like the openness that allows me to integrate all my worlds,” she explains.
Noiberg will bring much of that to the fore on Thursday.
Fittingly, Noiberg’s path to the works of Rachel Shapira began at Beit Avi Chai a few years back when she fronted a quartet show based on her arrangements of works by seminal Israeli composer Yedidia Admon and composerpoet Emmanuel Zamir as part of Barak Weiss’s Jazz in Hebrew series. Noiberg got to know Shapira through a mutual friend, and when drummer Shai Zelman suggested they work together on a Jazz in Hebrew show, Noiberg quickly agreed, and the Shapira poetry concept eventually appeared on the horizon.
“It is amazing how many wellknown songs are based on Rachel’s poems, like [Hava Alberstein hit] “Kemo Tzemach Bar” (Like a Wildflower) and “Anshei Hageshem” (The Rain People),” Noiberg notes. “People don’t generally notice the name of the poet. They normally only remember the musician who performs the song.”
It is safe to say that, at least, a few people will be aware of Shapira’s contribution to popular Israeli music after Noiberg’s show.
Thursday at 8:30 p.m. at Beit Avi Chai in Jerusalem. For tickets and more information: (02) 621-5300 and www.bac.org.il