Honing their craft

The Testing Tools festival provides a platform for fringe artists and performers.

Testing Tools Festival (photo credit: Courtesy)
Testing Tools Festival
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Tel Aviv has a rich and varied cultural life, but nowadays it may be the fringe that offers the most challenging, intriguing and exciting programs. Small theater groups, chamber opera productions, music ensembles – you name it.
Testing Tools (Nisui Kelim) is an annual festival that offers a stage for these activities. According to the festival concept, artists are welcome to present complete pieces, as well as works in progress that have the potential of being made into something larger.
The festival takes place at the Beit Tami cultural center on Sheinkin Street. Once the heart of Tel Aviv’s Bohemian life, the area has not lost its spirit, though many of its inhabitants have moved over to Florentine.
Now in its ninth year, the festival takes place between August 7 – 9, and this year it is part of the Year of Culture of Tel Aviv-Yaffo. More than 100 artists will participate in the festival. Its program features 25 premieres in the field of stage arts, as well as more than 30 works in the plastic arts. Among the festival treats are dance, theater, music and art installations.
Diggin Classics is one of the ensembles hosted by the festival.
“Diggin Classics is an instrumental ensemble that offers contemporary and modern arrangements of classical music,” says ensemble founder and double bass player Alon Azizi in a phone interview. “I was basically a classical musician, and a few years ago, while I was preparing for an audition for the Israel Philharmonic – which is a much-dreamed of job – I played for hours a fragment from Mahler’s Fourth Symphony – there is a well-known theme for a double bass there. Suddenly, I realized that there was something from groove there and that I should do something about it. So I went to my computer and added drums to the music I played, and later a fragment that I myself composed. This is actually how the first piece of the project was created,” he recounts. “I kept adding more fragments and more musicians. Then we recorded our music and started to perform it in public.”
Azizi stresses that his and his colleagues’ activities come from a “profound love of classical music and the desire to promote it, to make it familiar and comprehensible to more people who did not have a chance to encounter it before.” Most of the music that surrounds us every day is rooted in the classics, he points out.
“You only need to realize it.”
And since most of the contemporary music originates in classics, Azizi decided to go straight to the roots and give the classics a contemporary sound. With time, the show has developed and is now presented in two versions – electric and acoustic. The musicians are currently preparing new versions of their program, which will suit schools.
They also plan to travel to international festivals.
“There are quite a few people who simply are afraid of classical music; they think that they need special preparations to enjoy it, and this is not exactly true,” says Azizi. “We want to present classical music in a way that as many people as possible can enjoy and understand it and make it a part of their cultural diet. And it works.
Many times after our concerts people come up to us just to say ‘Thank you.
Now we really are curious to listen to more of the classics.’”
The Testing Tools festival takes place at Beit Tami in Tel Aviv between August 7 – 9. Diggin Classics performs on August 8 (8 p.m. and 10 p.m.) and August 9 (8 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.). Ticket prices for the shows are between NIS 15 – 20 for one show or NIS 80 – 100 for a package of eight. For reservations: (03) 528-8827/9. For more information, www.tel-aviv.gov.il