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THE PARTICIPANTS in this year’s Piano Festival gather for a group photo this week. .(Photo by: YAEL TZUR)
Tinkling the ivories in Tel Aviv
By SHANNA FULD
09/04/2019
Annual Piano Festival announces stellar lineup
Have you ever heard “Say My Name” by Beyoncé played on the keyboard? At Tel Aviv’s 21st annual Piano Festival, this is just one of the unusual ways you’ll experience the world’s most versatile instrument.

The festival, which is the largest in Israel, will host around 300 musicians, singers and poets within the framework of 57 different concerts. The festival originally began with classic piano scores and has transcended into a variety of genres including popular and indie music that bring the piano to the forefront. At the time of this writing, 92% of the tickets for the festival have already been sold. A handful of music acts were performed in a preview presentation for press and family Monday, September 1 at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art to give a taste of what is yet to come.

Weaving through hundreds of email pitches with samples of music, the festival’s artistic director, Effi Aneta, boiled down her inbox, locking in some heavy hitters like longtime singer/actor Oshik Levi, songwriter Elai Botner and the Israeli folk rock rhythmic master Eric Berman. What is most important to Aneta is incorporating new sounds and faces to the festival and making sure the event is produced without any influence from outside political voices. Tel Aviv’s municipality is behind the operation, but Aneta says they take a hands-off approach so that the art can be pure. For her, the toughest part is having to turn down young people who want a chance to take to the stage.

“There are big names and they are very important, but if you ask me, the heart of the festival – the beating heart – are the young, surprising and fascinating new artists,” Aneta said. “The audience of the festival know they are going to come for the concerts and get something different. They are not trying to get the regular stuff. They can find that. They are looking for the different things.”

THIS YEAR, the concert is filled with a load of popular indie music, plus pop and jazz. The 21st year of the festival is also getting more in line with the 21st century. The festival is 40% women this time around – though Israel’s music scene is still heavily male dominated.

Tali (24) and Liron (27) Carakukly became a pop pair six years ago when they each entered Israel’s X Factor independently. By the time the competition was over, the judges had pushed the two together, conjoining them into a duo. Today, they’re producing new music and will perform their electro-pop songs side by side on the piano with new arrangements for the crowd. Most importantly are their new songs, which will be presented at the festival. The numbers are so fresh, the singers’ management couldn’t give The Jerusalem Post the names.

“We are going to bring the piano to the center,” Liron Carakukly explained. “We are doing very special solos, with four hands.”

The festival will be a kickoff for Carakukly’s winter tour of Israel. The feature concert will tout one keyboard and a “computer man” to get the electric sounds right. According to the girls, there will be many surprises. They perform on November 13th in the evening.

Also holding it down for the ladies is Tmunat Isha, an all-women’s group who dedicate themselves to recognizing female artists. The group will play in the festival for the second time, this year with a strong tribute to Alona Turel, considered the only female musician to have entered the Israeli jazz scene during her time. The keyboardist and composer died on May 8 of this year. In Tmunat Isha’s first piano festival, Turel accompanied the women as a guest player.

“I feel very honored,” Tmunat Isha’s Ronnie Wagner said. “She was a teacher, a friend and a master of life.”

“She was very curious about new music and she came to listen to what we were doing with her songs and she was very supportive,” Meirav Hellinger said, referring to the musical arrangements her group created, which used Turel’s sounds as a foundation.

Band members from Tmunat Isha say their concert will explore Israeli music while adding in a jazz flare. The show will pay tribute to four female Israeli composers, who the ladies say have not gotten enough appreciation in the music world.

Big gun Oshik Levi told the Post his first home was the stage and 60 years later, he’ll be back in the house performing notes from his hits throughout his long career. He says a highlight of working the festival is getting to play the role of teacher. The last time Levi performed in the festival was 2006.

“It’s a beautiful festival,” he said. “There are many young people, girls and boys and old friends, too. It’s nice. It’s happening. I work with the young people in this festival, like Asaf Amdursky,” who will appear on stage with him as a special guest. Levi explained that Amdursky’s famous musician father was one of the best guitarists in the business from his time.

Though the veteran’s music is classic, he says he will be performing those familiar tunes with new arrangements on November 13.

Folk rocker Eric Berman’s show commemorates the 10-year anniversary of his album called Basement Tapes, which plays homage to Bob Dylan’s works. The show will be performed with Brooklyn-based (Israeli ex-pats) musicians Daniel Dor and Alon Albagly. His fourth time in the festival, Berman says his favorite part is getting to meet other artists. He calls the show a “new skin for an old ceremony.

“You get to see what everybody is up to and sometimes you can collaborate,” Berman said. “Artists rarely meet each other, especially solo artists.”

The piano festival will be in key November 13-16 at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art and the Cameri Theater, along with some performances taking place at the Noga Jaffa Hall and Anav Culture Center. Tickets cost between NIS 134-154 per show.
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