The Sounds of Israel – Makom music blogs

Israeli pop music is full of hints, comments, and colors of modern-day Israel. This ever-growing collection of blogs and articles draw on Israeli (and sometimes non-Israeli) songs to explore the deep rhythms of Israeli culture.

Arabs in the Galilee – pain that comes and goes

July 28, 2009 by

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“Pain that comes and goes
A song of pain that always returns…”
(Meir Ariel)

My daughter came home with eyes sparkling this morning after an all-night activity on the kibbutz. She had spent the evening in a classic Zionist youth movement activity – in England we’d call it a ‘wide game’, in Israel an Ash Layla – in effect a gentle kind of war game. Exchanging passwords, avoiding ‘ambushes’ and ‘kidnappings’, her group had ‘conquered’ the basketball court, and in so doing had won the War of Independence. “It’s thanks to us,” she declared proudly with a smile, “that the State of Israel was established!”

Who were they fighting against, I asked? Who was the enemy?

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The price of yellow ribbons

July 19, 2009 by

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I’d never really made the connection between that great Tony Orlando song, “Tie a Yellow Ribbon”, and soldiers. As a kid I just remember a nice tune, enjoying that lovely chugging train-like rhythm of ‘stay-on-the-bus, forget-about-us…’ and a very suspicious-looking moustache. It wasn’t until the campaign to free Gilad Shalit got moving in our area of the Galilee that I realized that yellow ribbons were supposed to signify waiting for returning soldiers.

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Jazz in Israel – the nightingale sings

May 17, 2009 by

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I normally say that the only thing I miss about England is the soccer. But that is only a half-truth. After 13 years in Israel I also miss the jazz.

Being a Brit, as well as growing up on a rich diet of what we call football, I had also spent 7 years in London supping on top quality international jazz. My brother and I would pay for membership to Ronnie Scott’s club every year, a membership that allowed you to sit at tables in the smokey atmosphere (yes, smoke in a public place!), enjoy the same old jokes from Ronnie Scott himself, and glide on high to the sounds of the best jazzers in the world. Though I enjoyed the space less (ceilings too high), the Jazz Café in Camden was also a regular for me.

But Israeli jazz just didn’t do it for me. Something like the soccer here, it felt full of well-meaning replicas. People playing jazz how they imagined it should be played, rather than giving voice to the surprising uplift of talent and soul. Admittedly I’d been spoiled over the years. Just as growing up at Manchester United’s Theatre of Dreams can lead one to sniff at my local Bnei Sakhnin, so spending one’s birthday at the table closest to the stage while Hugh Masekela keens Stimela, or Andy Sheppard blows circular, tends to raise expectations unnaturally.

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About Israelis’ love affair with overseas

October 12, 2008 by

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Just got back from a week in Australia – an English-speaking land where I heard only Hebrew. It felt like the whole Jewish professional world there was made of ex-Israelis (except when they were ex-South Africans). The foreword of a leading book on the Ozzie Jewish community, New Under the Sun, marvels at the fact that there are more Israelis in Australia than there are Australians in Israel. Come to think of it, I bet that’s the case in the UK and in the States as well. Ex-pat Israelis are the secret influx to Jewish communities around the world.

On pondering this, I was reminded of the time I once found myself in an Israeli business meeting. I knew it was an Israeli business meeting, because at some point we both of us – complete strangers up until that point – had pulled out photos of our kids. He said to me: “Why do you think Israeli children are so beautiful? Because they’re only produced for export…” It was one of those painful jokes that only Israelis can tell to each other. We know, it’s a tough place to choose to continue to live.

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