The top 5 tent protest songs

August 24, 2011 by

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First appeared in www.forward.com


What is the theme song for Israel’s Tent Protests? Although there are some brand new candidates (Mosh Ben Ari’s Look Me In The Eyes, and the unplugged version of a new song The Good Guys Will Win, that HaDag Nachash wrote specially for the Tent Protests), Israelis are rediscovering popular songs from the recent past that would seem to have been written with the current protests in mind. Tallkbackers and youtube uploaders are hailing them as prophecies finally coming to pass…

My top five are as follows:

1. The hands-down winner for the funksters has to be from HaDag Nachash, whose entire back catalog reads like a manifesto for today’s protesters. Lo Frayyerim – Not Suckers – is the band’s early attempt to both describe and ridicule a situation that the middle classes would seem to have finally chosen to reject. “Until when?” they ask with a great Sisters Sledgy rhythm guitar, kicking bassline, and lyrics of disbelief and yearning. “We’ll serve reserve duty, pay our taxes, stand in traffic, no one screws with us…” Below is the clip with a translation, but this is the best version I’ve heard, where the lament for h-a-r-m-o-n-y rings out in brass celebration.

2. If we’re going more easy-listening, then Eti Ankri’s soft reggae tribute to No Woman No Cry called Millions, would make it to the top. This song takes the personal route, exploring the terrible sense of humiliation one undergoes when judged only on one’s income. Eti warns sweetly yet pointedly: “There are millions like me, of all shapes and sizes, with no money, not worth a dime.” Her sign-off sent shivers down everyone’s spine, though it took another seven years for us to try to do something about it: “Today it’s me, tomorrow it could be you…”

3. Following the flow of faux-reggae protest, who can forget Mook E’s Israeli take on a more Jamaican original: Everyone’s Talking About Peace (click on “interactive transcript” for translation)? A classic that won best song of 2002 (so long ago?), resonates even more today as protesters work hard to separate their demands from security and defence issues. As the chorus points out: “Everyone’s talking about Peace, but no one is talking about Justice…” Maybe now they are, Mook E, maybe now they are.

4. Though the video clip that accompanies Kobi Oz’ powerful rendition of the liturgical cry for the poor, Shavat Aniim, offers a shocking picture of Israel’s poor, and Sitting in a Café is a classic, it would have to be his Rolled up in a Newspaper, with his band Teapacks, that makes number four for me. Set to a traditional Moroccan tune (recently sung by the Star is Born winner, Hagit Yaso), Teapacks take us on a surreal ride through a dysfunctional society that now, 18 years later, protesters are attempting to fix. (I have it on good authority that Kobi Oz has now written an extra verse, for the tent protests. Watch this space.)

5. Apologies to others – Micha Shitreet’s Inti Omri is strong, I Have No Other Land always polls high, and Numbers by HaDag Nachash is a financial classic – but I have to grant the final place to another more recent HaDag Nachash cracker, I Believe. With jaunty brass and falsetto, the guys make a list of all of Israel’s ongoing craziness, and carelessly dance: “Ain’t no one around who gives a rat’s ass” (or translations to that effect). Thankfully, when the the activist hero of the song goes on to recount his fall into despair, we find an example of where the current protests may be proving the FishSnakes wrong.

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