Blues musicians look to strike a chord in Tel Aviv festival

Annual concert series highlights the growing indie rock scene in the White City, says local singer Gal De Paz

Luke Tress is a video journalist and tech reporter for the Times of Israel

Tel Aviv’s fourth annual Blues Festival kicked off Wednesday night, with 40 shows over four days in clubs across the city, and featuring an opening act by Grammy Award winner Alvin Youngblood Hart.

The blues and rock scene in Israel is small but growing quickly, said Gal De Paz, who is performing in the festival for the fourth year with her band, the Paz Band.

“There are a lot of people in Israel that in the past few years have inserted blues back into the music, the cultural vibe. We don’t really have blues here that much, like America, but in the past few years it has grown and we have a lot of great blues artists,” De Paz said.

The Tel Aviv native has seen a shift in Israel’s live music scene since releasing her first album in 2010. There were not many outlets for rock, blues and folk musicians in Israel at the time, but the genres are now popular in the concert and festival scenes, De Paz said. The mainstream media in Israel does not reflect this shift, though, and does not support indie musicians, said De Paz, who also sings with the hip hop group Lucille Crew.

She attributes the rising popularity of the music to a weariness with mainstream pop music, much of which is rooted in the blues, she said.

“It’s a very strong foundation to a lot of genres that aren’t blues. Rock, country, soul, folk, R and B, hip hop, pop,” De Paz said. “It’s the basic chords, it’s the basic lyrics, the basic emotion.”

Tel Aviv singer Oded Weiss has performed in the Blues Festival each year with his band, the Periphery. He described the group’s music as “blue collar rock” and said its music derives from the blues.

Weiss said that more artists are entering the scene in Israel as exclusively blues artists and that shows, and audience appreciation, have become much more widespread in recent years.

“They say that the bands run the festivals, but actually the audience runs the festivals,” Weiss said. “Many of the gigs are full of people that are happy to go to these concerts and are happy to buy these albums and CDs and happy to support the artists.”

Above: Tel Aviv band Oded Weiss and the Periphery plays a blues song in Hebrew. The group is performing in the blues festival on Friday night. Click and scroll on the video to move around.

De Paz also sees that the music strikes a chord with audiences around the country, and believes it will continue to grow. Despite its name, the blues can be uplifting, she said.

“I don’t think it’s as sad as people think. It’s very real. I like that sometimes it’s ugly, so ugly that it’s beautiful. It’s really raw, they’re not trying to be nice or sound perfect. It’s just real emotions in music,” De Paz said.

The 2017 winter Blues Festival, featuring both Israeli and international artists performing in Hebrew and English, began with a performance by Alvin Youngblood Hart Wednesday night in south Tel Aviv. The Paz Band is performing on Saturday night at 8:30 p.m.

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