‘Changing clothes,’ heavy metal band goes acoustic in museum gig

‘Changing clothes,’ heavy metal band goes acoustic in museum gig

Orphaned Land will perform with ethnic group Habrera Hativeet’s Shlomo Bar at Jerusalem’s Islamic Art Museum

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

The musically diverse members of Orphaned Land, Israel's best-known heavy metal band (Courtesy Orphaned Land)
The musically diverse members of Orphaned Land, Israel's best-known heavy metal band (Courtesy Orphaned Land)

Orphaned Land vocalist Koby Farhi has been making heavy metal music since he was 15, but he’s decidedly eclectic in his musical tastes.

In fact, Farhi’s favorite Israeli musician is 73-year-old Shlomo Bar, founder of Habrera Hativeet, an ethnic band with Moroccan, Indian and Israeli influences.

The two will perform together Wednesday at Jerusalem’s Islamic Art Museum, in an acoustic performance that will include Farhi’s Orphaned Land, Bar, and singer Moran Magal, who often sings with Orphaned Land.

It will be Orphaned Land’s fourth appearance at the museum, and it’s a favorite space for the band, said Farhi.

“We appear all over the place, so it’s fun to change the format — it’s like changing clothes,” he said. “The museum offers a sense of culture and history and Jerusalem, and that’s great.”

With elements of Eastern, Western and Asian influences in the heavy metal band’s music, Orphaned Land is known for its message of peace and unity among Jews, Arabs and Christians. The band’s songs are in Hebrew and English, and its last album, “All is One,” was produced in Israel, Turkey and Sweden.

Performing with Bar, however, is a dream come true for Farhi, now 40.

“I’ve been a fan of Shlomo’s for years,” he said. “There were two years that I traveled and I only listened to Habrera Hativeet. It’s something so authentic, a meeting of east and west. He does what we do, just in a different way, and he’s been doing it since before I was born.”

Bar, who moved with his family to Israel from Morocco when he was six, is considered a pioneer of ethnic music in Israel, bringing the darbuka drum to the stage, and creating a fusion of east and west that hadn’t been heard before.

Turns out, he also loves heavy metal, courtesy of his oldest son, a drummer who first introduced him to Orphaned Land.

“It’s intellectual music,” said Bar. “Heavy metal music is the best thing that came out of the Western world. Not the Beatles, which is commercial and sweet like margarine. There’s something in heavy metal that’s trying to talk about the truth, about wars.”

Shlomo Bar at the EMI, the Israel Artists Association, lifetime achievement awards ceremony in February (Tomer Neuberg/Flash 90)
Shlomo Bar at the EMI, the Israel Artists Association, lifetime achievement awards ceremony in February (Tomer Neuberg/Flash 90)

While Bar had heard Orphaned Land’s music for years, it’s his first time performing with the native head bangers. His voice on the phone was deep and smoky; he sounded stoked.

“I just finished recording with an electronic band and if you’re open to things, then you can be influenced,” he said. “I’m at an age that I’m not afraid of anything.”

Both musicians said their music and lyrics had much in common.

“Orphaned Land brings so many Eastern elements into metal music,” said Bar. “It’s very evocative of my music.”

Like Bar’s ethnic sounds, heavy metal music doesn’t try to compromise with the commercial music world, said Farhi.

“It’s not radio friendly, it doesn’t try to be famous,” he said. “It goes with honesty in its texts and in its music, which can be noisy and hard. There’s a lot of truth there.”

For Farhi, those elements were what first attracted him as a teen to the music of heavy metal band Iron Maiden, he said.

He grew up in Jaffa, “in a place of coexistence and not-coexistence,” he said, with tensions and the “hard core of living in the Middle East.”

Heavy metal “was habrera hativeet, the natural choice,” he said with a laugh, evoking the name of Bar’s iconic ethnic music band.

The long-haired and tattooed Kobi Farhi, lead singer of Orphaned Land (Courtesy Orphaned Land)
The long-haired and tattooed Kobi Farhi, lead singer of Orphaned Land (Courtesy Orphaned Land)

When the band was first formed in 1991, it was called Resurrection. The group of dark-haired and goateed musicians, which still includes bassist Uri Zelha, has added electric guitarist Chen Balbus, drummer Matan Shmuel and guitarist Idan Amsalem, and is led by the long-haired and tattooed Farhi. They have performed nearly continuously for the last 25 years.

Considered Israel’s premier heavy metal band, Orphaned Land opened for fellow metal band Metallica during its 2010 performance in Israel.

In 2013, Orphaned Land and Palestinian rock group Khalas performed across Europe together, sharing a stage and crowded tour bus for a kind of coexistence tour. Reactions were all positive, with Orphaned Land described as “quite possibly the most popular Israelis in the Middle East.”

Their fans started an online petition to nominate them for the Nobel Peace Prize and the two bands won the 2014 Global Metal Award from the Metal Hammer Golden Gods, attended by Farhi and Khalas lead vocalist Abed Hathut.

At the awards ceremony, Farhi said, “The only conflict that Abed and I have is who will pay for the fucking beer.”

This week, however, the band’s focus is on acoustics, and the opportunity to perform with Shlomo Bar.

Farhi is hoping that Orphaned Land and Bar can eventually collaborate on an album, with Bar writing music for the heavy metal band.

“I listen to everything,” said Farhi. “I have everything in my collection. Metal is my music, but we’re the most musical metal band out there. We connect to everything.”

Orphaned Land and Shlomo Bar, Wednesday, April 6, 8 p.m., Islamic Art Museum, Jerusalem. Tickets available for NIS 60 and NIS 50 for students, at the museum box office, museum website or by calling 02-566-1291.

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