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Israeli folk band ‘The Roosters’ get new life with orchestral mashup

The Revolution Orchestra, which specializes in reviving long-gone artists, is bringing a beloved 1960s act back to the stage, remixed with video and more

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

Zohar Sharon, left and Roi Oppenheim of The Revolution Orchestra, currently performing 'The Roosters -- The Remix' over several dates in March 2022 (Courtesy The Revolution Orchestra)
Zohar Sharon, left and Roi Oppenheim of The Revolution Orchestra, currently performing 'The Roosters -- The Remix' over several dates in March 2022 (Courtesy The Revolution Orchestra)

Israeli singing troupe The Roosters performed for only about three years in the early 1960s, but many locals are still familiar with their music and can recite all their lyrics.

Zohar Sharon and Roi Oppenheim were counting on that enduring popularity when they created their latest concert series based on the music of The Roosters, known locally as HaTarnigolim (Israeli artists at the time were expected to have a Hebrew name for domestic consumption and an English one for audiences abroad).

In “The Roosters — The Remix,” Sharon and Oppenheim’s Revolution Orchestra offers a unique mashup of the music of the folk troupe, using the songs as raw material for their own reinterpretation.

The arrangement includes background videos of The Roosters, solo artists who channel the voices and movements of the original singers, and a chorus of the Efroni Choir youth singers.

“[Ha]Tarnigolim is just really, really good music,” said Oppenheim. “And a lot of it.”

The troupe, which at different times included Yehoram Gaon, comic Shaike Levi and Gavri Banai, among others, sang music composed for military bands, as well as new music written by composers Sasha Argov and Haim Hefer.

The Roosters never sang with microphones or amplifiers, and at the time were only accompanied by an accordion, said Oppenheim, which gave the orchestra ample opportunity to find new types of accompaniment for the music.

The Roosters Remix is the latest in the orchestra’s series of theatrical concerts resurrecting long-dead acts for new audiences. In 2014, their “live show of dead people,” as Sharon calls it, featured the music of John Lennon, Jimmy Hendrix and others. The music is accompanied by snippets of the original artists in videos, as well as interviews and concerts.

When they ran into copyright issues with some of the music they were performing, the pair began thinking about other music that was more accessible to them.

They first delved into comic act Gashash Hahiver, made up of Roosters alumni Levi, Banai and Yisrael Poliakov. Their “Concerto for Gashash and Orchestra” brought the comedy trio back to the stage, some 20 years after they stopped performing, using a mosaic of original orchestral works and arrangements interwoven with video and sound samples from their skits and songs.

“Everyone had seen all the Gashash material, but there’s never been a concerto for each one of them,” said Oppenheim.

Some original members of HaTarnegolim or The Roosters, offering inspiration for the current Revolution Orchestra concert, ‘The Roosters — The Remix’ (Courtesy The Roosters)

Both noted the importance of the interplay between video and music in bringing back the classics.

“We’ve done animation, video art, actors, dance, and when you bring live music along, it changes the whole focus,” said Sharon.

The two musicians met 20 years ago as students at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and soon realized that they were both interested in creating more than a repertoire of music, but rather a choreographed event.

“It just changes from project to project,” said Oppenheim.

Their shows definitely appeal to an older crowd, said Sharon, but younger audiences have been connecting as well, often recognizing the words without knowing exactly how.

“The audience loves it,” he said. “It’s hearing something you know but seeing it in a new light.”

“The Roosters — The Remix” will be performed on March 7 in Herzliya, March 12 at the Israeli Opera, March 17 in Rishon Lezion as part of the Comedy and Humor Festival, with special guest, Shaike Levy and March 19 at the Jerusalem Theater.

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