Eclectic. Dedicated. Communal. That’s what five young music bloggers from the US and UK had to say about the Israeli music scene, having spent a week making intensive rounds of musicians’ studios, homes and rehearsals.
“There’s a real variety here, a combination of genres and cultures, of things being blended,” said Brandon Bogajewicz, the blogger behind The Burning Ear out of Los Angeles. “It’s Arabic, polka, a blend of everything and you get a strong sense that these musicians are following their path. For better or worse financially, they’re doing what they want to do.”
The bloggers — Bogajewicz, Rebecca Schiller of the New Musical Express in London, Samantha Edussuriya of MTV Iggy in New York, and London’s Luke Britton of This Fake/DIY and Rory Hamilton of Feel My Bicep — were guests of Kinetis, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting Israel as a vibrant source of innovation. They did the usual tour around Jerusalem’s Old City and spent a day in the Negev, but their focus was primarily in Tel Aviv, where they spent their days and nights discovering Israeli music and talking to musicians.
“We met people at various stages of their career, the super-famous and students who are just starting out,” said Edussuriya. “What’s been cool to see is the technical proficiency; there’s so much talent and potential and they’re really dedicating themselves to it.”
Here’s what they had to say about their favorites:
Acollective (pronounced HaCollective in Hebrew), a self-proclaimed “seven-piece band and social movement,” was a favorite of all five, thought to be a shoo-in for succeeding abroad.
They ate dinner with The Young Professonals (TYP) singer Ivri Lider and his musical partner Johnny Goldstein — the duo recently signed a three-album contract with Universal Music, a first for an Israeli group — and tried out the group’s funky moves from the single D.I.S.C.O.
They loved Karolina, the Eilat-raised groove chanteuse whose songs in Hebrew were surprisingly captivating to them, even though none understands Hebrew.
“It was fascinating talking to the musicians about language,” said Brandon. “Some say it comes easier in English; Karolina said she had to dig that Hebrew poetry out of her.”
They liked the fact that Kinetis, the group hosting them, “didn’t pander to their tastes” but exposed them to sounds that they had never heard before, such as Arab metal band Khalas.
“They all seem to be very cautious about overusing their influences and whether they have enough of their own slant on things; they don’t want to be copycats,” said Britton. “What we’ve seen so far are bands who use a variety of different styles but that’s because that’s what’s influenced them personally.”
As purveyors of the current music landscape, they all admired the sense of community in the Israeli music scene, a seeming lack of competition between artists and total immersion in their music, as well as the absence of what they called “posers.”
“Everyone knows each other,” said Hamilton. “We would be mingling and someone from the previous night would come up and want to introduce us to someone else, but we’d already met. That’s good, and it’s not like that in London.”
It’s a different kind of scene in Los Angeles, New York or London, said the bloggers, where many musicians are overly consumed with their image, “their feathered hair and tight jeans,” said Bogajewicz. Edussuriya conjectured that something in Tel Aviv “doesn’t allow for bullsh*t,” while Bogajewicz wondered if the sense of community is what helps push musicians forward.
“Their lifestyle is just immersed in this,” added Hamilton.
“They’re all hustling for each other,” said Bogajewicz. “It’s interesting; Israel is a country defined by conflict abroad but it all goes out the window when it comes to music.”