Jewish Journal

The Cultural Conection Part 2 Israeli Popular Music

by LW Ben Yechezkiel

July 19, 2012 | 8:53 pm

This week I got a chance to catch a concert by Israeli pop superstar Moshe Peretz at a great small venue call Tzafta in Jerusalem. This was particularly a treat since Peretz usually plays to sold out crowds in Israels Nokia Center in Tel Aviv (Israels staples center/msg/universal ampitheatre) or Caesaerea (Israeli’s Hollywood Bowl/Greek Theatre….l’havidil).

Peretz is part of the wave of mizrachi (middle eastern) Israeli music that dominates the pop scene other superstars include Eyal Golan aand Sarit Hadad. This music is not well known among American Jews. At the LA Yom Haatzmaut Golan was the featured performer at the end of the day. As the day wound down one could see the Americans heading home and the Israelis arriving. In fact my friend Yossi Klein Halevi a scholar at Jerusalem’s Hartman Institute oftern lectures on modern Israeli music (although our tastes differ a bit) but told me that when he suggests this topic on his scholar in residence visits to the states at synagogues they almost always prefer he talk on politics. I hope Yossi doesn t mind linking this short clip of a presentation on this subject I attended at the Sephardic Education Center in Jerusalem, (yes that’s Rav Bouskila in the clip too) maybe it will inspire more congregations to invite Yossi to speak on this subject.

The music represents several trends in Israeli society:

The rise of Mizrachi empowerment particularly since the election of Menachem Begin. Up through the late 1980s the Israel broadcasting authority didnt even play this music. It was called musica ha casetot, most of the performers didnt have record contracts and sold their tapes often from performances at weddings outside the tel aviv central bus station.

The breaking down of cultural barriers between mizrachi and ashkenazi jews….although more elitist ashkenazi types favor more rock oriented musicians some israeli but mostly american/european.

Great comfort with Jewish tradition. Several collections of traditional songs performed by prominent artists feature performances with Moshe Peretz, Eyal Golan and others.

Comfort with their roots in the muslim countries with use of traditional middle eastern instruments and songs performed in Arabic.

Some clips:

Sarit Hadad performing Shema Yisrael

Here’s an amazing one: Nisren Kadri an Arab Israeli from Haifa (you can check a Haaretz article on her here)performing the same song on Eyal Golan’s :Eyal Golan is Calling You TV American Idol style TV show…she was a winner(the voice cracking is due to nerves she can cetainly hit the notes)...she is now touring Israeli with Eyal Golan


Koby Peretz (no relation to Moshe) perfroming with Ishtar Alabina an Egyptian born Israeli singer…I saw this one in a live performance the crowd obviously went nuts. This won an MTV world music award


The next one represents both the mizrachi influence and another trend among both ashkenazic and mizrachi pop stars returning to roots. Prominent among these are meir and evyatar banai and bary sacharof. This one is from Koby Oz a mainstream rock star (with the group Teapacks) who took a break from performing and then released an album called mizmorim neboochim (songs of the perplexed a pun on Maimonides guide to the perplexed). Here is an electronic duet with his grandfather who was a mohel, shochet, chazan and paytan (poet) in Koby’s hometown of Sderot. I heard him perform in concert where he dismissed the idea that a retun to jewish themes is a “trend” but rather simply traditionl. OZ teaches a daily talmud class at Alma the “secular” center for study of Jewish sources right of trendy rechov Shenkin in Tel Aviv.


Finally here is one that Yossi gave me the background of by Ehud Banai . Banai has also returned to his roots in performances and personal observance. This clip however is his decades later response to a poem beat poet Allen Ginzberg wrote after a trip to Israel in the 1960s. Yossi, in a presentation to young American Hillel staff he gave in Jerusalem called it the ultimate statement on the differences between American and Israeli Jews….and to think I had just loved the song while having no idea what exactly it was about.


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