Archives for posts with tag: italy

The Festival della Canzone Italiana (Festival of Italian [Popular] Song), organized in the coastal city of Sanremo by RAI, Italy’s broadcasting authority, since 1951, served as a model for the festival ha-zemer ha-yisraeli (Festival of Israeli Song), organized by the Israel Broadcasting Authority since 1960.

On the musical relations between Italy and Israel, you can read Crossing the Sea of Songs, by Francesco Spagnolo, here.

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We’ve already encountered many American and European influences on Israeli popular music. This week, we dive into them by following two parallel threads.

On the one hand, we explore the rise of song contests, which since the 1960’s translated earlier (and still persistent) modes of communal singing (shirah be-tzibur) into organized events celebrating national identity, but also the connections between Israeli culture and its European counterparts. This is a topic that speaks to me on many levels, especially since it has to do with explicit musical links between Israel and Italy, which I have explored elsewhere (in an article poetically titled Crossing the Sea of Song).

Here are the week’s assignments:

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My favorite examples of the Italian-Israeli connections are probably the remakes of Azzurro and L’italiano into Israeli popular songs.

Here is Adriano Celentano singing Azzurro (1968)

A song by the legendary Italian lawyer-turned-singer-songwriter, Paolo Conte (the French love him almost as much as Jerry Lewis and Woody Allen…):

And here’s Arik Einstein’s remake, Amru lo, which is reminiscent of both versions listed above:

And here’s Italy’s “national-popular” song par excellence: Toto Cotugno’s L’italiano:

Remade in a Song of the Land of Israel with some mizrachi echoes:

And the two songs (in Italian and in Hebrew), brought together in a restaurant in Kfar Saba (a city in Israel’s Sharon Plain that maintains a municipal website in both Hebrew and Spanish, and that is Idan Reichel’s hometown, among other things) by an Israeli community chorus last year (have I ever mentioned that I think YouTube is truly changing our ways to study popular culture?):


On the other hand, we go deeper into the influence of rock music on Israeli popular music, and will be listening to early examples of songs written and performed by what our textbook defines the “elite of Israeli rock.” I’ve already posted on this topic before.

In any case, the assignments for the current week are here:

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Next Tuesday, we should all be displaying (especially me, I suspect) our best behavior, since we are welcoming another UC Berkeley Class, Jewish Studies 101, co-taught by Erich Gruen and Hannah Setlzer, who asked me to give a talk on the history of Jewish musical culture, with a particular reference to Italy in the early-modern period.

To make sure that we can still connect this class with the topic of our course, I offered to speak about “Jewish Culture and Jewish Cultural Products” (with a specific reference to music). I am somewhat confident that it will end up raising some relevant issues in regards to music in Israel (especially: is there a specificity to Jewish cultural production in a context of Jewish self-government?), even though for a day we will be (sonically) inhabiting the world of the Italian ghettos.

On Thursday, we resume our 20th-century focus, and discuss the impact of Jewish history (and Jewish musical history) on the work of select Israeli composers: Tsippi Fleisher,  Paul Ben-Haim (whose music we now know quite well), Noam Sheriff and Oded Zehavi.

Here’s the weekly listening assignment sheet:

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