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Punk Rock in Israel
Daniel Cohen

History of punk rock, core elements / philosophy, development in Israel
Global roots
o Developed between 1974-1976 (early 70s) in US, UK, Australia
o Derived from garage rock/ protopunk
o Second wave of punk is 1970s, spread throughout rest of Europe and in Asia
Common point in British/American punk: inner cities left to rot
o Allowed intermingling of young people, artists, squatters
o Sick of being ignored and fed up with the post war complacency
Core elements/ philosophy
o Do-it Yourself (DIY) ethic; self produced / distributed
o Musical virtuosity not required (in fact looked at suspiciously); ‘fast and ‘loud’
Development of rock / punk in Israel
o Rock represented rejection of nationalist culture, came to mark openness to dialogue, change
o By 1980s it was dominant form of pop culture in Israel, by 1990s it was compromised by a number of scenes/styles/textures
o Mid-1980s: Tel Aviv became hot-spot for ‘alternative’ rock or that with ‘cutting edge of aesthetic and stylistic innovation in rock’ (Regev-Seroussi pg. 175); post-punk and new-wave rock styles thrived.
o First Intifada (1987-1991) seemed to set the stage for development of punk in Israel; youths fed up of all the violence/ complacency. This was the Palestinian uprising against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

Nature of punk rock in Israel
Punk & Politics
o Punk about protest, freedom, speaking your own mind; believe there is too much apathy in Israel
Israel/Palestine conflict & mandatory military service
o Many punks are youths required to serve in Army, many defy joining by claiming insanity
o Some punks work in the army middle of the week and go to shows to let loose on weekends
o Most punk music supports the Palestinian people (not the Palestinian politicians), are against the occupation, yet have close connection with Israel
o Directly affected by bombings, conflict; leads to fear, frustration, depression, cynicism. Punk life provides ‘escapism’ for every day life.
Israeli punk & religion
o Many punks are not religious, but identify as being Jewish
o Tend to be against religious oppression in any culture, disagree with Orthodox customs and pushing beliefs or customs on people
Generally have positive outlook, optimistic and believe their music and voices are necessary for change

Israeli punk rock sounds / examples

  • State of Fear by Useless I.D. (English vocals); more global appeal with English lyrics, have toured around the world
  • Radio lo chaver (Radio’s Not A Friend) by Beer7; female vocal lead, paved way for female punks – music video shows light spirited antics of punk rock
  • Mi Aatam by Chaos Rabak; popular punk band in Israel, style reminiscent of UK late 70s punk rock

Discussion/ open question:
Does the notion of ‘globalized Israeliness’ imply that music, specifically musical genres such as punk, are universal in that they translate seamlessly from one culture to another? How does punk in Israel support or refute your claims?

Note: ‘globalized Israeliness’ is a mixture of Hebrewism and effects of globalization of culture, according to Regev & Seroussi.

References:
Christgau, Robert, “Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk, by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain” (review), New York Times Book Review, 1996. Retrieved
on January 17, 2007. http://www.robertchristgau.com/xg/bkrev/mcneil-nyt.php
McLaren, Malcolm, “Punk Celebrates 30 Years of Subversion”, BBC News, August 18, 2006. Retrieved on January 17, 2006
Nord, L. (Director). (2006). “Jericho’s Echo: Punk Rock in the Holy Land” [Documentary]. United States. http://www.jerichosecho.com/
Regev, Motti and Edwin Seroussi. Popular Music and National Culture in Israel, University of California Press, Berkeley 2004

View this document on Scribd
View this document on Scribd

I always enjoy reading the proposals submitted by the students of Music in Israel for their class projects (papers, presentations and performances, as outlined in the Class Syllabus). Then, I begin thinking, and learning, from them. I divide them into groups, and created graphs to describe their formats and contents.

It should suggest where things are at, now that we have reached the middle of the Semester.

Format-wise, students were somewhat “conservative.” Most students opted for the traditional “paper” (or essay) format. Some went for collaborative class presentations. And a few (but still a considerable number) chose to produce and present a performance to the class.

Music in Israel | Fall 2013 | Student Project Formats

In terms of the topic that students chose to work on, regardless of the format of their projects, I was able to isolate four major groups: ethnographic and ethnomusicological themes, the study of art music, the study of popular music, and the relationship between music and history.

Music in Israel | Fall 2013 | Student Project Topics

Ethnographic projects cover a wide variety of topics, ranging from the emergence of Judeo-Spanish song and Klezmer music between ethnography and commercial revival, to the sacred/secular divide in Israeli (musical) culture, issues of gender, various types of fieldwork (including the “ethnography of the Self”…), the study of traditional musical instruments, of the relationship between music and food, the role of Arabic maqam in Jewish music, music education, music in the Kibbutz, and the role of music in various Jewish “ethnic communities,” from Russia and Romania to Central Asia.

Students working on popular music will be covering a variety of themes, including Jazz, world Jewish and Israeli “pop,” ethnic rock, punk rock, Hip hop, and religious rock, the impact of American music on Israel’s popular music, the work of specific artists or ensembles (including Naomi Shemer, Shlomo Carlebach, and the Idan Reichel Project), and the impact of conflict and the role of the Israeli Defence Forces in shaping popular musical culture.

Art music is well represented as well, with topics ranging from the Israeli piano and vocal repertoires, to the impact of America’s Jewish composers on Israeli music, to the important issue of “style” (Mediterraneims, Orientalism, etc.) in Israel’s musical aesthetics.

The relationship between music and history will be mainly investigated in two directions: the role of film (and especially film music) in narrating history and representing culture, and the musical representations of the Holocaust.

Perhaps we are half way done, but it looks like a busy end of semester is coming up!

We recently reviewed Regev and Seroussi’s Short introduction to Israeli popular culture, which describes different modalities of “Israeliness,” or Israeli cultural identity.

To summarize:
1. Hebrewism
The work of early Israeli writers (in Hebrew) was a “realism without vernacular” (Robert Alter, UC Berkeley), leading to the creation of a “tradition of the new” that is musically expressed in the shire eretz yisrael, or Songs of the Land of Israel (SLI).
2. Globalized Israeliness
A paradox of Israeli culture: in creating a “Jewish state,” Zionism has had to reject Diaspora Jewish culture, and to normalize Jewish life by adopting global cultural traits. Musical expressions: rock and world pop.
3. Mizrachiyut
Or: location, location, location! A reaction to the “orientalization” of non-European Jewish culture that highlights Israeli culture on the basis of its geographic origins (the Middle East and the Lands of Islam). Primary musical expression: musiqah mizrachit.
4. Religious Israeliness
A wide cultural network that encompasses all Israelis who primarily identify themselves, as individuals and groups, through religion and religious practices. A wide variety of ubiquitous musical expressions, ranging from the revival of piyyut (Hebrew liturgical poetry) to rock.
5. Palestinian Israeliness
A hybrid and complex cultural identity fostered by ca. 20% of Israeli citizens seeking representation within the broader Israeli society.

But in class we also had the opportunity to speak directly with dr. Edwin Seroussi, the co-author of our textbook and a Professor of musicology at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. (The class is not sponsored by Skype, but we do use Skype a lot…). Seroussi reminded us that the five modalities listed above were intended as a summary, and are neither a complete overview of the Israeli soundscape, nor mutually exclusive.

Eviyatar Banai‘s song is an example of the commutative power of musical cultural identity. We hear (and see) several of the modes listed above. Could you guess which ones? (I counted at least three…).


This semester we will be exploring a set of complex cultural realities. As one of our textbooks states in its opening sentence:

The study of Israeli culture is one of the most challenging fields of inquiry among those relating to the investigation of nation-states that arose during the 20th century.

And yet, reality is always even more complex than how we posit it, even academically. This is why we will continue to read news from the Middle East every week.

Yesterday, the Israeli press reported on a “scandal” that happened in the Palestinian city of Hebron (Southern West Bank). Two Israeli soldiers on patrol joined a wedding party. In full military gear, they danced with the crown, to the sound of Gangnam Style. Here’s a link to the Jerusalem Post article, where I first read this news (which since last night has spread to news sources worldwide).

There’s a lot to deconstruct here, trust me…

..enjoy Riff Cohen’s video/song, A Paris.

Riff Cohen (born in 1984 in Tel Aviv) is an Israeli singer, songwriter, actress, and musician who performs songs in Hebrew and French. She grew up in the Ramat Aviv Gimmel neighborhood of Tel Aviv, but moved to Paris after winning an artistic scholarship. In 2012, she performed as the opening act for the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ I’m with You World Tour in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Here are the listening assignments for next week, organized chronologically and connected (when possible) with related pages of our textbook.

It’s all good stuff. Really good stuff.

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Prompted in part by the interest that several students have shown for Israeli rock, I’ve been listening (again) to Etti Ankri, who remains a mystery to me…

Born in 1963 in a Tunisian-Israeli family, she has achieved an incredible popularity in Israel. Her debut album, Roah lekhah ba-‘einayim (I Can See It in Your Eyes, see the video below) sold 90,000 copies in 1991. That’s almost a copy every fifty Israelis. I suspect that the electric (rock) guitar, combined with her haunting voice, may have been the key to such a success:

She then went through a whole set of musical explorations. See for example Esther, from 1993:

And her duets with David Daor (live in the late 1990’s):

And those with Matti Caspi (my personal favorites):

During the past decade, Ankri went “back” to religion; that is, to a strict Orthodox practice, stated in her public performances by her attire (and by the lengthy narrative introductions to her songs), and recently has been performing Hebrew medieval poetic texts:

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