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http://m.forward.com/blogs/sisterhood-blog/188652/q-and-a-orthodox-singing-sensation-ofir-ben-shitr/

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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…).

I can’t even begin to explain why I like this so much. It is campy, derivative, and yet original and provocative.

Hint: follow the clues in the tags to this post to find the duo (Israeli “Greek” musicians) whose song the folks in the video are lip-syncing to…

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:

Here’s the link:

Israel Ministry of Toursim:Free Israel Music DVD*

I am really interested in knowing what the musical selection is in this promotional DVD. Here’s the introductory text:

When you visit Israel, you’ll never be the same! Now you can request a complimentary Israel DVD and receive an unforgettable music video of the Holy Land – absolutely free! Just fill out the information below to request your free Israel Music DVD. Thank you for your time and input!

What this is about (outreach to Christian Churches by the Israel Ministry of Tourism) is clarified in the pull-down menus in the order form:

  • Personal titles include, beyond the usual “Mr., Miss, Mrs., Ms. and Dr.,” also “Rev.,” “Pastor,” and “Bishop”
  • The additional information optionally requested asks to specify one’s role “in my church or organization”

Beyond the obvious curiosity about content, this online ad is interesting for at least two major reasons.

Number one: a concrete example of how music may serve political, and economic, goals. (In this case: outreach and PR, as well as promotion of tourist facilities, etc.).

Number two: the specific marketing target of this publication addresses a fundamental ambiguity. Is outreach from the State of Israel (via one of its Ministries) towards Christianity a matter of “international” or “interfaith” relations? Both? And what can music add to it? (A lot, I believe, if one considers the centuries-old interest on the part of Christian scholars towards the sources of Jewish music).

At any rate, I just filled out the order form. We’ll see if I receive a copy.

Stay tuned.

* The spelling of “toursim” is from the website (I left it here because it sounds a bit like taqsim…).

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