Idol Chatter

In a movie, whenever there’s a song associated with Israel or Jews, it’s automatically “Hava Nagila,” and I’m here to tell you it’s enough already. (It’s also enough with the Manischewitz jokes, but we’ll get to that at some future point…) Israel is a center of technology and medical breakthroughs, among other contributions to world culture, and that’s before you get to any of the “birthplace of three religions” stuff. But there’s been a thriving music scene for years that started with folk-style music and dancing in the early days of the state, and has been rocking the country ever since, evolving to include musical styles of the day and containing myriad international influences.
So here’s 6 songs in honor of Israel’s 60th, that prove this country’s more than just “Hava Nagila.” (Videos with Hebrew or English lyrics provided where possible.)
Yiheyeh Tov,” by David Broza and Yonatan Gefen. Written after the Camp David Accords with Egypt, this slightly mournful song still closes every stanza with hope–the song’s reigning assurance is in its title: “It Will Be All Right” (alternately, “It Will Be Better”). “It will be all right, it will be all right, yes…sometimes I am shattered, but tonight, oh, tonight, with you I remain.” Transliterated here.
Hafla,” by Itzik Shamly. Itzik is one of the artists in the TACT Family, a stable of singers and performers who call themselves “the Israeli architects of hip-hop” and are led by hip-hop artist Subliminal. Shamly’s new album shows that it’s not all about rap in the TACT Family…Shamly’s got serious pipes. This party song (“Hafla” means a festival or celebration), and this song–with the others on Shamly’s album–points to the substantial influence of Mizrahi (Middle Eastern) sound in the contemporary Israeli music scene. Sample lyric: “What a celebration, this state of mind, and my head in the clouds, there’s no one who won’t flow here, because in the street they’re dancing.”

Im Telech,” the Idan Raichel Project. Another example of Israel’s music scene reflecting its wide diversity of talent and experience–I actually saw them perform at Radio City Music Hall last night, and they were by far the best received and most energetic. The song (“If You Go”) has the vocalist wondering what she’ll do if her lover leaves–she’ll have no one to talk to, and no one to calm her down, the special what that her lover can. Sample lyric: “If you leave, then who will embrace me that way, and listen to me at the end of the day?”
Tutim,” by Ethnix. Tutim means “strawberries,” and although some people today consider this song a cheesy oldie (from 1992…), it’s a song of peace that I think works in any era. Sample lyric: “Strawberries, strawberries –come on, let’s buy only strawberries, instead of the machines of war.”
Hinei Ani Ba,” by Hadag Nachash. In this song (literally, “Here I Am, I’m Coming”) the popular hip-hop group, responsible for a song made up almost totally of bumper stickers (“Shirat Hasticker”), spits lyrics fast and frenetic about the differences between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and how they sometimes pull you in different directions. If the opening riff sounds familiar, that’s likely because it’s being featured in the trailer for Adam Sandler’s upcoming “You Don’t Mess with the Zohan.” Sample lyric: “Tel Aviv, I’m coming…I came to sweat…you’re the only one, I swear…”/ “Jerusalem, I’m coming back to you, to your walls, you’re the only one, I swear…”
Bat Shishim,” rerecorded by Subliminal with the Gevatron. Back in the 70s, Gevatron produced “Bat Shishim” (“Sixty Years Old”) but never imagined a future in hip-hop. Until Subliminal (ne Kobi Shimoni) –possibly Israel’s best-known hip-hop artist–rerecorded it with the original band members to celebrate Israel’s sixtieth. You can view the song, along with Hebrew and English subtitles, here–plus, a bonus in the beautiful aerial footage of Israel. Sample lyric: “I love you from the heart and I write to you, lady, you’re the one and we don’t have another.”
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