Many of you may have grown up listening to popular Israeli singers warbling songs in Hebrew about Israel. Arik Einstein may have crooned into your ear that you and I will change the world. As we grew older, you may have begun to listen to an Israeli rapper or two. I remember a time in college when everyone was listening to the nationalistic lyrics of Subliminal, though I’m not sure everyone caught the songs’ political overtones.
But in recent years, Israeli artists are more and more making their mark on the international scene. Last year, singer-songwriter Idan Raichel received an MTV Role Model award for his work promoting tolerance through his band, “the Idan Raichel Project.” In September, Raichel performed with Alicia Keys alongside Palestinian musician Ali Amir-Kanoon at New York’s Central Park, singing Keys’s new song “We Are Here” in Hebrew, English, and Arabic, respectively. This was a natural extension of the music he’s popular for in Israel. His group is well-known for collaborations with many international artists, including India Arie, Andreas Scholl, Patrick Bruel, Marta Gómez, and others. Raichel has released albums with songs sung in Hebrew, English, Spanish, Aramaic, Arabic, and a smattering of other languages. His work was indicative of a new trend now popular in Israel, a country hungry for international interaction. Today, an impressive group of young singers from an eclectic range of genres including pop, jazz, alternative, opera, and hip hop are singing in Hebrew and English, making their music easily accessible to American audiences.
Tamar Eisenman (www.eisenwoman.com) is just one of these new, internationally-minded artists. A highly prolific singer-songwriter-guitarist based in Jerusalem, Eisenman’s first three albums were performed in English. Known best for her English song “Hit Me,” Eisenman has said she lives in both languages. In an interview with Midnight East, Eisenman explained she believes “language is an instrument… It brings out something different from me and for the listener, and of course the choice makes an impact. It’s like when I play an acoustic arrangement of a song or a punk arrangement – it will have a different effect. It [the choice of language] has influences and consequences.” Eisenman is currently working on two albums, one in English and one in Hebrew.
Another Israeli group straddling Hebrew- and English-speaking worlds, a collective (www.joinacollective.com) is a band known for its energetic performances with Middle East musical overtones and is described as a “riot in a petting zoo, awkwardly captivating and viciously enticing” by critics. The seven-piece ensemble has a cult following in its native Tel Aviv and has swept the international music festival scene, performing at SXSW in the States and the Y Not Festival in the UK. The music video for the band’s most recent single “BreakApart” from its album “Ongoing” transforms the band members into iconic figures from classic rock albums, illustrating exactly why TIMEOUT magazine described them as “chaotic, energetic, and contagiously fun.”
Merav Ceren was born in Israel, grew up in Southern California, and has now returned home. She holds a BA in International Relations from UCI, where she led the re-establishment of Anteaters for Israel, and is pursuing her Masters in International Relations from Syracuse University.