Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

Muzika Mizrahit, Rock and Roll, and Israeli Identity

January 20, 2013 2:16 am 0 comments

Bob Dylan in Subterranean Homesick Blues. Photo: Wiki commons.

As far as the music that makes my heart go pitter- patter, it’s always been bouncy, beat driven, three-chord rock ‘n’ roll for me. Happiness is a catchy opening riff, snappy verse, harmonized chorus, dramatic electric guitar solo and back again – all condensed into a three-minute sonic blast.

Rock ‘n’ roll, rooted in African American blues, jump blues, country and gospel music, has long filled a basic need among the young and young at heart for excitement, dancing, and freedom from societal constraints. No other style of music can compete with rock ‘n’ roll’s singular power and visceral simplicity.

The temptations of a sweet, blond haired blue eyed preacher’s daughter can be fought off by a strong, proud Jewish man; the appeal of shrimp scampi, cheese burgers and other prohibited foods can be easily countered by citing a few age-old laws first outlined in Deuteronomy and Leviticus. But how can someone who seeks to assimilate into Israeli culture contend with the intoxicating influence of American rock ‘n’ roll?

I have opened my mind and ears to Israeli music in all its myriad forms yet my MP3 player remains loaded up with hundreds of songs by non-Israeli artists. And while such homegrown talents as Ladino singer-songwriter Yasmin Levy and popular Mizrahi singer Shlomi Shabbat are certainly appealing, my attraction to them is intellectual rather than emotional; Ms. Levy is renowned for her distinct, emotive style; Shabbat’s musical versatility is impressive. Yet, my musical inclinations remain thoroughly Western: are they destined to remain in exile?

In the throes of an identity crisis, peace of mind came by way of a chance encounter my wife and I had a couple of months ago at the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem. While taking care of the paperwork required to turn our sabra baby girl into a Yankee Doodle Dandee, we happened upon a young man who was busily filling out an application for a U.S. passport. Obviously struggling with the English, we helped where we could with translating the document into Hebrew. Amazingly, this thoroughly Israeli man’s father had moved to Israel decades ago from the United States. Within one generation any trace of any American connection had been erased: the poor kid couldn’t spell I-S-R-A-E-L and didn’t even know his mother’s “Christian” birthday.

A father’s long ago decision to eviscerate his pre-aliyah identity, apparently equating ‘American’ with ‘Pagan’, had far reaching consequences: a son severed from his cultural DNA; a young man denied the joys and beauty of the deceptively simple English language, “…an accretion and growth of every dialect, race, and range of time…the free and compacted composition of all.”

And what a shame! Since the 1880s, Jews the world over have embarked on new lives in Israel, influencing their adopted homeland’s culture, language, education and, perhaps most significantly, Israeli politics. Over the last 20 years the Start-Up nation has absorbed 9,000 scientists from the former Russian Satellite States including 4,500 in industry and high-tech.

Returning to the airwaves, it is interesting to note that today’s most popular Israeli brand of music, Mizrahi,  was up until relatively recently restricted by the national government since it was not considered ‘authentic Israeli.’ The penetration of Muzika Mizrahit into the Israeli mainstream was the result of pressure by Mizrahi composers and producers , the overwhelming, undeniable popularity of the style and the gradual adoption of elements of Muzika Mizrahit by popular Israeli artists.

Listening to rock ‘n’ roll to my heart’s content doesn’t make me any less Israeli, it makes me more interesting since I’m indulging in a small passion; jogging around Gan Sacher while listening to Subterranean Homesick Blues (technically folk rock but mind-bending nonetheless…)only goes to show that I’m a bit of an old soul with a genuine fondness for the stylings one Robert Allen Zimmerman.

Getting turned on to Israeli music, cinema, sports and other aspects of the culture is a nice bonus but not a necessary component of what it means to be “Israeli”.

After all, many Israeli cinema buffs feel a much stronger connection to the films of Steven Spielberg than to those of Assi Dayan. Does such a preference in any way dilute these citizens’ “Israeliness”?

Listening to Jim Morrison belt out Wintertime Love last week as I merrily trudged through the surprisingly snow covered streets of Jerusalem crystallized a central point: life set to the right soundtrack enhances both the life and the soundtrack.

This article originally appeared in the Times of Israel.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture Second Jaffa Jazz Festival to Reunite International, Israeli Musicians

    Second Jaffa Jazz Festival to Reunite International, Israeli Musicians

    For the second time, Israel will host the Jaffa Jazz Festival, according to Broadwayworld.com. The festival will unite 43 Israeli musicians and eight international artists for a three-day event. The program will include a special performance by an ensemble of top jazz students studying at Belgium’s Royal Conservatoire of Antwerp, the Belgrade Music Academy in Serbia, Israel’s Rimon School of Music and the jazz program of the Israel Conservatory of Music in Tel Aviv. There will also be a jazz show for children led by Israeli saxophonist […]

    Read more →
  • Sports Israel’s First NASCAR Driver Revved Up to Win

    Israel’s First NASCAR Driver Revved Up to Win

    JNS.org – As a young boy growing up in Ashdod, Israel, Alon Day got his first go-kart at age 9. By 15, he was racing them. Less than a decade later, Day has become the first Israeli professional race car driver on the NASCAR circuit. He made history by competing in NASCAR’s Xfinity Series race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on August 13. “Driving a race car is not like any other sport,” Day told JNS.org. “You are actually almost flying […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Writer of Popular Kids Series to Premiere Autobiographical Solo Show ‘Not That Jewish’

    Writer of Popular Kids Series to Premiere Autobiographical Solo Show ‘Not That Jewish’

    The writer of a popular children’s television series will premiere an off-Broadway solo show called “Not That Jewish,” according to The Hollywood Reporter. Written and performed by Monica Piper — the Emmy Award-winning showrunner of Nickelodeon’s “Rugrats” — the show is described as “the autobiographical telling of a Jew…’ish’ girl’s life.” “Not That Jewish” explores Piper’s Bronx upbringing in a show-business family, her comedy-club debut and her “almost” night with former Yankees legend Mickey Mantle. “Audiences can expect to leave laughed-out, a little teary-eyed and […]

    Read more →
  • Sports Scottish Soccer Team Will Fly to Israel on Private Jet Used by Madonna

    Scottish Soccer Team Will Fly to Israel on Private Jet Used by Madonna

    Scotland’s Celtic soccer club will fly to Israel with the same private jet Madonna used while on tour, The Scotsman reported on Monday. According to the report, the team is heading for the Jewish state to compete against Israel’s Hapoel Be’er Sheva on Tuesday night, and will be transported in the customized, luxurious Boeing 757-200 that the pop icon used in New Zealand for her six-month Rebel Heart tour, which wrapped up in March. The plane is on loan from Greece-based GainJet Aviation and can accommodate 62 passengers. The […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Revealed: Actor Jonah Hill Officiated at Wedding of Fellow Jewish Star, Singer Adam Levine

    Revealed: Actor Jonah Hill Officiated at Wedding of Fellow Jewish Star, Singer Adam Levine

    Jewish actor Jonah Hill revealed on Wednesday morning that he had officiated the wedding of good friend and Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine. The “War Dogs” actor, 32, was a guest on Sirius XM’s The Howard Stern Show when the conversation turned to Levine’s July 2014 wedding to Victoria’s Secret model Behati Prinsloo. Hill said that after he was asked to officiate the nuptials, he started getting worried about the type of speech he was going to deliver. “I’m writing all these things, and then I […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Music Jewish Indie Rocker Dedicates New ‘Refugee’ Track to Grandfather Who Fled Nazi Persecution

    Jewish Indie Rocker Dedicates New ‘Refugee’ Track to Grandfather Who Fled Nazi Persecution

    Jewish indie singer Ezra Furman released a song on Wednesday that he said was dedicated to his grandfather, who escaped Nazi persecution. Furman told the website Consequence of Sound that the new track, called “The Refugee,” is his “first song entirely concerned with my Jewish background and present, a song dedicated to my grandfather who fled the Nazis, as well as to all of the refugees desperate for a home today.” He added, “May all the wanderers find the homes they seek, and […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Uncanny Toy Replica of Israeli ‘Wonder Woman’ Gal Gadot Auctioning on eBay for Over $1,600

    Uncanny Toy Replica of Israeli ‘Wonder Woman’ Gal Gadot Auctioning on eBay for Over $1,600

    An artist is auctioning on eBay a Wonder Woman doll he purchased and repainted to create an uncanny replica of Israeli actress Gal Gadot, who will play the superhero in an upcoming 2017 spin-off film. Noel Cruz purchased a 19-inch action figure of the Batman v Superman star and replaced its plastic hair with a new wig, and added a material belt and Princess Diana’s lasso, according to the blog Io9, which first reported on Cruz’s work. He then painted the doll to make it look like the […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture British Jewish Star Daniel Radcliffe Hopes New Movie About Neo-Nazis Will Spark Dialogue to Defeat Antisemitic Rhetoric

    British Jewish Star Daniel Radcliffe Hopes New Movie About Neo-Nazis Will Spark Dialogue to Defeat Antisemitic Rhetoric

    Racist and antisemitic rhetoric supported by white supremacists can be defeated by opening channels for meaningful dialogue, British-Jewish actor Daniel Radcliffe said, ahead of the release of his new film, in which he plays an undercover FBI agent infiltrating a neo-Nazi group. “[White supremacist ideologies] have more power the less we talk about them. So hopefully this does start a kind of conversation, which would be a tiny part of a much larger conversation that needs to happen,” the actor, 27, told The […]

    Read more →