Sol Tevel Does Boee Kallah (INTERVIEW)
by Erez Safar
If you aren’t yet familiar with Sol Tevél, imagine Euro-Latin star Manu Chao, reggae man Bob Marley, and Israeli bands Hadag Nachash and Sheva all mixed up. Led by Israeli-born Lior Ben-Hur, Sol Tevél is a San Francisco-based band that integrates sounds, rhythms, and languages from around the globe to advocate building a strong, conscious and united community worldwide. Sol Tevél just released World Light, their debut album, which sheds new light and contemporary interpretation on ancient Jewish texts, ideals and mysticism.
We sat down with the band leader, Lior Ben-Hur to interview him about being an Israeli Reggae band in San Fransisco. The video premiered here on The Algemeiner is of the beautiful song, Boee Kala filmed live at Brick & Mortar San Francisco at the Israel Independence Day Party.
Q: Your music has a spiritual and traditional side to it, on songs like Mode Ani, Boee Kala, & Shalom Aleichem/Salam Aleikum could you tell us a bit about the inspiration behind your music?
A: The inspiration comes from day to day life experiences. As secular Jew I wanted to connect old Jewish tradition with spirituality, which is found within a religion (not only Jewish), but also within simple experiences such as being in nature. For example Mode Ani, which is one of my favorite Jewish prayers, relates to the essence Jewish idea of giving thanks from secular and spiritual points of view. In addition, the concept of God is revealed as Mother Nature, as I decided to add a line of my own words to the prayer to show my perceptive and connection to God through the feminine form of Mother Nature. As for the music, the same approach is applied using Reggae and ideals coming from the Rastafarai movement.
Q: Not many people would imagine finding an Israeli Roots Reggae band in San Francisco, how did it come about? How do the local players connect to music from a different culture?
A: If you ask me, I believe that San Francisco is the perfect place to give birth to this style of music. The Bay Area is well known as a center for Reggae music, and a meeting point for many cultures and ethnicities. Moreover, it’s a place for progressive Judaism. Our music combines these 3 elements of Reggae music, Israeli/Hebrew roots and a modern, progressive approach to Judaism. Sol Tevel plays frequently in local Bay Area venues and we feel very much a part of the San Francisco music scene. We feel “at home” in all ways with the reception and support we receive from others in the local Bay Area artist community.
Q: Your influence ranges from Euro-Latin star Manu Chao, Israeli bands Hadag Nachash and Sheva and of course, reggae man Bob Marley, could you tell us a bit how you draw on their music and how yours is different from theirs?
A: We draw elements and inspiration from all of these artists: Manu Chao taught me how to combine multiple styles in an artistic manner, Bob Marley taught me about Roots Reggae, Hadag Nachash showed me a new approach to Hebrew writing, and Sheva taught me how to combine Judaism, spirituality and World music. Although all of these artists influence me as the bandleader, when you listen to our album or experience a live performance you notice that we do not directly mimic these artists – we have our own sound! The reason for that is that the influences each Sol Tevel’s musicians bring when playing the music on top of my own. When you consider my influences combined with each of the other 6 musicians’ influences, you get a new and original sound.
Q: Your record was produced by the legendary Israeli producer, Yossi Fine, responsible for some of the biggest Hadag Nachash hits, how did you end up working together and how was it working with him?
A: I reached out to Yossi 3 years ago about this project, but he was busy and could not fully produce it, so I began the production process on my own. I founded the band and went into the studio to record it. When the recording was done and I was in the mixing stage, I contacted Yossi again and he was available to mix the album. Although the original plan was to “simply” mix the album, Yossi approached the music from a producer’s point of view and transformed many of the original arrangements. His input on the music was huge and went above and beyond just mixing the album, truly making him a co-producer. Working with him was exciting on many levels and is the highlight of my musical career thus far! It was not only his great musical abilities, but also his personality that made the experience unforgettable. Considering these aspects, I can say he is my biggest influence today.
Q: Who do you see as your target demographic?
A: Roots Reggae lovers,. World music fans. The Jewish community, in specifically those who are looking for new Jewish music. Our performances are high- energy dance parties, yet fit for people of all ages.
Q: How do you see Judaism as playing a role in your song writing?
A: Our debut album World Light focused on global Jewish ideals and mysticism. That being said, Judaism was always the central focus in this project. As for other songs in general, Judaism plays a role in that it is an important part of who I am. Therefore, the songs wont necessarily have Jewish text in it like in World Light but since I am writing it, they will include Jewish components, even if indirectly.
Q: What’s next in your career?
We are working on our next album, which will have more Reggae influences a New World taste to it. I hope Yossi will be available to fully produce it. T, hat is my vision for the short term vision. As for a long term vision, the incredible community of artists and musicians is constantly creating and providing new opportunities, and its simply too early to say where our path with lead us in the long term future.
Watch the video of Sol Tevel’s Boee Kala below:
Full disclosure: The author of this interview is a paid representative of the subjects.