5 bands and 5 films that are key to understanding modern Israeli culture
Amnon Ron is a founder of Yafo Creative — a boutique guest house and a lively cultural center that brings young artists from around the world with exhibitions, concerts and collaborations and even offers them art residency. YOMYOM asked Amnon about his favorite modern Israeli music and films.
In the beginning Israel was filled with Zionist ideas. Artists were trying to create new Israeli culture without even considering people’s different origins. Yiddish, Mizrahi, Sephardic and Arabic traditions were forgotten topics. Thanks to the never-ending flow of 'olim' from Russia, Russian culture was an exception and remained popular. That’s why so much music sounded like old Russian songs, even though it was performed in Hebrew. The idea to create the new identity out of nothing was born to fail.
Trying to burst the bubble
Our culture is a real bubble: we have no connection to the countries around us, we can not cross the border and collaborate with our neighbors in any way. Everything that is happening in the world we adopt with delay and it’s a one-sided relationship — we only absorb, we don’t inspire. But thanks to the internet and cheap flights it's changing now. In the past 10 years there has been an interesting wave in Israeli music. People who grew up on international culture, mainly music and literature in English, started to use the language themselves. These new artists are willing to reach out to the international audience and some, like Tamar Eisenman, Asaf Avidan and theAngelcy, manage to break through.
Back to the roots
Lately a new and really interesting phenomena has appeared. The young culture is going back to the roots, diminished by Zionism. But now the Arabic melodies and lyrics in Yiddish integrate beat and modern sound. A band A-WA is a good example. They are three Yemeni sisters who create very hip music with high-end production. They use the language that nobody understands and they are still quite successful in the world.
In the 90s people talked about peace agreement and air was filled with political optimism. Arab-Jewish musical collaborations were also thriving. But then Rabin got shot and the negotiations went nowhere. Palestinians were treated worse every day and multiple coexistence programs were put on hold. All this holding hands and talking about peace and love seemed hypocritical to the Palestinians. The boycott of Israeli goods and culture spread around the Eastern world. Since then young Palestinians are trying to create their independent culture and some of them manage to make connections in Arab world. A good example is DAM, a hip-hop band from Lod. They sing in Arabic and English and perform around the world.
5 MODERN ISRAELI FILMS TO WATCH
Israeli films used to be highly symbolic, every character would represent a new nation, humanism, minorities, etc. Now it’s changing towards ordinary people and their personal stories.
• The Band’s Visit (2007) An Egyptian orchestra is supposed to perform in Petach Tikva, one of the biggest towns in Israel. But at the train station they mispronounce the name and end up in Beit Hatikva — a tiny little town in a desert, in the middle of nowhere. The best part is an interaction between very uptight and serious Egyptian band and the people of the town.
• People That Are Not Me (2016) This film was made by a 25-year-old female director. A girl is getting over a breakup but she is looking for affection and love in all the wrong places. It’s a great piece about life in Tel Aviv: there is a lot of sex and a lot of emptiness and it’s very Tel Avivian.
• In-between (2016) An Israeli–Palestinian female director tells a story of three young Arab women sharing an apartment in Tel Aviv. One is more traditional, one is more liberal and the third is a lesbian. And they all have to deal with their families and the city life, and they don’t feel like they belong anywhere.
• Waltz with Bashir (2008) This is an animated documentary based on real interviews. It tells about Lebanon’s Sabra and Shatila massacre when a Christian militia murdered Palestinian refugees while Israel allowed it to happen. The story is political but it’s told in a very personal way.
• Sand storm (2016) A Bedouin girl meets an Arab guy in the university аnd falls in love with him. Her family wants her to marry her cousin from the tribe. So she does her best to change the rules.
Text Asya Chachko
Photo Masha Kushnir