‘Diversity here makes Israeli music stand out … people should move here for the music.’
There are so many Israeli musicians producing top-quality ear candy that keeping track of them all is a near impossible feat.
"There's too much going on to follow everyone," says Ayelet Dekel, founder of the Midnight East Israeli culture website.
AWA, Balkan Beat Box, Ester Rada, Asaf Avidan, Idan Raichel – who are expected to add great tunes to 2017's soundtrack-- are examples of Israeli musicians already being promoted by record labels.
TheAngelcy, Garden City Movement, Lucille Crew and Red Axes are examples of the many Israeli groups taking part in international music festivals.
In fact, it seems that this year will witness many bands – in all genres of music -- emerging from Israel and winning fans the world over.
Deaf Chonky, a garage punk teen duo, is an example of local talent expected to make a mark on the music scene in 2017 but not necessarily beyond Israel's borders.
Other musicians like Gili Yalo, Nechi Nech, Uzi Ramirez, Ravid Kahalani, Yoel Shemesh, Gedy Ronen, Ronen Green, Tal Fogel, Tomer Yeshayahu, Dani Dorchin, Gilad Dobrecky and Eyal Talmudi are also up-and-coming in the local scene.
"If you want to hear good music, get to know the musicians who may not have the spotlight on them," Dekel, one of the country's top music purveyors, tells ISRAEL21c.
There is no one genre set to triumph over the year of music.
"Bands are inspired by different musical genres and a new sound is emerging," Dekel tells ISRAEL21c. "You'll feel you recognize a sound but realize it's not anything you've heard before."
She says diversity here makes Israeli music stand out.
“The music has world influences from other countries and is also coming from individual experiences," she says. "There's so much going on musically here that people should move here for the music."
ISRAEL21c checked in with music critics to create this list of 12 emerging bands to keep an eye on in 2017.
1. Lola Marsh
Indie-pop band Lola Marsh has the music world delighting in its perfectly synced harmonies. The band formed in Tel Aviv in 2013 as a duo (Gil Landau/guitars, keyboards and Yael Shoshana Cohen/vocals), and today is comprised of five-members.
They've released just four tracks but they've got a huge international following waiting for a full-length album.
Nylon called Lola Marsh "the Middle East's coolest alt-folk band."
Their song "Sirens" gained over 1 million streams and ranked fifth on Spotify's top 10 most viral US tracks. "Sirens" also featured in the American TV show “Scream.”
"You're Mine" followed up with 2 million hits on Spotify.
"[Cohen's] grounded, gritty vocals, combined with Landau’s picturesque indie rock, make Lola Marsh an unstoppable pair. I am highly excited for their future," wrote a reviewer for New York Theater Guide.
2. Jane Bordeaux
Tel Aviv's acoustic folk-country trio, Jane Bordeaux, is kicking up the local music scene with some incredibly original Hebrew-language Americana folk music.
The trio -- Doron Talmon, Amir Zeevi and Mati Gilad – were included on the 2017 Forbes Israel 30 Under 30 List, comprised of top young innovators who are transforming culture, business, technology, media, and other fields across Israel and beyond.
In 2016, Jane Bordeaux won over Internet users with a visually captivating music video for the song “Ma’agalim” (Cycles). Over 1.7 million viewers liked and shared it.
"They have an uncanny knack of capturing Americana in its folk, country and rootsy grandeur while singing in Hebrew. Instead of sounding forced, it's unaffected and charming," David Brinn, managing editor of The Jerusalem Post and a longtime music critic, tells ISRAEL21c.
3. Hoodna Orchestra
Hoodna Orchestra is an ensemble from Tel Aviv creating a fresh blend of free-flow Afrobeat, traditional Middle Eastern music, dance-floor Afro funk rhythms, and different styles of jazz.
Hoodna Orchestra is one of Israel's most sought-after live shows.
"People listen to this music and it just makes them dance like crazy. It makes a room full of strangers grab other strangers to dance. It has that kind of effect," says Dekel.
The band formed in 2012. In 2015, they released a debut album to wide acclaim. In 2016, they started on a follow-up album.
The orchestra says it is now "delving deeper into east African music, particularly the different styles of Ethiopian music, which inspired many new compositions and a lot of exciting new collaborations."
Says Dekel: "Music that is influenced by Ethiopian jazz of the 1960s and ’70s is a trend in jazz in general now. When you listen to their music, you hear Ethiopian influences. But when you listen to the original Ethiopian jazz you realize that Hoodna Orchestra is actually offering something very new.”
OSOG (On Shoulders of Giants) is an eight-member music collective with a catchy and original sound.
Their musical backgrounds are punk, metal, jazz and classical, which they've fine-tuned to a wholly unique sound. Simply said, OSOG is a carnival of music.
Dekel calls OSOG "phenomenal" and lists them as one of "the bands that make me say, ‘wow!’"
A reviewer for Indie Spoonful raves about OSOG’s song “Who Who.”
“With mandolin, ukulele, bass, lap-steel, violin, percussion, vibraphone, and great vocal work, OSOG is a band that offers a full acoustic experience that is stellar recorded and live and will thrill fans of folk, Americana, acoustic and indie music."
OSOG formed in 2013 and has already performed in North America and Europe at festivals and clubs. They regularly perform around Israel, too.
5. Quarter to Africa
This multicultural roots ensemble will get you humming to their sounds even on a first listen. The band was born in 2014 in Jaffa with an idea that African and Arabic styles should be fused with composed and improvised jazz and funk.
Musicians Yakir Sasson (of The Apples fame) and Elyasaf Bashari (opened for Red Hot Chili Peppers) founded the band and today lead a changing ensemble of up to 10 musicians.
Quarter to Africa layers oud and wind instruments, drums, percussion, Arabic keyboards, bass and vocals into a whirlwind of colorful tunes.
"A fun dance band," says Dekel. She describes their live shows across Israel as "very upbeat, fun and full of incredible dance music."
According to the band's Facebook page, they'll release a new album sometime this year.
6. The Paz Band
Vocalist and songwriter Gal De Paz, dubbed the "Israeli Janis Joplin," leads Tel Aviv's lively rock band, The Paz Band.
De Paz, a solo performer for many years and often found sharing the stage with Lucille Crew, created the band with longtime keyboardist/co-songwriter Ariel Keshet, guitarist Motti Leibel, bassist Raz Blitzblau and drummer Or Kachlon (formerly of The Genders) in 2014.
In 2016, The Paz Band ran a successful crowdfunding campaign to fund a debut album, “Down the Rabbit Hole,” released in April last year.
The Paz Band is best seen live performing rock and soul with a touch of blues. They perform all over Israel and are regularly asked to open for visiting international acts (The Dead Daisies, Cedric Burnside, Kovacs, Gregg Dulli and others).
7. System Ali
System Ali is headed for a big year in 2017, believes Dekel. The hip-hop ensemble that sings in Hebrew, Arabic, Russian and English includes MCs and musicians rapping about daily realities.
Their sound blends classical Arabic music, klezmer, Romanian tunes and rock. Their lyrics quote from Israeli and Egyptian poetry, as well as jargon from the four languages in which they sing.
Founded in 2006 in Jaffa, System Ali's members have matured together to offer a powerful stage performance. Some of the musicians, like Luna Abu-Nasar (percussion, vocals, guitar) and Muhammad Mugrabi (rap) have also performed solo but continue with the System Ali ensemble as well.
Six-member Forest serves up a sound that blends psychedelic klezmer, melodic folk, spoken word and chill-out styles.
"Why travel to Goa when you can have a spiritual journey at a local club in Israel? Forest's repetitive intensity, magnetic group dynamics and blend of world and Middle Eastern rhythms and acoustic pop stylings create a swirling house of worship that's impossible to resist," Brinn tells ISRAEL21c.
The group says it takes inspiration from shamanism, meditation, storytelling and prayer.
The band is constantly on the move around Israel, playing its spiritual folk songs to sold-out audiences everywhere it plays. Keep up with its schedule on Facebook.
9. Alaska Snack Time
Alaska Snack Time is a Tel Aviv outfit creating electronic music based on live instruments.
After Tatran and Tiny Fingers, both featured on ISRAEL21c's 2015 bands to watch list, proved that electronic instrumental works in the Israeli music scene, new bands are helping the genre grow.
Alaska Snack Time's four members say their sound can be defined as "electro-acoustic-instrumental-abstract." Catch them live if you can!
Tigris describes itself as an "Afrodelic Power Pop band."
The five musicians behind this project -- Roy Harmon/keyboards; Ilan Smilan/guitar, Amir Sadot/bass, Oded Aloni /cajon and percussion, Ben Aylon/African drums and percussion -- are creating some crazily catchy tunes.
Tigris's music is a diverse platter of styles – influences from Ethiopian, West African and Caribbean sounds from the 1970s with a splash of contemporary pop, electronic and rock music.
Tigris explains its music as "traditional grooves deconstructed and reconstructed with an explosive modern feel, addictive melodies and rich yet succinct harmonies all wrapped in a psychedelic sound and texture."
The band members are all active on the music scene beyond Tigris.
Smilan was founder and guitarist of reggae band Zvuloon Dub System and guitarist and musical director of Hoodna Orchestra, among other musical projects.
Aylon is part of the One Man Tribe project with producer Yossi Fine; Aloni also plays with Marsh Dondurma jazz funk ensemble; Harmon put out his own album, “Pagim,” recently; and Sadot plays with Armon and Hoodna Orchestra.
11. Cut Out Club
Seven of Tel Aviv's talented musicians and singers have formed one of the country's busiest bands, the Cut Out Club.
The band describes its music as having a "unique rock 'n' roll orchestrated sound with a late 70’s – early 80’s Bowie-esque style, a Jack Whitish big-band feel, with disco and synth in the mix."
"They hearken back to the genre-bending days of the Talking Heads expanded multi-rhythmic extravaganzas. There's so much to watch onstage that you'll forget you're dancing," Brinn tells ISRAEL21c.
In 2016, they played in Spain and Switzerland, among other places. The Cut Out Club kicked off 2017 with a tour through Germany and Austria.
"Positive, fun, glamorous – Cut Out Club got everything. If you don't believe it just press Play and live the experience," wrote a reviewer for MTV Spain.
12. Shye Ben Tzur
"Sufi devotional music with lyrics in Hebrew" is how Dekel describes Shye Ben Tzur's qawwali music. "The music really sweeps the crowd."
Ben Tzur is a known world musician for his unique combination of Sufi-style singing mixed with Hebrew poetry.
His newest album, “Junun,” is a collaboration with Radiohead's Johnny Greenwood and the Rajasthan Express group of Indian musicians. The making of the album was filmed and made into a documentary by the same name.
Ben Tzur splits his time between Israel and India and can be found performing everywhere. He is currently touring Israeli venues with a local band playing his signature hypnotic music.