Viewing entries tagged

Orit Wolf performing in Ashdod. Photo by D. Miller

Orit Wolf performing in Ashdod. Photo by D. Miller

Award-winning Israeli musician Orit Wolf believes that to survive in the 21st century business world, ‘you have to be amazing, just like a performer.’

By Abigail Klein Leichman

Israeli concert pianist Orit Wolf was barely out of her teens when disaster struck 12 minutes into a live recording and concert in Jerusalem: She blanked out and froze.

“I was always told ‘the show must go on’ but nobody told me how to do that, how to turn a mistake into an opportunity and how to improvise. I stopped the music and it was such a shameful occasion,” recalls Wolf.

Today, the poised pianist performs across the world and leads internationally sought-after workshops using music to teach businesses innovation, problem-solving, management, public speaking, coping with change, the power of persuasion and the art of disruption.

“I realized that if I want to be on stage I’ve got to have the right tools to turn any mistake into something beautiful. So I started to learn composition and improvisation and it was like buying an insurance policy that no matter what happens I can go on and do a lovely performance even if I don’t have my notes or forgot the music or the piano is really bad, or my hands are sweaty or the audience is noisy,” she tells ISRAEL21c.

Her research following that ruined concert convinced her that “there was something in music-making that could give insights to so many professions on how to go on no matter what happens.”

Wolf was only 23 when an executive from Israeli pharma giant Teva audited one of her classes at Tel Aviv University about music and innovation, and persuaded her to start lecturing to businesses.

Over the past decade, she’s worked with banks, insurance companies, colleges and firms such as Verint, Matrix, Check Point, Strauss, Coca-Cola, HP, IBM, Bayer, Lilly, FedEx and Netafim. Her concert lectures have taken her to countries including Holland, Switzerland, England, Germany, Spain and Austria. This fall she’s returned to her alma mater, the Royal Academy of Music in London, to teach a course called “Leadership for Stage Performers.”

Below is a presentation Wolf gave at the UK Marketing Society’s 2014 annual conference.

“I don’t teach strategies you can read in a book,” Wolf says. “I give tools to create disruptions, to improvise and deliver your message in a more experienced and inspiring way. To survive in the 21st century you have to be amazing, just like a performer. It’s easy to show on the piano how you can take the same text or score and transform it.”

In one exercise, Wolf asks participants to write on paper for three minutes and to make intentional spelling mistakes. She then analyzes results in a 45-minute presentation.

“What we learn is that the average person makes 20 mistakes in 40 words. People who make more mistakes than words, say 20 words with 40 mistakes, are less afraid to break paradigms. And what kind of mistakes they make shows different ways of breaking the paradigm. It’s very interesting for me to see how far people are allowing themselves to go.”

Another exercise has the group telling an improvised story passed from one to the next, in which every other word must be spoken in a different language. For example, instead of “good morning” you might say “good boker.”

“I have about 80 different exercises like those to break your paradigms on emotional, mental and cognitive levels. We create a situation where you will not be afraid to be cognitively embarrassed. This trains you to have the courage and self-confidence to deliver your next presentation beautifully even if you have technical problems.”

Born leader

Orit Wolf persuaded her parents to send her for piano lessons when she was six. Gifted in many areas, she finished high school at 16 and by age 23 had acquired a bachelor’s degree from Boston University on full scholarship, a master’s degree from the Royal Academy of Music and a PhD from Bar-Ilan University, along with numerous piano awards.

She then taught innovation through music at Tel Aviv University for eight years despite never having studied leadership, marketing or business management.

“I’m dedicating my life to showing people things they can do to become more creative and how to leave an unforgettable mark in whatever it is they do.”

Orit Wolf in duet with opera singer Assaf Kacholi. Photo: courtesy

Orit Wolf in duet with opera singer Assaf Kacholi. Photo: courtesy

When the university discontinued her award-winning course for budgetary reasons, she was jolted out of one of her own paradigms – the false sense of job security – and turned her disappointment into an opportunity to do concert lectures.

“I started in a small Jaffa museum with 60 subscribers in 2006. Now I have over 4,000 annual subscribers for eight series I perform at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Haifa Auditorium, Rehovot, Ashdod and Ra’anana,” says Wolf, who encourages audiences to record, photograph, share and tweet her performance as long as their phones are in silent mode.

She also has a new series for English-speakers, Music and Muse, at Weil Auditorium in Kfar Shmaryahu.

Wolf confides that on occasion she takes her seven- and nine-year-old children to her concerts instead of school.

“The idea of obeying rules all the time, I think, is wrong. Breaking rules sometimes helps people think more clearly and changes how they look at things.”

For more information, click here.

Award-winning Israeli concert pianist teaches managers to disrupt and innovate

Lola Marsh photo courtesy of Anova Music.

Lola Marsh photo courtesy of Anova Music.

‘Diversity here makes Israeli music stand out … people should move here for the music.’

By Viva Sarah Press

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.  

" You're Mine ", from Lola Marsh's first EP 

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.

Official music video for Jane Bordeaux's 'Ma’agalim'. In a forgotten old penny arcade, a wooden doll is stuck in place and time. 

3.    Hoodna Orchestra

Hoodna Orchestra photo via Facebook.

Hoodna Orchestra photo via Facebook.

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.”

Alemitu - Hoodna Orchestra - Yaarot Menashe Festival 2015 

4.    OSOG

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.

Lyrics: "Tic-Toc-Tic-Toc" the clock goes, Time is up Time to carry on Like shadows we move I whisper to you That you're my rock and you're my treat One more time and that is it And I'll make up for such the life I put you through Spoiled in riches,

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).

Uploaded by The Paz Band on 2017-01-19.

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.

System Ali performs 'War - Wayina' for BalconyTV 

8.    Forest

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!

Watch the music video for "Gnawa" now!

10. Tigris

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.  

Recorded by Eyal Shindler Filmed by Gosha Demin, assaf machnes, Dan Messer, and Omer Ben David. 

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.

Cut Out Club - We are The Ghosts / off the album Cut Out Club (2015, Granted Records, Kamea)

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.

SHOSAHN Shye Ben Tzur 

Article courtesy of

Article courtesy of

Twelve of the hippest emerging Israeli bands

Itzhak Perlman conducts "Can Can" and Haydn's Toy Symphony with the Perlman Music Program Orchestra and 40 young Israeli String Players at the Israel Conservatory Tel Aviv. Photo courtesy The Perlman Music Program

“Peace through Music,” says a popular bumper sticker. Well, who knows—it certainly can’t hurt. Music is of course an art of collaboration: an art that requires, above all, the ability to listen deeply and to respond with empathy and sensitivity, with the goal of achieving an end product filled with positive meaning: a viable formula for any kind of cooperation. A number of groups have been formed specifically with a view to bringing musicians together from diverse backgrounds in cultures at serious odds with one another. Among them are the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra (under the baton of maestro Daniel Barenboim) and Heartbeat: The Israeli-Palestinian Youth Music Movement. The Jewish-Arab Youth Orchestra is a project of the Jerusalem Foundation, under the auspices of the Louis and Tillie Alpert Youth Music Center. And Polyphony, headquartered in Nazareth, is another common ground for Arab and Jewish classical musicians. 

Music is an art of collaboration: an art that requires, above all, the ability to listen deeply and to respond with empathy and sensitivity.

Things are opening up in Israel among artists: people are listening closely to one another. When Michael Tilson Thomas conducted the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in recent years, he said that he was excited to encounter so many new young musicians in the orchestra. Their performance of Brahms’s Symphony No. 2 was fluid and powerful, the musicians sharply attuned to their conductor. The mutual respect was obvious, and thrilling for the audience to see and hear.

Adding to the artistic culture of Israel is the venerable Perlman Music Program—a U.S.-based mentoring project for talented young classical musicians, under the direction of violinist Itzhak Perlman. Since 2014 the PMP has been hosting residencies and offering master classes in Tel Aviv for talented young musicians.

Heartbeat: The Israeli-Palestinian Youth Music Movement >

Israel Philharmonic Orchestra >

Louis and Tillie Alpert Youth Music Center >

Perlman Music Program >

Polyphony >

West-Eastern Divan >


Peace through Music

Balkan Beat Box's Instagram feed

Hip-hop and rap are other musical realms that are at least in part being shaped by the Israeli presence, and here the country’s cross section of cultures is very much in evidence. Hip-hop is largely about borrowing and repurposing, as heard for example in Produx’s “Ichiban,” a hilarious remix from Fiddler on the Roof, and in Nechi Nech’s “Godzilla,” in which “Hava Nagila” is made to rhyme with “Thriller” (as in Michael Jackson). Shadia Mansour (known as the “first lady of Arabic hip-hop”) takes on both Middle East politics and gender stereotyping.

Hip-hop and rap are other new musical realms are being shaped by the Israeli presence—and here the country’s cross section of cultures is very much in evidence.

The band Hadag Nahash (“Snake-Fish”) mashes up funk, jazz, world music, and Western pop, while the very popular Israeli-American band Balkan Beat Box fuses traditional Middle Eastern and Balkan sounds, “gypsy punk,” and electronica—really anything from the most ancient folk rhythms to the edgiest trap music—to create an irresistibly percussive and hard-hitting music. (Full disclosure: This author is not an aficionado of hip-hop or other contemporary sounds, but discovered Balkan Beat Box while eating dinner at Jerusalem’s Machneyuda restaurant. There, it isn’t uncommon, late some evenings, for the chefs to exit the kitchen, still in their aprons, and to dance among—and sometimes on—the tables. Balkan Beat Box’s music provides just the right propulsive rhythms for their insanity.)

From Hip-hop to Rap to Electronica to Trap and Beyond

Poster for Israeli Jazz & World Music Festival.

The Israeli jazz scene has received much international notice recently, with such stars as bassist Omer Avital, trombonist Avi Lebovich, pianist Omer Klein, and the three brilliant Cohen siblings Anat (clarinet), Avishai (trumpet), and Yuval (saxophone)—all graduates of Thelma Yellin High School of the Arts.

Israel has produced and exported so many serious young musicians that the jazz landscape is hard to picture without their influence.
— Nate Chinen, New York Times

Ramat HaSharon is home to the influential Rimon School of  Music (which partners with Boston’s prestigious Berklee College of Music), and Tel Aviv’s Israel Conservatory of Music has a thriving Center for Jazz Studies. Jazz can be heard in nightclubs and concert halls in every major Israeli city, and at annual gatherings such as the Red Sea Jazz Festival in Eilat, which has been drawing crowds of music lovers to this southernmost point in the country since 1987. 

In recent years, the United States has been catching on to the potential of jazz from this region: Chicago hosts the annual Israeli Jazz and World Music Festival, and New York was the site of the Jazzrael festival in 2012, as well as of 2016’s Israeli Jazz Spotlight Festival. As New York Times jazz critic Nate Chinen has observed: “Over the last fifteen years, Israel has produced and exported so many serious young musicians that the jazz landscape is hard to picture without their influence.”

Israel Conservatory of Music >

Israeli Jazz and World Music Festival (in Chicago) >

Rimon School of Jazz and Contemporary Music >


Israeli Jazz on the World Scene

Elstein Music and Arts Center Instagram

Today, a new institution, the Elstein Music and Arts Center, is a nucleus for both visual and performing arts—the brainchild of Lily Elstein, one of Israel’s most important arts patrons. The enter is part of the Elma Arts Complex, in the historic town of Zichron Ya’acov, on a ridge of Mount Carmel overlooking the Mediterranean. The main headquarters are in a beautiful building designed by architect Yaakov Rechter, originally as the Mivtachim Sanatorium/Hotel. (Built in 1968, it earned Rechter the prestigious Israel Prize for architecture.) Long, white, and gently curved, it rests horizontally on the hillside—as Lily Elstein herself describes it, “like an instrument: like the keys of a piano or an organ.” The renovated complex, set on nearly thirty acres, includes performance spaces and halls, art galleries and studios, villas to house artists in residence, and a luxurious hotel and spa for visiting audiences.

I really belong to this place. I belong to the art and the life of art in Israel.
— Lily Elstein

Elstein is an elegant and gracious woman, with a tenacious streak. Her connection to Zichron Ya’acov is long:standing she was born there, and her late husband, Yoel Moshe Elstein, and she both descended from the town’s fathers.  When Elstein expressed an interest in buying the old Mivtachim Hotel, she encountered a number of obstacles, from developers attempting to outbid her to objections against marring the local forest areas with construction. Ultimately, Israel’s High Court of Justice was called in to decide the fate of the land and building. Elstein says: “I explained to them: ‘I am third-generation Zichron Ya’acov. My grandparents were founders, and my parents were born there. I really belong to this place. I belong to the art and the life of art in Israel.’” Ultimately, she overcame them all, and today the Zichron Ya’acov community is well aware that her project is a boon to the area—and to the arts in general in Israel.

Elstein Music and Arts Center, Elma Arts Complex >

The Elstein Music and Arts Center and the Extraordinary Woman Behind It

Kartel collective poster

Haifa has a population that is notably mixed, ethnically and socially, as well as a growing youth culture (sometimes nicknamed “Haifsters”). Recently, the city has seen the emergence of a vibrant new “posse” of artists known as Kartel, who initially used an abandoned boathouse in the city as part-club, part-gallery, part-blank slate for street art: its tall exterior walls painted from bottom to top with wild hallucinatory images. Their venues feature live performances and pop-up exhibitions. The creative energy behind this endeavor comes from two local groups of underground street artists: GhosTown and Broken Fingaz (whose individual members, as of this writing, prefer to go unnamed).

Kartel initially used an abandoned boathouse in Haifa as part-club, part-gallery, part-blank slate for street art

The posse recently made a foray into Tel Aviv, setting up shop temporarily in a former slaughterhouse at the Carmel shuk. There the renegade artists and their associates painted the walls with acid-bright cartoons—stylized nude women, skeletons, and men in fedoras figure prominently—and hosted an international roster of musicians, including Adrian Younge, Free the Robots, and Kutmah.

If you can find a Kartel flash event, it may well be worth your while to lace up your boots and get to it.

Kartel Facebook page > 

Haifa’s Kartel: A Posse of Renegade Street Artists