5 Israeli Musicians That Capture the Complexity of This Moment – Kveller
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5 Israeli Musicians That Capture the Complexity of This Moment

With tunes that range from rap to pop to R&B, these young Israeli artists are helping me connect to this Israeli Independence Day like no other.

Hearing Test

Soundwaves going into ears

Every year, by design, Israel’s Memorial Day, Yom Hazikaron, bleeds into Israel’s Independence Day, Yom Ha’atzmaut. This year, they feel one and the same. Many in Israel are reporting that they don’t have the desire to celebrate with the war raging on, and with the hostages still not back. The night before Yom Hazikaron, thousands marched in the streets for a deal and a ceasefire; on Yom Hazikaron, the families of hostages held an alternative ceremony of grief. And on Yom Ha’atzmaut itself, many of the usual festivities were canceled. The streets, reported one reveler, were empty.

As an Israeli living in the States, it feels impossible to do anything to truly mark this day. I look at the news with such despair. It doesn’t feel right to celebrate. So instead, as I have since October 7, I turn to music. Especially, I’ve been turning to these younger artists who help me find joy and distraction, but also, connection, meaning and an avenue for grief in this moment. Here are six artists that I’m listening to today.

1. Jasmin Moallem

Jasmin Moallem comes from a Mizrahi family, yet in her music, she weaves in so many influences, from Greek singer Rosalia to R&B. She’s become one of the most iconic singers in Israel. Her pre-October 7 tune “Yihiye Tov” (“It Will Be Good”) became an anthem for a nation dreaming of healing. Her recently released song “Yotzet Mize” (“Get Out of This”) so aptly portrays the kind of despair I feel right now, but also captures the despair of those who are still waiting for the light of their loved ones to return.

“What haven’t I tried/How much have I done/My heart is empty/If you are here with me/Give me a sign/Because it’s all falling apart,” she sings.

“My nights are sleepless/And it’s all on me/Light up a spot because it’s too dark/I can’t get out of it,” she continues.

Listen to Jasmin Moallem on Spotify

2. Avraham Lagasa

Lagasa, an Ethiopian Israeli rapper and musician, is one of my favorite Israeli artists. His 2018 album “Ma Ze Bichlal” (“What Is It Even?”) is just musical perfection to my ears. Lagasa was supposed to release a new album, “Kono,” on October 8. Initially, it did come out, but he soon pulled it, and is now slowly releasing excellent bits from the record. Lagasa was also one of three rappers on the track “In the Place Where I Live,” sharing incisive verses about the living in Israel, along with rapper Jimbo J and Orit Tashoma.

“In the place where where I live I’ve thought about running away so many times/Until I understood that there’s really nowhere to go,” he raps. “There are little kids that not long ago I saw playing in the fountain and it takes me back/This isn’t exactly the place where I grew up/But somehow it always reminds me me of home.”

“In the place where I live,” goes the chorus, “Everything is great/A day yes, a day no, we cheer l’chaim/A day yes a day no/ everything is God-given/A day yes, a day no.”

Listen to Avraham Lagasa on Spotify

3. Shahar Tavoch

If you’re a fan of Israeli TV, you might know Shahar Tavoch. The gay entertainer has been on Israeli screens for many years, including in the excellent “Valley of Tears,” where he played Avinoam, and “The New Black.” But Tavor also recently released his first pop album, and everyone is absolutely obsessed with it. It is both nostalgic of the early 2000s and super fresh, incredibly funny and surprisingly poignant. It has a take on a children’s song that Gal Gadot once sang as a mermaid (yes, watch). But the biggest hit from the album so far is “Naughty Body,” which is actually spelled “Naddy Bady,” the way that English word combination is (mis?)pronounced by Israeli people. It’s the most insane music video you will see in a while.

Tavoch also has a song called “Mangal,” the Middle Eastern BBQ tradition that’s really popular during Israeli Independence Day and the one tradition that people still feel somewhat comfortable carrying on today with their families this year. The song is not really about the act of grilling, but more about the act of waving someone off. For those who need a dance-able pop-y distraction, Tavoch’s music provides that and so much more.

Listen to Sahar Tavoch on Spotify

4. Dana Ivgy

Dana Ivgy, a singer with Morrocan roots and the daughter of actor Moshe Ivgy, has been in some of the best Israeli films of the past few decades, from “Or” to “Zero Motivation.” She’s a bit of a jack of all trades. She helped found the experimental Israeli theater troupe Tziporella. She also sings incredibly poignant covers of Israeli songs. Eleven months ago, she released one of the Israeli song “Sitting In Front of the Paper” by Arik Einstein, which the amazing late songwriter wrote in days of despair during the first Lebanon War. In the song, Einstein describes sitting in front of the paper and not finding words.

“Oh my country, my homeland, you are falling apart/you broke my heart to little pieces/we had a dream and now it is gone/I am so sad, I want to cry,” he wrote in 1986 — palpable words of utter heartbreak. These words felt relevant again to many who were marching against the extreme right Israeli government almost a year ago, when Ivgy released her cover, and even more powerful to those marching now, so much so that Israeli photographer Alex Farfuri, known for documenting these protests and Israeli life with such poignancy, used it in an incredible video this April.

Listen to Dana Ivgy on Spotify

5. Tuna

When I feel really sad, I like to remind myself that one of Israel’s best rappers goes by the moniker Tuna. (Tuna can be pretty, pretty Jewish, from its prevalence in Jewish delis to Tunisian sandwiches that are popular all around Israel.) Tuna’s tune “Sahara” with Moallem has gotten really popular lately, but so has his song from nine years ago called “This Too Shall Pass,” in which the rapper comforts someone suffering from heartbreak by enumerating things whose popularity has passed (though some have made a comeback): Richard Gere, skinny jeans, Crocs, CDs, walkmans, Napster, Netscape, Blockbuster.

“Time heals all, it heals all, if not all than most things, and that too shall pass,” he raps.

Listen to Tuna on Spotify

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