The Voice of Israel provides a wonderful soft rock album filled to the brim with beautiful melodies and soothing sounds
The music of Israel is an interesting thing to consider, and we have done so already in our review for A-WA, a band made up of Israeli sisters whose familial origin lies in Yemen. Israel is obviously a Middle-Eastern country geographically, and nowadays it is more Middle-Eastern culturally, but Israel for a very long time was culturally very European, due to the fact that many of the initial Zionist leaders and settlers were Jews of European origin. As such, despite huge waves of immigration to Israel from countries like Iraq, Egypt, Morocco, and Yemen, it took a long time for the mainstream of Israeli culture to acclimatise, with a turning point perhaps being the breakthrough of Ofra Haza’s 1984 album Yemenite Songs. Today it is such a part of the culture to the extent that even the Eurovision-winning song Toy, by Netta, has some middle-eastern motifs in it. Netta herself is of Libyan-Jewish origin. But today, we’ll be travelling back in time to the early 1970s, before this cultural shift. As such, the music on the album Badeshe Etzel Avigdor by the great Israeli singer and musician Arik Einstein, in collaboration with Miki Gavrielov, is in the tradition of rock and folk that we know in the west, but that does not make it any less authentically Israeli. In truth, the combination of the Middle-East and Europe has always been at the heart of the cultural confluence that is Israeli society. In addition, there is a reason why Einstein was nicknamed ‘the voice of Israel’ and is one of the most acclaimed Israeli artists of the 20th century, and this album is a wonderful showcase for his talents.
“This isn’t an album that loudly proclaims its greatness. Rather, slowly but surely, it charms you into loving it. Every time I have listened to it, I liked it more than the last.”
When translated, the album title means ‘on the lawn at Avigdor’s’ and I think that nicely sums up the mood of the album, which is relaxed, charming, fun, and perfectly evokes the feeling of sitting down on the grass on a summery afternoon listening to folk rock guitar. This album also has a strong influence from the rock music of the 60s, particularly The Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel. Let’s examine the influence of The Beatles first. I think it is most noticeable on the light-hearted songs that this album has. Songs like Kafe Turki and Ani Ohev Lishon (meaning Turkish Coffee and I Love Sleeping respectively) and both are just fun rocking songs, with a vibe similar to Maxwell’s Silver Hammer or Ob La Di Ob La Da. Ani Ohev Lishon has an English version on the album, and it is entitled An Old Fashioned Silly Song, which really does sound like something Paul McCartney would place on an a Beatles album, infuriating John Lennon and George Harrison in doing so. They may seem trivial and throwaway, but it is these enjoyable additions that keep the album light and smooth, and they are some of the most purely fun songs I’ve heard in a while. There are also love songs, like Shir Mispar 8, Hi Tavo and Ani Roe Ota Baderech Lagimnasia, which are perfectly pitched and charming. That is maybe the overriding adjective I would use to describe the album. Charming. This isn’t an album that loudly proclaims its greatness. Rather, slowly but surely, it charms you into loving it. Every time I have listened to it, I liked it more than the last.
Perhaps the most interesting songs on the album are Ani Veata and Lishrok Bahoshech. Ani Veata is once again tapping into that Beatlesy style of optimistic, somewhat romantic rock songs about the future – think All You Need Is Love or Revolution – except here Einstein and Gavrielov are talking about making a positive change in the world. It’s a simple but inspiring message, and it’s no wonder that this went on to be one of Einstein’s most successful and well-known songs. The English-language version is also found on this album, and though it is different, it is titled Waiting for a Better Day, which gets across a similar theme. It’s a beautiful melody with beautiful lyrics. What more could you want? Lishrok Bahoshech is another interesting song with a nice message. It means ‘whistling in the dark’ and Einstein and Gavrielov use it as a metaphor for powering through difficult times, hoping the light will come. Once again, the melody nicely accompanies the lyrics, but the music is so pleasant you don’t really need to know what they’re singing about. There’s a lot of variety in the moods and emotions the songs evoke, but they all have a consistent style and tone, and overall, it makes for a very pleasurable listening experience. It is classic folk rock done right. As I said before, it’s hugely charming, and its easy to see why it helped cement Arik Einstein’s status as the preeminent figure of Israeli rock music.