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Israeli Music Latest Report, Winter 2021

The Israeli Music Showcase Festival (IMSF), which presents the current state of Israeli music, featured 41 musical artists in all, who gave outstanding performances in front of about 50 music professionals from more than 20 countries in fiscal year 2021.

-Takuya Salaam Unagami (Music Critic)

The IMSF was held in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv for five days from November 24th to 28th, 2021. The festival has been held annually since 2011 to introduce Israeli music to the global music scene, but last year it was the first time it was held online due to the Corona disaster. This year, the festival was held onsite, taking advantage of the gaps left by the Corona disaster, which has yet to end. In the past, the music genres were divided into two groups, Rock & Indie and Jazz & World, and about 30 groups of music artists each appeared for 4 days each, but this year it is the first attempt to divide the music genre was not divided and a total of 41 groups of music artists performed in all genres for a total of five days.

The performers included Eli Degibri, Omri Mor, Shalosh, J Lamotta Suzume, Garden City Movement, and other jazz and club artists who are already active internationally and have even performed in Japan, as well as Niyet Taeb and Agat, popular local rock and pop stars. The audience consisted of about 50 music professionals from more than 20 countries, including promoters, event organizers, journalists, and DJs like myself. And let's not forget the local music fans who warmed up the venue.

The main venue is Yellow Submarine, a large live music venue in southern Jerusalem. In addition to this, this year's event was held at "Ha Parsa," a dance theater converted from a movie theater; "Feel Beit," a multipurpose cultural facility built on the border between East and West Jerusalem; "Tower of David Museum," an important historical site in the Old City; "Teder FM," Tel Aviv's coolest semi-outdoor live music venue and restaurant; and "Teder FM The event used a variety of locations that represent current Israeli culture.
During the festival, we spend every afternoon until 3 a.m. listening to performances, traveling, drinking, and interacting with the artists and other people involved in the music industry in each country. It was important to be in good physical condition, because all the musical performances were worth seeing, even if you would have to rub your jet-lagged eyelids and drag your heavy back and club-like legs from standing for long periods of time.

Various roots, various styles. What they all have in common is the high level of music education in this country and the musicians' ability to perform

The highlight of the year for me was Lala Tamar, a female singer with Moroccan and Brazilian roots. Although she has just started her solo career, she has a smile as bright as a sunflower, a solid singing ability based on her background in Moroccan 〜 Arab-Andalusian music, and a good pop and catchy songwriting. Not only me, but everyone there was mesmerized by her, and one American producer raved about her and said, "She's dynamite!"

Singer/songwriter Ofer Mizrahi was also wonderful, quietly playing his homemade modified whale guitar, which he developed over the past five years. The whale guitar, with more than a dozen resonant strings, has a sweet sound like the sarod, a stringed instrument of Indian classical music, and his songwriting was influenced by Brazilian bossa nova, northeastern music, French chansons, and even Arabic music. The music was like a personal prayer.

Many popular electronic, hip-hop, funk, pop, and rock artists also performed. Some of the artists included those with less Israeli musical elements (Jewish music, Middle Eastern music, etc.), but even so, I was constantly overwhelmed by the high level of musical education in this country and the musicians' ability to perform.
I cannot introduce all the artists here, so if you are interested, please listen to the radio programs "NHK-FM Music Tour Exotic Cruise" and "J-WAVE Oriental Music Show" in which I serve as a navigator.

On the 28th, the final day of enjoying Israeli music, the Israeli government suddenly banned foreign tourists from entering the country in order to respond to the influx of new coronavirus Omicron strains. If it was held a week later, the IMSF would have been cancelled. And we have become (temporarily) the last foreign tourists. At the beach in Tel Aviv, which I visited to get rid of my fatigue every day, I realized such a surreal reality while floating in the seawater. I sincerely hope that next year's IMSF will be held in the after-corona world.

On the 28th, the last day of the festival, after all the Israeli music had been enjoyed, the Israeli government suddenly banned foreign visitors from entering the country in response to the onrushing Omicron strain of the new coronavirus. If the event had been held a week later, the IMSF would have been canceled. And we were the last (albeit temporary) foreign visitors. It was a surreal realization of the reality as I came to the beach in Tel Aviv to recover from the exhaustion of the day, floating in the sea water. I sincerely hope that next year's IMSF will be held in an after-corona world.


Takuya Salam Unagami

Music Critic / DJ / Middle Eastern Culinary Researcher / Lecturer at Asahi Culture Center

He has traveled regularly to the Middle East and India to do fieldwork on the local music and culinary scenes, and has authored 10 books and written articles for magazines and websites, as well as DJing for radio and clubs, lecturing at open colleges and universities, and teaching cooking classes. His music selection and appearance on J-WAVE's "Oriental Music Show," a program specializing in Middle Eastern music, won the 2017 Japan Commercial Broadcasters Association Award for Best Radio Entertainment Program. His communication languages are English, French, Hindi, and Japanese. Born in Takasaki City, Gunma Prefecture, he graduated from Meiji University with a degree in Political Science and Economics.

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