Sunday, October 23, 2016

Yair Dalal and Yotam Haimovich perform at the 50th Abu Gosh Vocal Music Festival

Yair Dalal (photo: Elyasaf Kowner)

Entering the tranquil grounds of the finely preserved Benedictine Monastery of Abu Gosh (10 kilometres west of Jerusalem) one is confronted by one of the best-preserved Crusader churches of the area. It stands at the site of Emmaus. Visitors to the 50th Abu Gosh Vocal Music Festival (October 21st -24th 2016) were sipping coffee with cardamom and eating rich sweet local pastries, spending time in the shade of the ancient olive and pine trees and enjoying the well-tended gardens before leaving the rest of the world behind them to enter the Crypt, its mighty and thick walls drawing one’s gaze upwards. A bubbling spring flows below the crypt.

“Sundown View” was the title of a concert in the early afternoon of October 21st performed by Yair Dalal (oud, violin) and Yotam Haimovich (sitar).  Except for one traditional Jewish Sephardic melody (sung before and on the Day of Atonement), all the pieces performed were original works by Yair Dalal. At the start of the event, that very specific calm, soul-searching atmosphere of Dalal’s style rose from a single ornamented melodic line played by him on the violin. In time, Haimovich entered in unison with the melody, having now become more dancelike; as the sitar took over the melody, Dalal provided a drone with the occasional “comment”. Some of the items were songs – sung sotto voce by Dalal – accompanied by oud and sitar, with a few people in the audience joining him in gentle humming. Haimovich, barefooted and seated on the floor, played in the Indian tradition. All the pieces used middle-eastern modes, never marred by western harmony. The program revolved around melodic improvisation, the art of embellishment, musical dialogue between the artists, each in his own personal emotional style, soloing to bourdons, drones and ostinati, a profound discourse in the musical language of the senses, of aesthetics, of human communication.

Playing guitar from age 10, Yotam Haimovich (b.1973) engaged in classical music, jazz, electronic music and Middle Eastern music. In 1994, he went to India, where he studied the sitar, Indian philosophy and the indigenous music for seven years with Pandit Shivnath Mishra, living in the master’s house, then completing his studies at Varanasi University. Having become a sitar master, Haimovich performed all over India, an unusual course for a western musician. He has performed widely with such artists as Michael Benson, Erez Munk and Yair Dalal. In an effort to amalgamate traditional Indian and western music, Yotam Haimovich has devised an instrument that combines the sitar with a synthesizer – a keyboard instrument that preserves the sitar character.

Born in Israel (1955) to Iraqi Jewish parents, Yair Dalal studied the violin. Classically trained, he became interested in Iraqi folk music and western rock. Taking up the oud, he began playing music with the Azazme Bedouin tribe, this inspiring him to write music that strives to bridge the gap between Israelis and Arabs. His belief is in the emotional and transformative power of music. Dalal is also involved in preserving the cultural heritage of Arab-Israeli music. He speaks of the inspiration for his music, “When I play or when I compose, many things are in my head and in my spirit: the Jewish prayer from the Synagogue, the Iraqi maqam which was played in the Baghdad coffee shops by the Jews and the folk songs that we have in Arabic. And also, the desert, which is my favourite place” (Shapiro, M. (2002) Global Rhythm).

The artists, the event and the magical location in which it took place, made for an inspiring start to the 50th Abu Gosh Vocal Music Festival.
Yair Dalal,Yotam Haimovich (photo:Martina Koelsch)

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