Tradition and Transition is a six part radio series exploring the voices of a new Israel. In each episode Alejandro Cohen and co-host Chris Kissel explore the creative process and the path of Israeli artists in discovering and finding their identity in a nation that is young yet holds ancient traditions as part of its heritage.
In the process of interviewing some of the most fascinating artists, curators, producers and makers in contemporary Israeli music, we heard a common underlying message: Israel is at a crossroads, where the traditional and religious aspects of its culture sometimes conflict and restrain, and other times give the country's artists guidance in finding their voice. As the influence of trends from around the world push the artists to embrace a global approach at music making - and as Israel itself ages - an appreciation for the country's roots appears to grow. As often happens with the music of our parents, the first reaction is rebellion against traditional music. But as we get older we come to embrace the sounds, songs and artists that were part of our childhood. We realize that the music we once rejected is now, and always has been, part of who we are.
I see Israel as a country still working on finding its voice, but on the right path. The common thread among the people we spoke to is the blending of sounds from the past with contemporary music, while retaining an influence from modern music of past decades. The answer of whether Israel's music will go on to be as distinct as the reggae of Jamaica, the Krautrock of Germany, or the Tropicalia of Brazil is yet to be seen. It will depend on the adventurous and uncompromising attitude of its music makers. Ultimately it may rely on the exceptional talent of a handful of its people who will turn the ears of the world towards this young nation, just as Bjork did for Iceland, Fela Kuti did for West Africa and Kurt Cobain did for the city of Seattle in the United States.
Embracing tradition and blending it with modern sounds from a wide spectrum of genres such as punk, electronic, dance, hip hop and pop could be a starting point, but I believe in order for Israel to fully find its voice, it must go through the hard process of exploring, dismembering, rebuilding and questioning its DNA as a nation. Bringing the hard topics to the forefront in a unique way that can only belong to Israel. Many artists in Israel have done it already, and that's a beginning.