Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Ziontrain interview and review: Eden MiQedem

Looking around the dimly lit club, I try to determine what kind of show to expect. The steadily filling room is already becoming crowded with a myriad of sorts: hipsters, hippies, a few Lubavitch fellows, married couples sitting together, having a laugh, beer for the men, non-acoholic soda for the ladies.
Kind of a mix, really.
But that's what can be expected when attending a show played by Eden Miqedem, the "newest" - and most exciting -act from Israel. Led by Shmuel Nelson, this band mixes all types of elements: Sephardic/Arabic/World music, lyrics from liturgy, tehillim, and original compositions, mixed with techno samples and goold old psychedelic rock.
This past Wenedsday's show, held at Triad, featured a more stripped down ensemble: Shmuel Nelson on lead guitar, accompanied by another guitar, a bass, a drum and a percussion section( what Shmuel jokingly called the "New York branch of Edem MiQedem". In truth the band was the lineup of the now defunct [ I believe] Shimshak band), causing the show to have more of a "rock" show.
For a first taste of the band, I couldn't have done any better. Song after song, I was dazzled by the music, the sound, and the ambiance. While Shmuel's banter may need to be tweaked, his soft spokenness and the feeling that a majority of attendees were friends of the band lent itself to the atmosphere, affecting a warm friendly surrounding. As a matter of fact, Shmuel's entire manner - from the way he speaks to the way he interacts with others - belies an intensity that one must witness. I had the pleasure of catching him after the show, and we rapped for a few minutes...
Jewmaican20: First of all, I'd like to thank you. That was truly amazing.
Shmuel Nelson: [ Nods head, smiles ] Thank you, thank you. I'm glad you enjoyed it.
J: How long have you lived in Jerusalem?
S.N.: I've been living there for four years now...
J: How long have you been in the musical business, in the scene?
S.N.: Well, I've really been playing, making music since I was in high school. But in the business? Since I moved to Israel. I mainly play weddings with a band called "Et Hazamir".
J: Cool. So, what circles do you play in? Do you ever go to Kikar Tzion, jam with the bands that play there?
S.N.: I don't like to limit myself to any "circle", really. I haven't jammed with any of those bands, but I like to think that we connect with all sorts...This music is very broad. We have middle eastern elements, what some people in Israel call "ethnic"...
J: I noticed that several of your songs have Arabic in them...
S.N.: Yes. One song contains the Muslim call to prayer, that they use to call the faithful to worship...
J: The Muezzins...
S.N.: Exactly. The message of that particular call speaks to me, namely it's role in Islamic society, but in general, Arabic speaks to me. I speak Arabic, and it's an emotive language. One of the songs I played tonight, Mizmor LeSodah, I've translated into Arabic, and it's sung in both Arabic and Hebrew...
J: Wow...
S.N.: Yeah, it's very nice.
J: So, who would you say is your target demographic?
S.N.: Anybody. The widest possible. Obviously, people who have a taste in the psychedelica world, the ethnic and world genres, but really everybody...
J: So, how do you define your music?
S.N.: Well...it's spiritual. Definitely. But I wouldn't define it as jewish, necessarily. It's got jewish prayers, but I want it to be for everyone...
J: I could tell that Floyd, the Dead, are influences of yours, but I'm curious as to what your major music influences are...
S.N.: I'm really into this style of music called Sha'abi ( an ethnic Egyptian form of music), obviously there's the rock influences. I've also been listening to DJ Cheb ( an Algerian jewish DJ who lived in France and now is based in San Francisco), and Natash Atlas, who is a big influence of mine...
J: Okay, great. Now, we both know how music is emotional, and sends messages on all levels, but if you had to speak your message, what would you say?
S.N.: [ Thinks for a minute ] Okay. First and foremost, in an expression of beauty. We believe through beauty we can connect to God, and to others. It can bring people together. Not everyone is ready for it; some are afraid of it... Especially now, it seems like a divine irony, all the discord going on back home ( Israel). We can't see the similarities between us ( Jews and Arabs), and maybe through this beauty, we can come together...

Here are two videos from the show...



Review: Eden Miqedem
First of all, unlike most Israeli made albums, this one has amazing quality; cystal clear.
As opposed to the show, which was a stripped, rockier version of their songs, the album boasts a rich sonic texture: Soaring flutes, violins, accompanied with techno samples and amzing instrumentation. Shmuel's Arabic inflections provide an exotic feel to anyone not familiar with this genre of music. I won't go through each song, but his choices of tehillim and liturgy are fine, and every track is fresh. His original poetry (as detailed in the liner notes) is breathtaking and authentic. This album is high on my list of must-haves.
Unfortunately, I don't believe that the album is available in most stores, so you'll have to visit their website: www.edenmiqedem.com.
It's worth it. Buy this album!

12 comments:

The Dreamer said...

interesting...

the lyrics to his "desert" song are really beautiful.

i don't really go for his personal message, though. peace between arabs and jews? ha! is that really ever going to happen until moshiach?

he is talented, however...

one more question - why does he use hashem's real name when singing his songs?

thanks for posting... i like to get a feel of different genres in the jewish music world...

trix said...

hey, they were good. although youtube vids taken from the back of the audience don't always get such good sound quality. I was totally not expecting to like them btw. thats what you get when judging by appearances.

loved that arabic twist.

Lvnsm27 said...

Sounds interesting :)

the songs sound better on their webpage. They have an interesting mix going on there.

trixies86 said...

listened to the website. I liked some. didn't like some. I liked the stuff on stage better I think. arabic sound with the rock background, its what I like about persian music I think. I didn't really like some of the tehillim with the arabic sound to it, was too piamentas for me. I like the all arabic one and part of another one had good music. they didn't play enough of the songs online that I could make a fair judgement.

jewmaican20 said...

Dreamer - Yeah, I liked that song too. I'm telling you, his original stuff is breathtaking.
As for worldview/hashkafah? I may not agree with some of it, but the idealism speaks to me. And, that's why we need Moshiach now, more than ever...Like he said, some people are afraid of it...
Sephardim ( and some Chassidim) hold that as long as you're saying a complete pasuk, you can say Hashem's name.
Glad you've found something new through the site...
Trix - The look might not be so good, but the sound quality is great. Much better than my own, which is why I neglected to post it.
Guess we learn not to judge a book by it's cover, huh?
Lvnsm27 - I'm serious, it's worth getting the album. I love it...

The Dreamer said...

jewmaican - i don't know if it's idealism... i mean, if you go play at a benefit for some lebanese, supposedly showing your support, you've obviously got to take a reality check.
yes, it's great to live ideals. but when living in a world of reality, that hasn't reached the ideal setting, sometimes, it can just be plain wrong to do something...
get what i mean?

karma dude said...

For anyone who’s got a problem with it, forget the lyrics and just listen to the music. Jewmaican20, you know no one likes a well played piece of music like me and this was great (and that’s just listening to it in the car, when I get a chance I’m going to sit down at home and listen on the Bose). Thanks for recommending. Peace out>

The Dreamer said...

karma dude - didn't say i had a problem with the lyrics... they happen to be really nice... just with the message the guy SAYS and that he writes on his site... you know, what he stands for...
:)

the music is good, too. not typical, which is refreshing...

doodlehead said...

howd u remember the whole interview to write it down?

jewmaican20 said...

Doodle - Usually I have a recorder. This time I wrote his answers down verbatim.
Karma Dude - Glad you liked it, man. Hope your bro likes it too.
Dreamer - I get what you mean. I don't agree with his politics, but the ideal of peace speaks to me...

karma dude said...

Dreamer, I’m sorry if I offended you in any way. When I said “if you have a problem” I didn’t mean it in the “ya got a problem punk” kind of way. In addition where I used the word lyrics, I stand corrected. Politics, philosophies, beliefs, and any number of other words would have better given over the concept I was getting at. Amongst the many gifts G-d has so benevolently bestowed upon me, eloquently putting my thoughts into words was unfortunately not amongst them. Basically what I was try to say was that in my opinion, regardless of this artists politics, philosophies, beliefs etc. etc. I still like the music. You of course, are entitled to your own opinion. (Note to self: Get a writer)
Karma Dude out>

The Dreamer said...

jewmaican - peace appeals to me, too. :)

karma - no offense taken... i said i like the music, too. problem with me, is that i always look at the person singing, as well, and his ideologies... i'm not saying that i don't listen to soemone's music if i don't agree with his ideologies, but i do take it with a grain of salt...


and your words are quite eloquent - no writer needed...
:)