In February-March 2011 I had the honor and the pleasure to lead a two week residency at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) focus on the untold chapters of Israeli music and culture, its roots in the ancient Kingdom of Israel and its relationship to Arabic music and culture. The series opened with a lecture demonstration titled: “My Heart is in the East” – Sacred Israeli Music. In it I discussed how ancient Israeli Hebrew music connects the Jewish people to their roots as a Middle Eastern tribe, where it originated and why it is important today for Israeli identity and peace with the Arab world. This event features the deep spiritual singing of Rabbi Hagai Batzri.
The next day, I presented a fascinating talk about the Israeli-Bedouin music connection. In it I explored how did Bedouin melodies end up in classic traditional Israeli folk songs and dances. We discussed the interest early Zionists musicians and artists found in the traditional music of the Nomads people of the Middle Eastern deserts and how this attraction impacted the music, dance and art scene of Israeli society from the 1920 to our times. I shared field recordings done in the desert dunes, and stories of travels with the Bedouins, and compared the original Bedouin melodies and the Israeli folk songs. THis lecture-demonstration featured the Arabic singer Ahmed El Asmer and Israeli singer Maya Haddi.
In the third day we took on a difficult question: What is Israeli Music ?
This was an opportunity to perform and talk about the rich and complex musical traditions of Israel from ancient times to contemporary styles. The unfolding of various musical expressions of East meets West, unique musical fusions and the fascinating history of some Israeli musical genres which went from being underground to being celebrated by the Israeli elite. This event featured the Yuval Ron Ensemble.
Then came the forth day with a most amazing untold chapter of the Yemenite Jewish music of Israel, featuring Margalit Oved (Yemenite dancer and singer), Barak Marshal (Yemenite male singer and choreographer) and Maya Haddi (Israeli Yemenite singer)
I discussed the question of why there is such high percentage of successful singers in Israel who came form Yemenite Jewish origins, the special music tradition that the Yemenite Jews brought to Israel and how they influenced Israeli folk music and dance. Also we explored the women songs of Yemen, the wedding songs and why they sing it.
In the firth day we had a special screening of the Oscar winning film “West Bank Story” which I scored in 2007 and a discussion on how humor and art could impact peace making efforts in the Middl East.
And finally for the sixth and final event we had a full concert of the Yuval Ron Ensemble with guests artists. It was titled; From Spain to Jerusalem – A musical journey following the traveling of Sephardic Jews and their music and poetry from Spain via Turkey, Morocco, Egypt, Iraq and finally to Israel. The story of Maimonides escaping from Spain to Morocco, Israel and settling in Egypt as the Sultan’s doctor, the tale of the Spanish Jewish refugees rescued by the Ottoman Navy and the mystery of the oldest Jewish home in Jaffa, Israel, built by the Turkish Jews on their way to pilgrimage to Jerusalem. It was a fascinating journey in music, poetry and story telling which brought Jews, Armenians and Arabs together to celebrate the beauty of the music and culture of the Middle East, Spain and Jerusalem.
Prof. Arieh Saposnik, the director of the Y and S Nazarian Center for Israel Studies in UCLA who presented my residency in UCLA wrote: “Yuval Ron’s residency did an excellent job of shedding new light on a diverse array of perspectives on Israeli music, its history, and its multiple cultural influences. Each of the lecture-demonstrations managed to capture a particular aspect of Israeli music. Given the five events that preceded it, I knew the concert finale would be excellent, but it exceeded all expectations and managed to generate not only wonderful music, but also a spirit and energy that reverberated almost overwhelmingly throughout the audience in Schoenberg Hall. People simply did not want to leave when the concert ended. Yuval Ron’s ability to bring together such evocative and eloquent music with an intellectual exploration of the music’s history and development, and a subtle message about cultural fusion and coexistence made the concert—and the entire residency—a truly unique experience, both for me personally and for the many participants who commented on it to me in this spirit.”
I hope you would have an opportunity to experience such an incredibly deep inspiring and insightful events in your community. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange bringing this important work to your community.
For more info on my work and music , up coming events, music and video clips please visit www.yuvalronmusic.com