The RockAmi Festival, featuring some of the Jewish world's most well known bands will be available not only to those in Jerusalem but to anyone with internet access. The entire festival will be simulcast live on Israel National Radio with commentary and interviews by INR show hosts on Thursday evening, the final night of Chol HaMoed Sukkot.
The concert is sponsored by Guma Aguiar, and will be broadcast live by Israel National Radio, tomorrow (Thursday, Oct. 8) 5PM - 11PM Israel (11AM - 5PM Eastern) at www.IsraelNationalRadio.com. Click on "Listen Live" for live streaming audio.
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Gershon Veroba, both the co-producer and a headlining act spoke to Israel National News about the importance of providing quality entertainment. "You have seven bands right smack in the middle of Jerusalem" said the singer. It's one of the largest Jewish rock shows ever in the Holy City. We wanted to appeal for families, student, adults, everyone. You can have a good time close to home and still have time to go over to Ben Yehuda Street and begin the evening again on the last night of Chol HaMoed Sukkot."
Veroba released his first CD in 1993 and became known for his serious versions of American pop songs. As opposed to parodies, Veroba hits dead-on impressions of the original singers with his own poignant lyrics. But it's his original material that he is most proud of. His 2007 album Reach Out is a mix of singer-songwriter style pop and rock. "Reach Out is special for me. My preference is to be an original artist."
But fans demanded more cover songs resulting in 2009's Second Impressions, which includes Don't Stop, a tribute to terrorism victims. "I bring musical worlds together," said Veroba commenting on the issue of whether or not a Jewish performer should utilize non-Jewish music.
"Even a lot of the rabbonim [rabbis] who previously stood up against the mix of secular and Jewish music have listened to what I do and seen it as appropriate. It can be done but must be addressed carefully. Some of the rabbis actually knew the original songs. I had a rav [rabbi] at my home and we sat and talked about the Second Impressions album extensively about each song."
But Veroba is selective about what songs he performs. "I don't like making a song unless it has a purpose. Just to throw in words like "Torah" or "Moshiach" just to say that I did is useless. I don't want to legitimize secular songs but utilize them well."
In regards to the RockAmi festival, Veroba is excited about the line-up which mixes both established bands like Piamenta, Moshav Band and Soulfarm with newcomers like Semantra and Majuda. It was Veroba who came up with the 'RockAmi' name. "I want to give kids more alternative to good solid entertainment and have the Americans meld more with Israelis. I want to mix olim [immigrants to Israel] and potential olim.
One of the longest running acts to perform will be Piamenta. The band is celebrating guitarist Yosi Piamenta's return to Israel after years of living in New York. Brothers Avi and Yosi on flute and guitar respectively have been exciting Jewish music fans for years with their mix of Sephardic Israeli sounds with hasidic pop and rock. Yossi has been recently performing in American rock clubs as 'Yossi Piamenta and the Heavenly Jams Band' presenting Jimi Hendrix style virtuoso guitar licks with Hebrew lyrics, often based on Psalms or other traditional sources.
The Moshav Band will play their groovy mix of Jewish jam band songs influenced by Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach and the Grateful Dead. The band members grew up on Moshav Mevo Modiin with Rabbi Carlebach. Their song Come Back has become a hit due to it's use in Nefesh b'Nefesh videos promoting Aliyah to Israel. It's also one of the featured songs on the newly released Aliyah Revolution Album. Soulfarm also hails from Moshav Mevo Modiin and mixes jam band vibes with some Shlomo Carlebach covers. The two bands often perform together.
The rock'n'roll loving Chabadniks that make up Yood made a quick name for themselves performing their blues-rock at Mike's Place and other clubs in Israel. Their covers of Chabad songs with blazing electric guitars have gained them a diverse fan base.
Two new bands will also perform. Majuda's member hail from South Africa, France and several North African countries and play a mix of African, reggae and other sounds in Hebrew and English.
Semantra is a new project by Shmuel Nelson, formerly of the critically acclaimed Eden MiQedem. Sementra mixes deep Middle Eastern traditional instruments with electronic dance beats, guitars and rock grooves.
Veroba and co-producer Jonty Zwebner of RNY Productions purposely advertised newer bands together with more popular bands to promote the younger musicians. "If everything goes well" Veroba said, "we will do it next year." The organizers are expecting success as the venue, production team and sponsor, Guma Aguiar, are the same for this summer's successful Woodstock tribute festival.
The RockAmi festival will be held Thursday Oct. 8th at Kraft Stadium in Jerusalem (next to Gan Sacher). Israel National Radio will simulcast the event live from 5:00 p.m. - 11:00 p.m. Israel time. To listen click on "Listen Live" on www.IsraelNationalRadio.com. A sukkah will be located on the site with kosher food for sale. All children under 10 years old get in free. If one group purchases 15 tickets, the 16th ticket is free. For further ticket information visit www.town6.com or http://www.rny.co.il.
Ben Bresky is a music critic from Jerusalem and host of The Beat podcast on Israel National Radio.