Jerusalem Music Conference Reveals Hidden Gems

Hundreds are gathering in Jerusalem this week for the first annual Jerusalem Music Conference. Coverage includes photos and podcast.

Tags: Music
Ben Bresky ,

Jerusalem Music Conference
Jerusalem Music Conference

Hundreds of singers, music industry executives, producers and label owners are gathering in Jerusalem this week for the first annual Jerusalem Music Conference. Panel discussions on music and new technologies, the business angle and the unique Israeli scene were held at the Jerusalem Venture Partners Media Quarter.

Although numerous contemporary Israeli performers such as Idan Raichel, Asaf Avidan and Infected Mushroom, to name but a few have become internationally known, organizers say there is a disparity between the number of talented and professional musicians from Israel and the number that are successful and popular in the world market. Arutz Sheva's Israel Beat Jewish Music Podcast was on the scene to speak to organizers and attendees about the event.

For an audio podcast of the Jerusalem Music Conference coverage click here.

"I'm proud of my entire staff," stated Jeremy Hulsh of Oleh! Records, one of the executive producers of the event. "We have hundreds of people from all over taking part and talking about music export and development," he said, as people brushed past. An Israeli band played in the background as he spoke. People dressed in business attire mingled with the more colorfully and unusually dressed musicians on the lawn of the JVP Media Quarter.

Hulsh made aliyah from Chicago ten years ago where he worked in the music industry. "I did not come with the the intention of doing what I'm doing," he reminisced, "but I saw so much talent here."

Hulsh said he never imagined he would be hosting such a conference. "It just goes to show you that music and culture in Israel is vast and expansive and it's in every city in the country. I'm really proud that it's happening in Jerusalem. If we can do it in Jerusalem, then we can do it everywhere," he commented.

As far as boycotts and other political ramifications, Hulsh says that things are changing. "There's an old-school thought of using music for politics. But I believe that thinking people know that Israeli musicians don't necessarily represent a certain political view. These musicians are not going abroad to promote an agenda other then making great music," Hulsh said.

Jason Chernofsky, an employee of Oleh! Records and a music journalist said, "we want to create a South By Southwest for Israel," referring to the huge annual conference in Austin, Texas. Often referred to as SXSW, the conference attracts the biggest names in the American music world every year.

Chernofsky said that even though this is only the first year of the Jerusalem Music Conference, he is already seeing the results. "Israel needs to get the music out there, to market it and to create a brand. The idea is to help people create the business part and reach a global audience."

Elisete Retter, an accomplished musician was in attendance as well. Born in Brazil, she has lived in Israel for the past twenty years and sings in both Portuguese and Hebrew. "Here we are a very small country," she told Arutz Sheva. "And the best way is to keep doing your shows here but also to go abroad." Ritter recently returned for a series of concerts in the United States. "I want to show the people from abroad what Israel really is for me," she said.

Another musician was Yakir Hyman, formerly of the band haMAKOR and currently in the G-Nome Project and Grilled Cheese Funk Productions. "I might be a musician, but I'm here mainly as a music enthusiast. I'm proud of Israel because a conference of this magnitude happening in our capital city is humongous," he said.

"The more people that come out and show support, the better chance of putting Israel one the map as the music provider for the world," Hyman enthused. 

Attendees of the conference were also invited to the Zion Reggae Festival which featured both foreign and local performers and to a performance by the Grammy award-winning American klezmer band, The Klezmatics, who are currently touring in Israel.

Some of Israel's best known home grown talent performed at special showcase stages ranging in styles from Middle Eastern, punk, rock, klezmer, hip-hop, folk, electronica and other uniquely Israeli fusion genres.

The Jerusalem Music Conference is being presented by the JVP Media Quarter, Zappa Music Group, Oleh! Records - Israel's Music Exort Office, 2B Vibes Afficoman Productions, Minhal Ginot Hair and is supported by the Jerusalem Municipality, the Ministry of Tourism, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the United States Embassy, and the Embassy of the Czech Republic.

The conference began on Monday and will end Thursday August 30th.

Media representatives and panelists came from America, China, the Ivory Coast, Israel and other countries. One of the guests was Parag Bhandari, the CEO of UG Strategies. He spoke at a panel entitled "What Works, What Doesn't: Top 10 Tips for Every Artist". Much of the discussion revolved around new media and technology such as social networks and mobile devices which have changed the way that people listen to and purchase music.

"This is a hidden gem gold-mine of amazing music and I'm absolutely floored," Bhandari said of the Israeli scene. "It's not only brilliant but it's needed, because there is a serious level of talent here for music," he told Arutz Sheva.

"Given the market and the industry, there needs to be some sort of platform to expose this music. I'm grateful to be a small part of it," he said.

As far as political conflict, Bhandari didn't seem overly concerned. "Jeremy [Hulsh] asked me if I was scared to come here and I said, heck no. There are conflicts in certain other markets around the world," he stated, "politics will happen, everywhere, and it's unfortunate that there's so much of a spotlight on the Middle East. I hope that with events like this, the culture and music will outshine, and next year more people will come to this conference."

For an audio podcast of the Jerusalem Music Conference coverage click here.


Ben Bresky is a writer and journalist living in Jerusalem. He hosts The Israel Beat Jewish Music Podcast every Sunday from 6:00 PM - 7:00 PM Israel time. For Facebook click here. For Twitter click here.

Shlomo Taitz is a professional photographer living in Jerusalem. He has previously conducted projects for the Diaspora Museum and is the co-author of Jews in Arab Lands Today: Photographs. For more information click here.