Words by Mordecai Beck. Taiseer Elias pictured above
The calming power of music at a tense time in Jerusalem
As Jerusalem sees some of the most serious political disturbances in recent years, the Jerusalem International Oud Festival brings a civilising alternative. Now in its 16th year, the festival celebrates the shared culture of the oud, the Arabic lute, in the region. Curated by Effie Benaya, its aim is to show that people can live and play together despite their differences. Founded in the year of the second intifada (2001), the festival has continued to bring together the best of local and foreign artists in a harmonious display of music that defies the penchant for violence and disorder.
This year is no exception. Joint performances by Jewish and Arab artists include Helen Sabella (oud and vocals) and Liron Meyuhas (hang, darbuka, cajón), two women who present Song of the Oud, interpretations of Arab and Turkish classics and original compositions. Professor Taiseer Elias, one of the stalwarts of the festival, performs twice, once with an oud solo and once in a joint tribute to Farid al-Atrash, considered one of the greatest oud players of the Arab world in the 20th century. Another perennial festival favourite is Yair Dalal who, in addition to performing on oud and violin, will receive the first prize for world music in Jerusalem named after the founder of the Confederation House (HQ of the festival) Kalman Sultanik. Among his guests is Shlomo Bar, the Moroccan-born musician who first stunned the locals with his combination of Moroccan music with Indian, Persian, Spanish and other Mediterranean sounds.
There’s much excitement around the premiere of Zohar Fresco’s (pictured above) new album. The percussionist is one of Israel’s best-known musicians who has played with Bustan Abraham, Ross Daly and Zakir Hussain. But Tof Miriam is his first solo album named after the Hebrew name for the frame drum.
The festival runs from November 12-21. Find out more.