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Israel Blues: A Musician’s Voice

by Asaf Avidan

I was born in a nation of immigrants. Over the 62 years of its existence, Israel has become a melting pot of social and cultural exchange. Poles, Germans, Yemenites, Moroccans, Egyptians, Russians and more—all foreigners that have unintentionally contributed their traditions to the biological and cultural composition of Israel. However, Israel is not my entire identity. My parents were diplomats, so I moved all over the world as a kid, living in Jamaica and in the United States. I never felt defined as an Israeli. It is my home, and my passport, but it’s just another feature—like having blue eyes. It’s another part of me. It’s not what defines me. The blues-rock I play is not distinctly Israeli. Sung in English, it is my own interpretation of what is undeniably an American genre. Then again, bluesrock was formed by the collision of three worlds—African, European and American colonial. The African slaves, kidnapped and sold by the Europeans to plantations in North America and the Caribbean, were the first spark for what would become the backbone of modern music.

In the past, cultural and metaphorical symbolism were anchored to the places they were formed. Today, after the undeniable success of the American film and television industries abroad, the world has a more cohesive singular standard, or some might say, a Global Canon, from which to derive artistic inspiration. Art is not a field of study or personal expression which can easily be defined. It speaks a global language. Art moves and breathes without regard to state boundaries or races. It is almost biological in its composition, as it changes and mutates throughout place and time. And though we may have developed a variety of dialects, still we all speak the same global language—in my case, music.

“Poor Boy, Lucky Man” by Asaf Avidan and the Mojos

Asaf Avidan is a folk singer living in Jerusalem. Often labeled the male version of Janis Joplin, Avidan sings with a distinct rasp, indicative of his major influences—Jimi Hendrix, Led Zepplin and Joplin herself. Though he intended to be an animator, Avidan could not resist the lure of the guitar. Avidan and his group—the Mojos—have toured Europe, Israel and the United States, performing to sold out audiences at every stop.

Image via Flickr, user Yarden Sachs

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