On the one hand, our story is as complex and rich as a fine bottle of wine—and yet the story isn’t so complicated at all. It is a tale of two musicians who started to sing together, produce together, imagine together, and eventually create together. It is a tale of the meshing of a vast array of musical influences and the indescribable energy of Tel Aviv. It is a tale of cultural conflicts and triumphs, of negotiations and artistic angst, of production schedules interrupted by regional conflicts and wars. But at the end of the day, it is about a friendship between two musicians, and what can happen when they take two guitars and a prayerbook into the studio.
Writing Israeli-influenced music with the intention of making it accessible to an non-Israel audience is a daunting task. Unlike Micha’s fifth album—Kmo Mayim—which I produced in Israel and which was released in Israel for Israelis in 2014, Aneni was a completely different production intended for a completely different audience. While the musical instrumentation is decisively Israeli, using middle eastern instruments, tunings, and musical modalities to bring a certain spark of Israel outside of the land, the deliberate choice of texts that are easier to grasp for one who does not speak the language was crucial in the creation of Aneni.
Eight of the songs were crafted specifically for this production. There are two exceptions, each with a sweet story that will be the subject of future blog posts (I can’t give away all of our secrets on the first day, can I?!). Eight of the songs come from the Shabbat siddur—although the texts appear in most siddurim, we used the specific texts of Mishkan Tefillah, the prayer book of the Union for Reform Judaism. Two of the texts were written by Micha, while I diligently combed through and edited to make sure that the words would be easy, light, and pronounceable by non Hebrew speakers.
Every musician who played on Aneni, every producer, photographer, and designer who worked on format and release has his or her own unique relationship with Judaism, Jewish text, Jewish prayer, Shabbat, holidays, etc…and the discussions and the “arguments for the sake of heaven…” that happened in the studio are as memorable as some of the magical musical moments that occurred during the making of the album.
But that is the ikar—the main point—of why we simply had to produce this album in Israel. The most inspiring, the most daunting, the most exhilarating moments of creation happened when we were least expecting them to. Every person who has a fingerprint on this production had a pretty solid opinion about something—most Israelis do. They were intrigued by the fact that it was being produced for people that probably wouldn’t really understand the lyrics without looking at the translations. They were touched by the fact that so many people who don’t know Hebrew would want to sing along. And much of that unforeseen energy became a part of the creation of Aneni.
I don’t know if you can hear the sounds of Tel Aviv and of Jerusalem and Netiv Haasara and Hertzliya Pituach when you listen to the album. But it’s all there—the sounds and the sweet tastes and smells and sites of a place that for me will always be home.