One of the striking aspects of Jewish Yemenite music is its unique vocal characteristics. In traditional Jewish communities instruments are not used in liturgical settings as a way to remember the Temple in Jerusalem. This focus on vocal music has contributed to the richness of the Yemenite vocal musical tradition.
Ravid Kahalani, a second-generation immigrant from Yemen is a part of Israeli mainstream music. He brings the old tradition alive while simultaneously incorporating African and Middle Eastern harmony with jazz and blues, “oriental blues”. With a unique voice, good pronunciation, absolute confidence in poetry and a touch of modern music Kahalani and the band Yemen Blues even has a large fan base in Yemen.
A few years ago Kahalani wrote a song about a failed relationship. This song led to a whole album and the forming of Yemen Blues. The thing is that Ravid Kahalani decided to sing his farewell song in Arabic and chose Yemenite music to accompany it as well as jazz and blues, and mostly everything together. The album was an international hit. Yemen Blues toured all over, at places as far off as Poland (home of their biggest audience) and New York, where they appeared as part of GlobalFest, the city’s most prestigious showcase for world music.
Kahalani is one of those artists that “give” themselves to the stage and the performance. I was lucky enough to experience Ravid Kahalani and the Yemen Blues, to see what happens on stage; he dances, shouts and whispers.
“When performing in France, I was asked if I will present Israeli music. I told them that I really don’t want to show anything specific, I want to present music. I do not think my music represents something Israeli or Yemeni or African, it just represents music. As human beings we serve music and through music we can understand and accept so many things. In one of our songs, we sing ‘no matter where you are you from and what god you pray to, the melody always comes from the heart…’ It does not matter if it’s somebody from Mississippi who songs blues or a Yemeni singing prayers, it is the same spirit prayer that can touch them all equally. “
Yemen Blues – Jat Mahibathi – Filmed at the old city of Jerusalem.
Aside from Ravid Kahalani, Yemen Blues consists of four other musicians who came from jazz, rock, hip hop, pop, electronic and ethnic music; Ronnie Culprit, a Uruguayan percussionist who immigrated to Israel at the age of 19 and has played with almost every successful production in Israel and abroad. Snir Blumenkrantz, who plays the bass and the oud, brings a rich and varied musical experience, joined the band after the first album and became one of the most prominent artists in Yemen Blues; Itamar Borochov, a trumpeter, known for his Arabic punk music style and Itamar Dohary, who is one of the best percussionists in the world in almost every field and musical style.
Yemen Blues has two albums, “by Ravid Kahalani” and “Insaniya” (Humanity in Arabic).
Insaniya, of course, reflects Kahalani’s approach to life in general. “Humanity was always my main focus, both texts and poems, I always focus on the fact that a human being is a human being first of all.” says the singer. “We are human beings before we are religious or politicians or anything else. I think people take it for granted, and it is forgotten. People are busy with the wisdom of life and religion, and what is true and what is not true, and they forget what is the basis of the soul. The simplest, and perhaps the most naive thing to remember, but you have to remember it. it’s just humanity. “
“(Yemen Blues) could sound like an Arabic pop orchestra accompanying serpentine melodies, or a North African trance group driving a modal riff, only to switch toward jazzy horn and flute solos or hints of chamber music.” — The New York Times
“Quite simply, it’s one of the most exciting bands in world music right now.” — Time Out Chicago