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Outdoor ouzo jams

by gavriel August 12 2008
Things to do

Perach Adom

The Jerusalem music scene is a constantly evolving mosaic of myriad influences, and an excellent example of this diversity is the Perach Adom ensemble, who have perfected their emotional brand of Greek-Israeli acoustic fusion over the last seven years. Perach Adom, which means "red flower," is scheduled to play two free concerts over the next few days, on Thursday at Gan Daniel near city hall, and on Sunday evening at Café Mizrachi in Mahane Yehuda.

Founded and directed by bouzouki player Tomer Katz, who also teaches as the School of Eastern Music in Musrara, the band's music is based on Rembetiko, the improvisatory and romantic music that flourished in Greek hashish dens during the decades before World War II. By changing the instrumentation slightly and writing Hebrew lyrics to many of the classic melodies, Katz has made the music more accessible to an Israeli audience and in the process created a new sound – although it could be said that his Israeli take on Greek music is part of a natural progression, since it turns out that some of the musicians during Rembetiko's golden age were Jewish too.

"Rembetiko is really the blues of Greek music," Katz explains. "It comes from the heart, thousands of songs that they wrote for themselves and for their crowd – it's not pop at all. The songs are special and use scales that come from Turkish music, but also [unlike Turkish music] use harmony." According to Katz, Perach Adom is the first ensemble in the country to champion acoustic Rembetiko music, although modern Greek music is popular in Israel and is a big influence on the pop-mizrahi sound found on the radio.

The band honed their chops in a now-legendary two year run at the Husha, a converted studio apartment in Nachlaot that hosted them for a lengthy session every Wednesday. These intimate performances, thick with cigarette smoke, copious amounts of ouzo and the looming dread of a visit from the police, were a laboratory for developing their sound and created an extremely loyal fan base. It even got them featured on Greek TV, but the tiny, unlicensed venue still had to be shut down after excessive noise complaints from the neighbors, and the band moved on to performing in bigger venues around the country.

Which is why it's a treat to be able to catch them for two shows in their hometown. This Thursday (the 14th) at Gan Daniel near City Hall is part of a summer concert series put on by the municipality and should be pretty cool, but the Café Mizrahi show on Sunday (the 17th) is a better bet. With tables spilling out into the lanes of the Shuk for their loyal contingent from nearby Nachlaot, it's just the kind of intimate venue Perach Adom thrives in. Both shows are at 21:00 and are free, but if you want to reserve a table for the Café Mizrahi show you should call 02-624-2105, or you will surely be standing.

Photo courtesy of Perach Adom.

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