Koby Israelite / Dance of the Idiots

the pied piper of desert bands - a long time since I've enjoyed a tzadik cover! Koby Israelite
Dance of the Idiots
Tzadik Records TZ7179, 2003

61 E. Eighth Street, pmb 126
New York, NY 10003

This is a brilliant debut album by London-based Israeli expat Koby Israelite. It feels more than appropriate that this is released on John Zorn's Tzadik label. With a talented ensemble of Israeli and British musicians, he smashes dozens of styles and genres together. Israelite creates not a new unified style, but instead a hip hop pastiche of Jewish identity and incredible music.

Opening with the bouncy "Saints and Dates", one gets the feeling of setting out upon an innocent excursion, perhaps some gentle lounge music or techno ahead. The transformation of the "Zemirot le Shabbat" following, establishes a different sense. Suddenly Middle Eastern and Ashkenazic melody meld. Followed immediately by a faux, satiric cantorial voice in "If that makes any sense" which alternates with heavy metal guitar reminiscent of Deep Purple, Israelite makes much sense. By treating each song as a "sample" of the world music around him, Israel is staking a claim to the vast territory that defines "Jewish", or at least, his musical world, some of which includes "Jewish," whatever that is.

This mix of British and Israeli music thoughts seems incredibly fertile in Israelite's hands (or programming fingers, as the case may be). "I used to be cool" mixes a French cafè ambience with electronica and interesting percussion before exploding into more urgent middle eastern and jazz rhythms. Slower, more meditative works such as "Battersea Blues" mix everything from the blues to a Middle Eastern desert feel, a feel enhanced by the scat middle eastern prayer melodies adn funk of "In the meantime".

It is rare that this sort of mixture works. Here it does. The mixture of genres, of sacred and profane, from heavy metal to nusakh shouldn't work, but it does, and the more one listens the deeper one goes. I haven't enjoyed a CD this innovative and this good in months. Along with the work of fellow Israeli Gilad Atzmon, one senses that something very interesting musically is happening in London. I'm going to keep enjoying this one for a long time, but I also feel eager for more, eager for more.

Reviewed by Ari Davidow 6/8/03

Personnel this recording:
Koby Israelite: drums, vocals, electric guitar, pocket clarinet, flutes, piano, accordion, keyboard,melodica, percussion, programming
Levi Levin: vocals
Marcel Mamaliga: violin
Ofir Gal: guitar, rhythm guitar
Stefan Redtenbacher: bass guitar
Gilad Atzmon: clarinet, baritone and tenor saxophones
Sid Gauld: trumpet, flugel horn
Reut Regev: trombone
Howard Davies: didgeridoo
Yaron Stavi: upright bass, electric upright bass
Marin: accordion


  1. Saints and dates (Koby Israelite) 3:37
  2. Toledo five four (trad., Ladino) 4:33
  3. If that makes any sense (Koby Israelite) 5:46
  4. Diego (trad. Romanian) 1:51
  5. Battersea blues (Koby Israelite) 7:59
  6. I used to be cool (Koby Israelite) 5:15
  7. In the meantime (Koby Israelite) 6:20
  8. Wanna Dance (Koby Israelite) 5:36
  9. Truah (Koby Israelite, Igal Foni) 4:30
  10. 2nd of Tamuz (Koby Israelite) 3:35
  11. Dance of the Idiots (Koby Israelite) 2:47
  12. Happylouge (Koby Israelite) 1:44

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