Tsvia Abarbanel – Soul of The East (1970)

Soul of The East
Soul of The East

Following our last post, we’ll continue in Israel. To show you a little forgotten 45 single, re-released by Fortuna Records. Established in 2012, this new label is aimed to reissue psychedelic nuggets printed in Israel, as well as Middle-Eastern grooves in general, although this time ain’t a Koliphone release. There are only two songs but I was really impressed with the fabulous crossover between east and west!

Let’s go to her history:

Born in Radda, South East Yemen in the late ’40s, Tsvia Abarbanel immigrated to Israel with her parents and settled in the north of the country. She was raised in a traditional Yemenite house where she learned the culture and traditions of Yemen.

She spent most of the youth as a Shepherdess looking after her family’s herd, during the long hours in the fields, Tsvia developed her singing skills, practicing traditional Yemenite chants, typical to the region of Radda. When she was 25 years old, she bravely left home to go and study Ethno-Musicology and Fine Arts at the Los Angeles University. The early hippie movement dominated the college halls and soon enough she started frequenting the LA club scene. It was by pure chance that she found herself at Watts, queuing for a Dinah Washington concert at the Kabuki Theatre.

Every night from midnight to 6, Tsvia, would flock to the Kabuki to get a glimpse of the biggest musicians of the time such as Ramsey Lewis, Ray Charles and more!

70's Portrait
70’s Portrait

This community-only event drew her deep into the sounds of soul and jazz, inspiring Tsvia to give her own musical background a totally new interpretation. Before even recording her first song, she started performing throughout the west coast, in big venues such as the Hollywood Bowl & The Cow Palace in San Francisco, showcasing her unique brew of traditional Yemenite singing and western jazz rhythms.

A beautiful 26 years old Yemenite girl was an odd sight in the Afro-American music scene of LA in the mid-’60s. She looked different, she sounded different, but her musical talent was so explosive she was immediately embraced by local musicians!

Let’s go to our record:

Returning to Israel in 1970, Tsvia started working on her debut album with a prominent Tel Aviv jazz band called Piamenta’s Guys. Led by Albert Piamenta, musician and arranger, who introduced funk and western elements into traditional Israeli songs, the result was one of the most magical recordings to ever come out of the region. However, the Israeli record industry found it far too strange and of no commercial potential. (!) And so Tsvia and her husband released a limited 45, making this one of the most obscure and hard to find Israeli records ever.

Yemeni Lady
Yemeni Lady

The ‘IM’ highlights spare any comment: Yahalel Hawa, has an strong percussion pace and a sour folklore singing, assisted by this little cool jazz veil. A classy ethnic one! And Wings of Love, certainly a challenge to anyone who admires the frontiers from music, with a Yma Sumac’s intro, this jazzy soul got some horn attacks, organ, sax solos, heavy drums, and the always lively percussion, recalling us the strong geographical bond that Yemen has with Africa. Unluckily both sounds end up until 3 minutes, but the fusion stamp that Tsvia left are forevermore!

Our little Shepherdess, is still performing, writing and composing her own material, spreading Yemenite music in Israel to this day. Hyvää Matkaa!

Tracks include:

A Yahlel Hawa

B Wings of Love

Credits

  • Accompanied: Piamenta’s Guys
  • Mastered [Uncredited]: Beau Thomas
  • Producer: A. Piamenta, D. Abarbanel
  • Written: S. Shabazi

Notes

Licensed courtesy of Tsvia & David Abarbanel

Produced and recorded in Tel Aviv, 1970

(P) & (C) Fortuna Records 2012

Sana'a, Yemen
Sana’a, Yemen

Grazia (גרציה) – Grazia! (1978)

Koliphone Cover
Koliphone Cover

Israel. Jaffa in the late ’60s and early ’70s had an exciting and exotic sound to offer, where folk musicians performed live at its taverns seven nights a week. It was far from the mainstream hit-parade of swinging Tel-Aviv but close enough geographically to attract listeners from across the Tel-Aviv / Jaffa metropolis. The scene got bigger and wilder, as it embraced the Middle Eastern celebration style known as Hafla, involving heavy drinking, local food, and music of course.

Standing at the center of old Jaffa and its vibrant music scene was the record store and label, Koliphone Records. Owned by the Azoulay brothers, Koliphone tirelessly recorded these artists and sold their records to the growing masses. At first, they released mostly Greek and Turkish music, shortly followed by Yemenite, Moroccan and Hebrew records, showcasing the cultural melting pot of this ancient town.

Pradisiac Jaffa
Paradisiac Jaffa

The biggest and most influential artist of the time was Aris San. A singer and guitar virtuoso, San created the Israeli-Greek style and introduced the drums-bass-guitar rock combo to folk audiences. His fans thought they were listening to traditional bouzouki melodies, but in fact, San’s music was a lot heavier, strongly influenced by American surf, verging on the psychedelic. San’s huge popularity attracted many other artists to record the new style he had pioneered. Artists such as Trifonas, Levitros, Nino Nikolaidis and many more began to appear on Jaffa’s record stands. Among them was a young girl who sang in Turkish. Her name was Grazia Peretz (גרציה פרץ)!

Grazia was a wonder kid in the early ’70s. She started singing at the age of nine, performing at Turkish weddings and Mediterranean nightclubs, sharing a stage with Aris San and Trifonas. Soon, she became an in-demand act for events up and down the country, landing herself a weekly TV spot on the Channel 1 music segment!

Let’s go to our record:

Psych Portrait
Psych Portrait

For her 16th birthday, her father sent her to record a full-length Hafla style album at the Koliphone Studios. Marko Bachar, who was the label’s in-house producer, arranger, and keyboard player, was in charge of the project. Bachar had just sold his organ and bought a monophonic Moog synthesizer. Grazia wanted to break free from the conformities of Greek and Turkish folk music and introduce the early sounds of disco she and her peers were getting so much into.

When the album finally hit the shops it sold… nothing! Hard funk drums, pounding bass coupled with synth blips and psychedelic Turkish guitars, well… it was all a bit too much for the unsuspecting folk audience. At the age of 18, disheartened by the music industry and the undue touring environment she had to endure at such an early age, she stopped singing and never returned to the studio or the stage.

The ‘IM’ highlights unfold us a distinctive tinge from the east, beautifully sang in Turkish, with utmost moogsSoyle Beni, with an eerie sci-fi feel, this Israeli disco prog shows us the kind of sound that people used to dance, back on Jaffa nightclubs. And Rampi Rampi, an upbeat with broken pace, key winds solos, luscious chorus and the usual Arab/oriental scales with its minor harmonics. A Rocky feel at its best!

Chuyến đi Tốt!

Tracks include:

A1 Kemangi

A2 Soyle Beni

A3 Artik Sevmeyegegim

A4 Istemen

A5 Elveda Meyhanec

B1 Rampi Rampi

B2 Muhabbet

B3 Olmek Var

B4 Arkadas

B5 Gidis O Gidisse

Licensed courtesy of Azoulay Brothers.

Recorded in Jaffa, 1978.

Koliphone ‎– 46407

Reissue by ℗ & (C) Fortuna Records 2013.