Now that you are here
October 18, 2011 12:44 PM   Subscribe

Arik Einstein is probably the greatest singer that Israel ever had. Since 1959, his voice & melodies embodied the best that Israel ever produced. His songs are nostalgic to the core, and listening to them always rekindles in most Israelis the sad, beautiful promises of their childhood. Today he released a new song, called ‘Now that you are here’, to mark the release of soldier Gilad Shalit. (Previously)
posted by growabrain (33 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Better than Gidi Gov?? (I kid, I kid.... )
posted by wittgenstein at 12:48 PM on October 18, 2011

Better than Dana International? (I kid, I kid...)
posted by Capt. Renault at 12:50 PM on October 18, 2011 [3 favorites]

Better than Shoshana Damari? I THINK NOT.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:53 PM on October 18, 2011

Far from the best Israel to ever produce.
posted by Corduroy at 12:56 PM on October 18, 2011 [3 favorites]

Better than Gene Simmons?
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 12:57 PM on October 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

This is the problem with declaring something to be the best ever in your FPP. Having participated in that derail, I will now try to rerail by pointing out that Arik Einstein was a collaborator with The Churchills, which was actually an excellent garage rock and roll band from Tel Aviv.

posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:03 PM on October 18, 2011

Terrible song. Sorry.
posted by monospace at 1:04 PM on October 18, 2011

Terrible song. Sorry.

I am going to try to be polite in responding, but I see this sort of comment pop up all the time, and it always puzzles me. It's your opinion, and you're entitled to it, but, honestly, what makes you think it has any value at all? And, by that, I mean, why do you think your opinion alone has value? All you're doing is asserting your taste, and taste is a highly subjective thing.

What you have offered is the start of an idea, not am idea itself. If you wish to engage discussion, let me suggest something like this: "I find these songs terrible, and here is why ..." Because, without that, you haven't participate in conversation, but limited it. You haven't stated anything that anybody can agree or disagree with. And, again, without any disrespect intended, I don't care what your tastes are. I don't know you, I don't know what you like or don't like, and it doesn't affect me in any way.

However, why you feel a certain way? Well, that interests me. That's how I get to know somebody. That's something that can be discussed, if not resolved.

You find these songs terrible. Why? Go ahead, engage in conversation.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:15 PM on October 18, 2011 [7 favorites]

Bibi's big old smile in that first frame of the video kept me from being able to listen to this all the way through because I had to go puke.

To counter the nationalist dreck factor, I offer this entry:

Mira Awad is a *Palestinian-Israeli-Christian* Israeli citizen from Tel Aviv who competed quite credibly in Eurovision 2009 and is signed with Sony (I think). Does that count? Trick question!

She's a Eurovision-style pop star, but actually she can sing her ass off anyway. Her Eurovision entry, cowritten and performed with (Jewish) Israeli artist Noa, was called "There Must Be Another Way," and generated controversy and denunciation from both Arab and Jewish perspectives, but was nonetheless an aesthetic success (as these things go) and a significant commercial hit as well, pointedly combining Hebrew, Arabic, and English with a pretty potent message of reconciliation that one longs to hear in the public discourse, and which is pointedly absent in the American coverage of Schalit's release, all seemingly about whether Hamas will benefit from this or Israel gave up too much, etc.

I'm being half facetious, of course. In technical terms, there are many better singers in Israel than anyone mentioned in this thread so far (including no small number of more traditional Palestinian artists, and a pretty good lineage of opera singers as well).

It's wonderful that Schalit is home. Too bad this will just lead to more fist-pumping bullshit. On both sides.
posted by spitbull at 1:22 PM on October 18, 2011 [3 favorites]

Arik Einstein is probably the greatest singer that Israel ever had.

I am going to try to be polite in responding, but I see this sort of comment pop up all the time, and it always puzzles me. It's your opinion, and you're entitled to it, but, honestly, what makes you think it has any value at all? And, by that, I mean, why do you think your opinion alone has value?
All you're doing is asserting your taste, and taste is a highly subjective thing.

Or do you only demand people write many paragraphs if you disagree with their opinion?
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 1:32 PM on October 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Arik Einstein better than Israel's answer to Pearl Jam? Of course I am talking about the rocking Eyfo ha Yeled! Don't bogart that joint, Motek!

I have no opinion on the fpp really, except to say that songs about current events, no matter what the event or whatever political freight, tend to be a bit mawkish. However great that this kid is released.
posted by xetere at 1:37 PM on October 18, 2011

Or do you only demand people write many paragraphs if you disagree with their opinion?

I neither agree nor disagree with this opinion. I also don't think this is a great song. A lot of this style of Israeli music, in my opinion, suffers from pedestrian production values and a sort of plodding reliance on chanson-style singing. This feels rushed out to me.

To counter the nationalist dreck factor, I offer this entry

That's a curious statement. There's nothing fist-pumping about this song, which primarily deals with Shalit as somebody who has been absent a long time, and not as a soldier or as a representative of Israeli superiority. In fact, the same explicitly asks him to forgive his circumstances.

Here's a very rough translation of the lyrics.

Nor ever has been forgotten
The sweetest moment
When we heard was over
And you come
Be close
A smile of innocent children
Conquered the Interior
First shiver
After five years
Now you're here
Take it slow
Do not run fast
Remember, remember, laugh

Always be a hero
You can cry
It's not easy at all
Forgive the fate
But now you're here
You can have love
You can have a strong hold
You can take a deep breath

The heart was ticking five years
Pain clock was ticking
The fear had not come back
We killed the heart
We love
Hear your name
Now you go back
And there is great love

Take what you can
Do not you dare be ashamed
We waited only to give you
But now you're here ...
But, what fun you're here
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:40 PM on October 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

I was specifically referring to the fact that the video for the song is practically a pre-made campaign commercial for Bibi Netanyahu. But now that I see the text translated, yeah that's still dreck in my book. Sentimental, romantic text mapped onto images of political triumph makes for nationalist dreck in my book.

Sorry, taste is subjective.
posted by spitbull at 1:45 PM on October 18, 2011

Parallel sentimental text for the day:

Men wept as they embraced their sons and brothers, while women, some of them draped in the Palestinian flags and the green banner of Hamas, ululated.
The prisoners were then driven from the southern border crossing to Gaza City, where Hamas said over 200,000 people were waiting to greet the detainees at a mass ceremony.
Raed Abu Lebdeh, who spent 13 years in prison, was overcome as he embraced his 13-year-old daughter Miriam for the first time.
'It's an indescribable joy to see my children,' he said, holding his weeping child to his chest.
'I feel as though I was born today, it's the very first time that I've seen my father and been able to hug him,' she said.
Suhair al-Ghul, whose husband Omar was sentenced to life in prison, arrived at Rafah with her two sons, both armed and wearing the uniform of the Hamas armed wing.
'I can't believe that my husband is back today, I'm just amazed,' she said.
'He spent 25 years in prison. He left behind his children and he's returning to find 18 grandchildren.'
posted by spitbull at 1:48 PM on October 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

PS -- not dumping on the post, as such, but also reacting to the statement of very debatable opinion with which it begins, along with the content. Presumably as the poster of this, you meant for us to discuss its content, yes?
posted by spitbull at 1:52 PM on October 18, 2011

The prisoner swap probably deserves it's own thread, as it could potentially have major implications, but if we're just going to talk about Israeli musicians with emotional power...
posted by gwint at 2:00 PM on October 18, 2011

1. The song is not as good as many of his regular ones, and I assume that it was written, performed & produced in one or two days (?). Its sound though is typical Einstein.
2. I am sorry for the Bibi montage that was uploaded as background to the YouTube. It's horrible, but what can you do.
3. I thing that Arik Eisnstein is probably & arguably the greatest Israeli singer ever. He's been extremely prolific for over 50 years. He's difinitely a nostalgia magnet, especially for ex-pats. Ask anybody.
4. Bunny, you speak Hebrew? Blows my mind.
posted by growabrain at 2:02 PM on October 18, 2011

My vote goes to Ofra Haza.
posted by mykescipark at 2:04 PM on October 18, 2011 [3 favorites]

I speak a little Hebrew. I went to a Jewish high school and was a Jewish Studies major when I first went to college (eventually switching to theater). I probably speak more Yiddish than Hebrew, though.

I agree about the montage. It doesn't seem like this is the official video for the song. I sincerely doubt Einstein intended it to be fist-waving, or even political, although that would be hard to avoid. He has been very critical of modern Israel, especially politics, and his music has made repeated demands for peace. He once sang "Tired of dreaming the same dreams, Locked up in the same walls, Tired of hating the same hate" and has compare politics to a prostitute, sating that politicians promise peace but then go and make war.

As far as I can tell, this song was earnestly meant as a welcome back to a young man who has been absent for five years. It's impossible to separate it from the fact that this event happened under the shadow of the Israel-Palestine crisis, but I doubt Einstein intended to use the song to fan Israeli triumphalism or nationalism.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:09 PM on October 18, 2011

Not unless he's gone crazy conservative in his old age. Which I admit is a possibility, but I have heard nothing about it.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:11 PM on October 18, 2011

Great song and arrangement. Moved me just as much as a Pink Floyd song. I wish I could understand the lyrics.
posted by Meatafoecure at 2:13 PM on October 18, 2011

So, does anyone else think that this is a fairly cynical move on Israel's part, designed to derail Palestinian statehood by empowering Hamas and making terrorism and kidnapping more attractive?
posted by Grimgrin at 3:20 PM on October 18, 2011

Must I state that my family is on and off Jewish to qualify this, or can I just say that I don't enjoy Italo-pop either?
posted by mumimor at 4:43 PM on October 18, 2011

Grimgrin: nice try. It's not as good as the argument that the deal was an expression of Israeli racism, intended to show that the average Palestinian is worth .1% of an Israeli.

Anyway, here are the original lyrics.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:03 PM on October 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

You find these songs terrible. Why? Go ahead, engage in conversation.

It's a terrible song, because it has next to no progression. You can't tell the verse from the chorus except from the bass and drums kicking in. The instrumentation sounds like Magic Garageband, and even though I don't understand the words, the emotions expressed feel like some old guy mumbling after a night of guzzling cheap wine. It has no character. I suppose its only redeeming quality is that it's about a current event that a lot of people care about.

Taste is a highly subjective thing, but artistic quality isn't. It's a terrible song. Sorry.
posted by monospace at 7:57 PM on October 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

The thing is, in U.S. terms, it's like if Peter, Paul and Mary regrouped (sadly no longer possible) and wrote a song to commemorate the election of an African-American president. Or Pete Seeger. All at their advanced ages as of 2008.

You could hate PPM!
Or Pete Seeger!
It could be an awful song!

But it would still be a cultural touchstone and worth looking at for anyone with the faintest interest in US cultural or political life. Song quality is beside the point here.
posted by skbw at 11:19 PM on October 18, 2011

Put another way: you may hate "If I Had a Hammer" with a fiery burning passion; you may think that "Blue Moon of Kentucky" was in fact the opening shot of a new generation. But that doesn't mean that PPM's 2008 take on a Black president wouldn't rate a FPP, had they done it.

So this (Arik Einstein's "Ani ve-Ata") is pretty darn close to Israel's "If I Had A Hammer."

Given his looming place in Israeli cultural life, I am interested to hear what he has to say about Gilad Shalit, no matter what I think about the song or the politics. Rocket science it isn't.
posted by skbw at 11:52 PM on October 18, 2011

Thanks all participants for the discussion: I knew when hitting the 'Post' button that my framing of the FPP will not receive many bonus points around here. However, I was moved by the sounds of the song, and by the fact that it popped up on Youtube just a few hours after the prisoner exchange, and decided to share it anyway.
Let me add some of my feelings about it.

Arik Einstein is now an old man of 72. He had been the dominant pop singer in Israel since his late teens. Love them or hate them, he holds the same venerable position in Israel that the Beatles hold within the general pop culture. But unlike the Beatles who were only active together for 7 years, he’s been doing it for 50 years or more.

His most notable distinction are the long series of albums that started in 1973 called 'Songs from the Good, Old Israel'. In those collections he brought back hundreds of the old ballads that shaped the cultural conscienceless of people who grew up in 'good old days' of the 50's and 60', and who heard folk songs from decades before. Einstein voice is dipped in nostalgic honey and brings back "memories so thick that people will have to brush them away from their faces".
I don't think that there are many Israelis who don't absolutely love at least some of his repertoire. And for many of the nearly million ex-Israelis, Arik Einstein's voice and the taste of the falafel in Vadi Nisnas are the two memories that transcend time, politics & desire.
There are many other notable singers in Israel. Shoshana Damari is indeed the grand old dame of Israeli folk songs. But I don’t think that anybody else sustained the same career & status as Einstein.

Here are a few of Arik Einstein (mostly older) more evocative songs, which you can compare to this quick new one:

Tears of Angels

Take me under your wings
Your brow shrouded in black gold
In the summer
Every Night
This is autumn
The long & sad days
Why should I care
White town
The blue kerchief
In the small hours after Midnight
Autumn Night
It’s so good you could come back home
- Enjoy.

I used to have a sub-blog that had many links to Middle Eastern music, some Israelie, some Palestinians and other Arabic, Turkish, etc sources. Some of the links there are now defunct, but you can still explore them there.

Regarding the "Bibi" images on that YouTube: I detest Netanyahu & his fascist co-patriots & politics, but early in the morning, that was the only version of the song that popped up (There are now untainted versions to be found online). I think that Einstein himself is a fairly liberal type, but I'm not sure about his personal political views.
posted by growabrain at 3:00 AM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

It's as if Peter Paul and Mary had written a campaign song for Dick Cheney, more like.
posted by spitbull at 4:53 AM on October 19, 2011

It's as if Peter Paul and Mary had written a campaign song for Dick Cheney, more like.

It's more like Bruce Spingsteen, who is famously liberal, had written a song about returning Vietnam soldiers. Which he did.

If this song starts getting used by politicians to promote their agenda, we can have this discussion. But, at the moment, you have not pointed out anything in this song that inherently supports conservative Israeli politics.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:07 AM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Thank you for telling me what discussion we can have. I wouldn't have known otherwise.

I have said repeatedly that the video images are the problem, and whether Arik Einstein had anything to do with them or not is irrelevant. When "Born in the USA" is presented as a jingoistic nationalist anthem, I find that repugnant even though I know the song's meaning.

Growabrain chose to link to a version of this song that looked like a Netanhayu propaganda reel to me. The fact that people are putting this song to those images, whoever those people are, bespeaks the nationalist edge of its sentimentality.

And comparing this to Born in the USA, which actually does voice a direct critique of the kinds of politicians who would use it for an anthem without listening is balderdash. The language of this is pure sentimentality. The feelings it expresses are no more Israeli than American or Palestinian or Bushman. Everyone likes it when a long lost son comes home. I find the lyrics, as translated (since I don't speak Hebrew) to be schmaltzy even detached from the nationalist sentiment to which they speak. I find the performance not particularly distinguished in any way. And the claim that Arik Einstein is even *close* to "the greatest" Israeli singer is laughable to anyone who knows the music of the region.

If someone had posted "God Bless America" to MeFi set to images of Bush on an aircraft carrier or bombs going off over Baghdad, or Dick Cheney smiling in every frame, it would change the reception of that song too.
posted by spitbull at 6:22 AM on October 20, 2011

Also, let's not pretend this post is just about this song. It's a celebratory post in honor of Shalit's return (sorry I spelled it wrong above). No problem, but then say so.
posted by spitbull at 6:28 AM on October 20, 2011

Spitbull, I disagree with your interpretation, but leave it there.
Here is a (horrible Google machine translation of an) article from Ha'aretz today, encouraging Arik Einstein to break his current partnership with Guy Bokati (here named 'Valley' Bokati, Ha!), which according to the writer have turned his output since terribly mediocre & bland.
I agree that this song (as well as some of the songs I heard from recent years) are not as engaging, but who know
posted by growabrain at 10:16 AM on October 26, 2011

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