Koby Israelite
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Koby Israelite


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The best kept secret in music


"Koby Israelite: "Dance of the Idiots""

"Dance of the Idiots" takes the thrust of heavy metal and slams it together with a Balkan restlessness while maintaining a strong Jewish spiritedness. If you've grown up in a musical or cultural blender, this record will make perfect sense to you. If you haven't, it will strike you as highly imaginative and, more importantly, highly listenable and danceable.

"I love all kinds of music," says Koby Israelite, who at age 13 moved from Israel to London where he started drumming in Jewish wedding bands. He spent his teens listening to heavy metal -- Led Zeppelin, Judas Priest, Rush -- but with time became interested in other music -- jazz, funk, African, Frank Zappa and Mr. Bungle, a wonderfully demented band led by former Faith No More frontman, Mike Patton. Diverse influences aside, Israelite points to one event as especially significant in his musical development: two years ago his girlfriend took him to see the Gypsy band Taraf de Haidouks. "This was a turning point for me," he says. "The next morning I bought an accordion."

To be sure, not everyone has taken the same musical journey as Israelite. But for many it has been similar, and that's why this album, strange as it is, is so enjoyable and familiar. "Wanna Dance?" opens with monks reciting Gregorian chants punctuated by atmospheric keyboard noises bouncing off the church walls. Drums drop in, and a fuzzed-out guitar and ominous bass alternate with a melancholy Eastern European melody rendered on some stringed instrument. Several minutes into the tune the bass gets all wet and nasty, and a horn solo hoists listeners to the ceiling while the rest of the band jams so hard you'll forget how strange the mix is -- it just makes sense. "Truah" sounds like the soundtrack to some Blaxploitation/Gypsy chase scene. "Battersea Blues" is underpinned by the low drone of a didgeridoo and a haunting vibrato guitar, while a clarinet and accordion play a gut-wrenching melody that eventually gives way to an ambient interlude of watery sounds and animalistic noises before the guitar and accordion creep back in.

Such compositions run the risk of sounding overly wrought. But from the start, "Dance of the Idiots" is spacious, fun and joyously imaginative. Perhaps this is because Israelite's mission is not simply to dazzle but to communicate his journey in life honestly and musically: "All I try to do is to create something beautiful. I dedicated myself to beauty, and the outcome might be strange and hectic but this is me as a person." - The Japan Times: May 7, 2003 By Tom Bojko

"Koby Israelite's Kosher Cooking"

"Saints and Dates" the opening track on Dance of the Idiots (Tzadik) is what you might expect from an artist named Koby Israelite. Skipping along merrily it's a nearly traditional though slightly off centre Klezmeresque number propelled by the artists own accordion and piano and a cheerful clarinet contributed by Gilad Atzmon. (Global Rhythm 2003) You might be convinced Israelite found it on an old 78 rpm record in his grandparents house.

But by the third track cunningly titled "If That Makes Any Sense" you can kiss your expectations goodbye. Israelite who is indeed from Israel but now resides in London owes as much to stage diving and slam dancing, Frank Zappa and to free jazz, as anything he might have absorbed from the Klezmatics. A formally trained pianist who later gravitated towards the drums and also knows his way around electric guitar, flutes, clarinet and other intruments and who also handles his own programming arranging, production and most of his own song writing - Israelite once played in a covers band that performed punk songs in Hebrew as well as his country's first speed metal band. Simultaneously he dove into Jazz particulary drawn towards the world class drummers, Peter Erskine, Tony Williams and Jack de Johnette.

All those influences and myriad others surface on Dance of the Idiots. Israelite's second solo album, often within the same tune. Tzadik's John Zorn who released Israelite's album as part of the labels Radical Jewish Series prefers to concoct such seemingly impossible hybrids as Catorial Death Metal, Nina Rota Klezmer, Balkan Surf and Catskills free improvisation as much to explain what it isn't as what it is. Multi-instrumentalist - multi- ideas man Israelite is accompanied here by a number of stella musicians, but clearly this is one mans vision.

Israelite credits Taraf de Haidouks the Romanian gypsys who grace this issues cover for inspiring him to take up the accordion and begin the trek that ultimately sent him in his present direction. What's most disarming about the often startling nature of Dance of the Idiots though is how unprecious, how unaffected it all seems. The funky brass of "Truah" could have come from a New Orleans funeral march the title track from a trendy Downtown Manhatten club and when the chanting monks give way to Black Sabbath guitar in "Wanna Dance" we're all out of adjectives. - Global Rhythm November 2003 By Jeff Tamarkin

"Orobas: Book of Angels, Vol.4"

Koby Israelite has issued two previous CDs for the Tzadik label, Dance of the Idiots and Mood Swings. Both showed a tremendous flair for composition, instrumental acumen, humor, and an ability to shift genres without batting an eye. Israelite was born in Tel Aviv, and has played everything from traditional Hebrew folk music, classical music (he was trained on piano at a conservatory from the age of nine), and he's a huge fan of heavy metal and has played in a number of metal and punk bands. This set of John Zorn tunes -- from Zorn's second Masada book -- Orobas: Book of Angels, Vol. 4 was handpicked by the composer. The results are stellar. There's the Yiddish gypsy blues that meld with funk and jazz on "Czgadi," where accordions engage in contrapuntal free form with a fretless bass before guitars and trap kits move to the center of the mix. The startling metal guitar riffing that introduces "Zafiel" is splayed out by Turkish folk melodies by mid-track. Then there are the mariachi-styled melody lines played by trumpets, electric guitars, Farfisa organs, and a drum kit on "Khabiel"; the mood changes, the genres smash and meld effortlessly (klezmer melodies and reggae enter and leave seamlessly and the track is taken out by a kind of prog-surf metal before it ends), and the music becomes hypnotic while remaining exciting, even breathtaking. The other musicians who lay here -- trumpeter Sid Gauld, Stewart Curtis on recorders, piccolos and clarinet, and Yaron Stavi on bass, (Israelite plays no less than eight instruments himself) -- are in top-flight, and this feels more like a band than an individually directed effort. And perhaps that too is a strength Israelite possesses, to place his imprint on Zorn's music in an idiosyncratic way, and still give his ensemble an individual identity. As for the series, Orobas: Book of Angels, Vol. 4 is another essential Four-for-four and counting. This is the most exhilarating set of recordings Tzadik has offered in quite some time. For those who haven't yet checkout Israelite, this is a fantastic opportunity. - All Music Guide April 2006, by Thom Jurek

"Koby Israelite - Mood Swings"

"Mood Swings" sollte ein Referenztitel für sämtliche Musik jüdischer Herkunft werden. In wohl keiner Musik wird man in ein derartiges Wechselbad aus Gefühlen geworfen. Überschwengliche Freude steht neben tiefster Trauer steht neben unbändigem Zorn steht neben gelassener Heiterkeit. Gut, dass es mit dem Tzadik-Label John Zorns eine passende Plattform auch für die seltsameren Auswüchse dieser Musik gibt.

Koby Israelite, der Multiinstrumentalist und neuerdings auch Komponist verschiedenster Musikstile, versteht es jedenfalls prächtig, diese Vielfalt der Gefühle auch auf seinem neuesten Album auszudrücken. Schon auf dem Cover wird die emotionale Ambivalenz zur Schau gestellt. Die clownesk bemalte Frau blickt betrübt zu Boden, das Akkordeon unscharf dahinter unter einer grinsenden Plastik-Clownsmaske.
Mit einem Augenzwinkern versehene Titel wie "Return of the Idiots", "Ethnometalogy" und "Goodbye Unit 26" stehen neben dem zynischen Spruch Einsteins "I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but WW IV will be fought with sticks and stones." Koby Israelite war drei Jahre in der israelischen Armee, er darf sowas wohl.

In seiner Musik vermählt er nicht nur Trauer mit Freude, sondern auch Ost mit West, Klezmer mit orientalischen Einflüssen, Jazz mit Metal. Letzteres ist allerdings mit Vorsicht zu genießen: Bei Tzadik wird zwar mit Vergleichen zu Naked City und Mr. Bungle geworben, deren Punk- und Metaleinflüsse kommen aber auf "Mood Swings" nur selten zum Vorschein. Wie der Name offensichtlich macht in "Ethnometalogy", in dem stellenweise dumpfe Riffs über einem Mix aus Free Jazz, Klezmer und Arabesken gespielt werden. Klingt etwas zu polternd und eigentlich unnötig. Außerdem hört man kreischende Gitarren, die dem Noiserock entlehnt scheinen in dem beschwingt umherwirbelnden "12 Bar (Mitzvah) Blues". Und zu guter Letzt gibt es einen sekundenlangen Death Metal Ausbruch in "Psychosemitic". Was aber das ganze Album durchzieht ist ein sehr energetisches musikanarchistisches Unterbett. Das Schlagzeug trommelt quirlig vor sich hin und steuert der Musik zusammen mit dem Bass einen ordentlichen Drive bei, auch die Bläser zeigen sich druckvoll wenn nötig.

Zeigt der Opener "Dror Ikra" noch eine ausgeprägte Affinität zu orientalischen Melodien (mit Gitarren, die verblüffend an Becks "Loser" erinnern), macht das anschließende "Return of the Idiots" ordentlich Druck über Gypsie/Zirkusmusik, die auf Klezmerjazz trifft. Feurig, aber etwas zu sehr auf die Tube gedrückt. Eher ein Treppenwitz, nicht zuletzt, weil die Tuba an deutsche Blasmusik erinnert. Mit dem langen "It is not a war here" wird es deutlich ruhiger und auch wirkungsvoller. Zahlreiche Melodien, gespielt von Instrumenten wie Akkordeon, Klarinete und Violine treffen aufeinander, geben sich die Klinke in die Hand und spielen ihre Waisen leicht verändert weiter. Ein ständiger Fluss von Geben und Nehmen über einem komplexen und abwechslungsreichen, aber durchaus nachvollziehbaren Rhythmusfundament. Tempowechsel und Themenwechsel sind keine Seltenheit, dienen aber stets dem Songverlauf, dessen Verfolgung Spaß macht, aber nachdenklich stimmt. Denn der Grundtenor ist ein Trauriger.

"Europa?" wiederum spielt mit einer vordergründigen Lässigkeit, die an französisches Laissez fair erinnert, "Hiriya on my mind" im Gegensatz dazu mit einer hektischen Basaratmosphäre.
Das beste Stück des Albums bleibt jedoch das sechsminütige "For Emily", das nicht nur den ruhigsten, sondern auch den intimsten Song des Albums darstellt. Es ist nicht nur wie alle Stücke ausgezeichnet durchkomponiert, es nimmt sich auch mehr Zeit, eine dramaturgische Spannung aufzubauen und diese erst gegen Schluss mit einem bewegend emotionalen Tutti zu beenden. Im direkten Vergleich der beiden langen Stücke mit den Songs der CD, die unter sechs Minuten bleiben, hat man den Eindruck, Koby Israelite ginge zu oft zu hektisch vor, was den Songs zwar eine (nicht nur) oberflächliche Lebendigkeit einhaucht, ihnen aber den Sinn für einen effektvollen und langsamen Aufbau nimmt. Das mag Aussage beinhalten (die vertonte moderne, hektische Welt mit all ihren Ausbrüchen und Auswüchsen), aber eine steigernde Langzeitwirkung fehlt so manchem Track. Das Tin Hat Trio (oder deren Rob Burger) bekommt Ähnliches überzeugender hin, weil sie viel weniger mit dem Holzhammer operieren, sondern den Stilen auch Zeit zum Entfalten lassen.
Das bleibt aber auch die einzige Kritik an diesem ansonsten wundervollen, Grenzen einreißenden und Kulturen verbindenden Album, das aufgeschlossene Freunde von quirligem, wie außergewöhnlichem (Klezmer) Jazz anziehen sollte wie nichts Vergleichbares.
- Empty-Room.de 03 August 2005 by Tobias Goris

"Koby Israelite: "Dance of the Idiots""

Ho sempre considerato la musica orientale un qualcosa di estremamente affascinante che però le mie orecchie han sempre faticato ad accettare, forse perchè ormai schiave delle figure armoniche occidentali che differiscono da essa per canoni e tradizioni. Pertanto mi sono avvicinato a questo (primo?) lavoro di Koby Israelite, giovane musicista israeliano insediatosi a Londra, armato di molta calma e pazienza. Pochi secondi sono bastati per farmi capire la natura di questo progetto, che parte effettivamente da una world music di chiaro stampo etnico-mediorientale caratterizzato da suggestivi e mistici vocalizzi, meravigliosi giochi di fiati che richiamano alla mente gli sterminati deserti e i luoghi di culto, per finire in territori rock, fusion e addirittura in un paio di episodi, a sfiorare sonorità metal. Pazzia? No, tutt'altro, genialità semmai. L'attitudine di Koby, tra l'altro fantastico polistrumentista a suo agio sia dietro la batteria e percussioni varie, sia con pianoforti, tastiere, chitarre, fiati e qualsiasi altra diavoleria etnico-strumentale, mi ha ricordato molto quella del grande Frank Zappa, che sappiamo quanto sapesse amare spazziare tra generi sulla carta distanti tra loro. Koby, prodotto nientemeno che da John Zorn e affiancato da una serie interminabile di collaboratori alle prese con gli strumenti più bizzarri, ci conduce in un visionario viaggio spirituale che si muove su ritmi di estrazione spesso occidentale, a loro volta contaminati da innesti percussivi tipici dell'etnia mediorientale. L'esordio di "Saints and dates" ci accompagna nei vicoli tortuosi della world music israeliana che si fa più forte ed evidente nei richiami tradizional-popolari della successiva "Toledo five four", interrotti grossomodo a metà del brano da una presa di posizione batteristica che inaugura una digressione in territori jazz rock per poi tornare pian piano sul tema iniziale. La terza traccia "If that makes any sense" è una delle esperienze più entusiasmanti che un ascoltatore possa fare: dai suggestivi vocalizzi iniziali di tipico stampo tradizional orientale, si passa ad una base folle dai chiari richiami thrash metal (sì avete capito bene!), con tanto di batteria in doppia cassa e chitarre violentemente distorte, intervallate da seducenti intermezzi d'archi e le solite voci a colorare un paesaggio sonoro che odora sempre più di tecnologia mistica. Quando le visioni di " In the meantime" lasciano il loro spiritualismo tipicamente orientale per approdare in un orgasmatico space rock, jazzato nelle modali solistiche di clarinetto, sarete inizialmente quasi scossi da cotanta pretenziosa sfacciataggine ma poi non saprete più lasciare quell'universo alternativo così affascinante e invitante. E che dire della successiva "Truha", come non definirla pura dimostrazione di genio nei suoi sfondi da preghiera che entrano in collisione con progressivi sintetizzatori e le sue saturazioni chitarristiche su una batteria di una potenza e di una efficacia inaudita che accolgono assurdi quanto spensierati gorgheggi da festa popolare, a loro volta smaterializzati da un improvviso fusion rock godibilissimo. Sono inseguimenti musicali, generi e concezioni armoniche e ritmiche che si rincorrono per incontrarsi, sedursi, e lasciarsi bruscamente, sorrette da un lavoro batteristico costantemente straordinario per esecuzione ed estro e da arrangiamenti etnici di gran classe che sfidano la loro coerenza tradizionale per entrare talvolta in contatto con disegni di scuola occidentale. In una parola: geniale.
- RockLab 13th July 2003, Samuele Boschelli

"Koby Israelite: "Dance of the Idiots""

KOBY ISRAELITE - Dance of the Idiots (Tzadik 7179) Koby is a talented
young Israeli musician who lives in London, plays guitar, keyboards
and percussion, has a twisted sense of humor and a wealth of diverse
influences within his grasp. 'Dance of the Idiots' was also recorded
in London and his ensemble includes some ten other Israeli and/or
Jewish musicians. Koby arranged all the tunes and wrote all but two,
which include a traditional Ladino and Romanian tune. Things start
off with a more traditional sound, some klez accordion and clarinet,
jumping on a cool but goofy drum machine beat. Koby bathes his
accordion in some dub-ish echo on "Toldeo Five Four", with Gilad
Atzmon's spicy clarinet dancing on top of. The real surprise
explodes on "If That Makes Any Sense" which is a punk/klez/fusion
rocker with some super quick and heavy guitar and accordion
shredding. Turns out that Koby is also a hot drummer who duets with
another accordionist on the intense tune "Diego". Koby does a great
job of setting a variety of moods on different keyboards, el. guitar,
flutes and percussion, so that Gilad's reeds and the other horn or
violin players can add their spice on top. "Battersea Blues" sounds
like it would fit on Zorn's 'The Gift' release with its shimmering
guitar and flute. "I Used to be Cool" moves through different
sections wit Koby's swift drumming setting different soloists on
fire. Many of these pieces swirl between different syles/genres, but
it all goes back to that modern klez vibe, albeit with an odd sense
of humor throughout. 'Dance of the Idiot' is certainly a great deal
of fun. - DownTown Music Gallery, April 2003


Is He Listening - 2009 Tzadik Records
King Papaya - 2009 Circus Mayhem
Orobas Book of Angels Vol.4 - 2006 Tzadik (Israelite/Zorn)
Mood Swings - 2005 Tzadik Records
Dance of the Idiots - 2003 Tzadik Records
The Unknown Masada - 2003 Tzadik Records (Israelite/Zorn)



Born in Tel-Aviv, multi-instrumentalist Koby Israelite has been playing music since the age of nine. Conservatory trained on piano and keyboards, he was drawn to punk and heavy metal as a teenager, switched to drums and then got into Jazz, World Music and the Downtown Scene. A chance meeting with Romanian Gypsy legends Taraf de Haidouks caused a seismic shift in his musical thinking and led to his taking up accordion. Within just 5 years of that encounter he had released 3 accordion-led albums on John Zorn’s Tzadik label under the moniker Radical Jewish Culture.

This tireless and ever creative musical spirit mixes in everything he knows, including Rock and Jazz, Gypsy and Klezmer, Tango and Waltzes, Middle Eastern song and Electronica, all with stylish flair and great virtuosity. Based in the musical hothouse of London since the 1990s, he continues to write and record his unique interpretation of Jewish music for John Zorn's Tzadik label as well as releasing a 5th album himself – from his garden shed studio, Bamba Studios, named after his football-playing dog.

Amongst his influences he cites Taraf de Haidouks, Fantomas, Romanian accordionist Roberto de Brasov, Frank Zappa, Led Zeppelin, Mr Bungle, Trilok Gurtu, and Astor Piazzolla, though his own music defies categorisation. If you've grown up in a musical and cultural blender Koby's daring and genre-challenging musical adventures will make perfect sense to you.

Recent European festival appearances have seen him sharing a stage with Rokia Traore for 5000 people at FMM Sines, Portugal, as well as participating in Balkan Fever London and festivals in Austria and Poland. Madonna picked a track of his to feature in her film Filth and Wisdom.