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Popular Music and National Culture in Israel

Popular Music and National Culture in Israel

Copyright Date: 2004
Edition: 1
Pages: 308
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  • Book Info
    Popular Music and National Culture in Israel
    Book Description:

    A unique Israeli national culture-indeed, the very nature of "Israeliness"-remains a matter of debate, a struggle to blend vying memories and backgrounds, ideologies and wills. Identifying popular music as an important site in this wider cultural endeavor, this book focuses on the three major popular music cultures that are proving instrumental in attempts to invent Israeliness: the invented folk song repertoire known as Shirei Eretz Israel; the contemporary, global-cosmopolitan Israeli rock; and the ethnic-oriental musica mizrahit. The result is the first ever comprehensive study of popular music in Israel. Motti Regev, a sociologist, and Edwin Seroussi, an ethnomusicologist, approach their subject from alternative perspectives, producing a truly interdisciplinary, sociocultural account of music as a feature and a force in the shaping of Israeliness. A major ethnographic undertaking, describing and analyzing the particular history, characteristics, and practices of each music culture,Popular Music and National Culture in Israelmaps not only the complex field of Israeli popular music but also Israeli culture in general.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93688-1
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
    Motti Regev and Edwin Seroussi
  4. Introduction: Popular Music and National Culture
    (pp. 1-12)

    On May 1, 1998—the fifth day of the Hebrew month of Iyar—Israelis celebrated fifty years of statehood. Throughout the day, the two major national popular-music radio stations broadcast hit parades, and audiences selected the ʺmost belovedʺ or ʺmost popularʺ song in Israeli history. Reshet Gimmel (the ʺthird networkʺ of Israel radio) called its poll the ʺjubilee songʺ; Galei Tzahal (the army radio station) dubbed its own project, in which only soldiers participated, the ʺjubilee parade.ʺ In addition, Israel television conducted an ʺexpertʺ poll to select the ʺbestʺ song ever in Israeli popular music. The media polls were not...


    • 1 A Short Introduction to Israeli Culture
      (pp. 15-25)

      Zionist settlement in Palestine (as the country was called during the centuries when it was part of the Ottoman Empire and later the British Mandate) began in the last two decades of the nineteenth century and continued with further waves of Jewish immigration during the thirty years of British rule after World War I. These are conventionally known as the five waves ofʿaliyah—that is, the ʺfirst ʿaliyah,ʺ the ʺsecond ʿaliyah,ʺ and so on. By 1948, when the State of Israel was established as a Jewish state and fought its War of Independence, there were some 600,000 Jews in...

    • 2 Israeli Institutions of Popular Music
      (pp. 26-46)

      Production, distribution, and consumption of popular music are embedded within an institutional complex. The major organizations acting within this complex are the music industry, the media, and certain state and public bodies. The structure and interests of these organizations create certain confinements, or institutional constraints, on the cultural dynamics of popular music. These constraints are sometimes interpreted as major explanatory variables of changes in style, genre, and meaning in popular music (Peterson and Berger 1971, 1975; Peterson 1990). Therefore, insofar as our study of popular music in Israel focuses on nationalism, identity, ideology, and artistic beliefs as the major concepts...


    • 3 Shirei Eretz Yisrael
      (pp. 49-70)

      Tamir here addresses one of the most canonic songs of the repertory known today as ʺSongs of the Land of Israelʺ (henceforth SLI), the ʺSong of Camaraderieʺ composed by Alexander ʺSashaʺ Argov to a poem by Haim Guri. The song dates back to the period of the War of Independence and addresses the sad memories of the war that had just ended and the yearning for the unique relations created on the battlefield. It became an index of Israeliness because of its poignant content and the somber, lugubrious melody that changes to a patriotic marchlike tune in the refrain that...

    • 4 ʺIn Spite of It All, She Has Somethingʺ: Popular Songs in the Yishuv and Early Statehood
      (pp. 71-89)

      There is a folk song that still circulates among young Israelis, especially in youth movements like thetzofim(scouts) that begins, ʺIn the summer it is cold, in the winter it is hot, the fox is dumb and the ass is wise.ʺ Few people today are aware that this text is a paraphrase of a song written by poet, actor, and producer Avigdor Hameiri. The song was originally conceived and performed as a popular song and set to the tune of a Yiddish folk song different from the melody used today. It is in the style of the ʺcontrastʺ or...

    • 5 The Lehaqot Tzvayiot
      (pp. 90-112)

      The song ʺPrahim ba-qanehʺ (Flowers in the barrel of the rifle) was a hit song on Israeli radio in 1971. Describing a time in the future when soldiers would return home to town and a young girl would hand them a flower (a ragwort, to be precise), the lyrics expressed longing for the end of war, for a time when there would be ʺflowers in the barrel of the rifle (or cannon)ʺ and ʺgirls on the turretʺ (of the tank). The text was probably inspired by the famous press photograph from the anti–Vietnam War demonstrations of the period, of...

    • 6 ʺAnd the Winner Is . . .ʺ: Popular Song Festivals
      (pp. 113-134)

      In 1960, the Israeli Broadcasting Authority (IBA), then still known as Kol Israel, inaugurated a song contest. Its aim was to provide a framework for encouraging the writing of new, high-quality Hebrew songs. As an annual event, the contest survived in various permutations and under various names (see Ben-Porat 1989: 73–74) for four decades. Originally called by its initiators Festival ha-zemer ha-yisraeli (the Israeli Song Festival), the contest is remembered in collective memory as Festival ha-zemer (the Song Festival). By the early 1970s, it had become a blueprint for many other song contests, also called ʺfestivals,ʺ whose impact on...


    • 7 The Invention of Israeli Rock
      (pp. 137-160)

      Since the early 1980s, Israeli rock has been the dominant music culture in Israel. This is manifested in various ways. The ʺbestʺ musicians of Israel according to the media and relevant professionals are those whose careers are closely associated with the sound idioms of rock, musicians such as Arik Einstein, Shalom Hanoch, Yehuda Poliker, Yehudit Ravitz, and Shlomo Artzi. Prominent on the playlists of all radio stations and in the sales figures of the major record companies are songs and albums by Israeli rock musicians and bands; even among ʺmiddle-of-the-roadʺ musicians, the sound textures, musical production, and arrangements are saturated...

    • 8 The Coming of Rock
      (pp. 161-188)

      By the early 1980s the field of popular music in Israel was ready to complete its transformation into a rock-dominated field. This was the result of two major factors. First, Israeli culture made another huge leap, following the one a decade earlier, by further opening up to the most recent trends of Western culture. This can be attributed to the combined effects of the collapse in 1977 of the Labor movement that had held political power in Israeli society since the early 1930s, the consequent rise to power of liberal-capitalist forces, and the first-ever peace treaty of Israel with a...


    • 9 Musiqa Mizraḥit: Origins, Style, Production, and Public
      (pp. 191-212)

      Israeli rock and SLI, the music cultures that express the variants of Israeliness we have labeled global Israeliness and Hebrewism, are conventionally associated with the dominant sectors of Israeli society, that is, the establishment, or the secular Ashkenazi middle and upper classes. Musiqa mizraḥit (lit., Eastern or oriental music) is the popular music associated with mizraḥiyut, the cultural variant of Israeliness created by Jews who came to Israel from Arab and Muslim countries in North Africa and the Near East. Referred to in earlier periods asʿedot ha-mizraḥ(the Eastern communities), these Jews were relegated by the dominant Western perspective...

    • 10 From ʺNeighborhoodʺ to the Charts: Musiqa Mizraḥit and Legitimacy
      (pp. 213-235)

      Ever after its formative period (ca. 1970–85), musiqa mizraḥit continued to move into the national scene of popular music, battling the stigmas attached to it and expanding its public. This process reached its peak in the late 1990s, when musiqa mizraḥit contested other forms of popular music for the very definition of Israeliness.

      Haim Moshe and Zohar Argov were the singers whose careers served as the platform for musiqa mizraḥitʹs claim for legitimacy. However, insofar as the particular circumstances of individual figures during the crucial period of the late 1970s and early 1980s are exemplary, the eclectic nature of...

  9. Conclusion
    (pp. 236-248)

    Popular music can be considered ʺvalorization of the banal, the everyday, the demoticʺ as well as a marker of social and individual differences (Middleton 1990: 251–52). In this book we have argued that in the Israeli case, these functions of popular music were intensified due to the particular circumstances under which Israeli nationhood and its invented culture evolved since the first Zionist settlers set foot on the Ottoman province of Palestine in the late nineteenth century. The field of popular music emerged at that time as a clear symbolic embodiment of Israeliness in its diverse forms, shades, and contradictions....

  10. Select Discography
    (pp. 249-254)
  11. Works Cited
    (pp. 255-268)
  12. Songs Index
    (pp. 269-272)
  13. Albums Index
    (pp. 273-276)
  14. Names Index
    (pp. 277-282)
  15. Subject Index
    (pp. 283-299)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 300-300)