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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

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Filmmaker introduces Israeli artists to Canada

Tags: Arts
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Igal Hecht on location in Israel [Lior Cohen photo]

Igal Hecht’s show, Muzika, has returned for a second season, bringing a new batch of Israeli music to North American ears.

The weekly program, which airs both in Canada and the United States, introduces Israeli musicians from all genres. The show includes interviews with the artists and performances.

“It doesn’t pretend to be anything else but a straightforward biography show about Israeli musicians, celebrating Israeli culture and music,” said Hecht, the Israeli-born creator of the show.

New in the 26-episode second season is a spotlight on the English music scene in Israel. To fit with this theme, Hecht said he likes to ask the musicians why they decided to sing in English.

“I asked them and they all hate that question,” he said. “What I could gauge is the fact that they want to break out internationally.”

Although the musicians love Israel, and they want to continue performing in Israel, singing in English allows them to reach broader audiences. One example is Ninette, who won the first season of Kokhav Nolad, based on the British reality show Pop Idol. She wants to break out of the Israeli market, Hecht said, but understands she can’t do it if she’s only singing in Hebrew.

“The world is a very small place. You can become very famous from a musical perspective, if you’re good and if it catches on,” he said, for example, through the use of YouTube. “[These artists are] talented, they have something to say, and they have a unique sound.”

Apart from dreams of world stardom, many of today’s young Israelis are heavily influenced by English music from Britain and the United States, which might make them want to incorporate that into their own music.

Filming this season was a bit different from the last, Hecht said. The first time, Hecht and his cameraman, Lior Cohen, visited the artists in their homes to record the interviews. But this season, they were under much tighter time constraints, so they rented a studio, and only went off-site for three or four locations, he said.

“It didn’t have the intimacy factor of going to someone’s living room and having them play for us,” he said, “but we still had great moments.”

Hecht said one of his favourite parts of the show is the moment he meets the musician, especially when it’s one of the artist he listened to when he was growing up. Israeli singer Arik Sinai stands out for him.

“He came in with these yellow puffy pants,” Hecht said. “He just came on, and said, ‘Hey guys.’ He had this raspy voice. ‘Can I have a cigarette before we start?’”

Although Hecht has become known for his documentaries focusing on the politics of Israel, he said he wanted people to know that there’s much more to the country than just its politics.

“Muzika came and forced me to focus just on culture as opposed to politics,” he said. “Muzika is just about music – celebrating Israeli musicians, and celebrating Israeli music of all genres.”

Hecht emphasized that Muzika is not just a show for Jewish people. It doesn’t focus on gossip, nor does it try to change the world, he said. It’s strictly a show meant to entertain.

“If people want to have a break and enjoy good music half an hour a week, this is the show for them,” he said. “If people enjoy good music, they’ll enjoy the show.”

Muzika airs Sundays at 6:30 p.m. on CTS.

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