November 25, 2008

Israeli Rock Stars Bring Music and Politics to Noyes

Print More

Think back to seventh grade when you and your friends attended bar-mitzvahs every weekend. You all felt like you should be dancing, but couldn’t be the first one to start it. So instead, you and everyone else just kind of stood there bopping your head awkwardly.
Now imagine that one of those bar-mitzvahs was in Noyes, with a bunch of Cornellians in attendance and a really awesome Israeli band playing. That is what the Hadag Nachash concert felt like last Thursday night.
Hadag Nachash (“the snake fish”), which was brought to Ithaca by the Cornell Israel Public Affairs Committee, in one of Israel’s most famous groups, known for their unique blend of politically charged funk and hip-hop. The eight-piece is headed by enthusiastic lead singer Sha’anan Streett, who kept up a lively banter with the audience, at one point imitating Israeli, Yiddish and American accents.
One reason for the band’s high spirits may have been the fact that it was saxophonist/flutist Shlomi’s birthday, which the other seven members celebrated by playing a funky version of “I’m Too Sexy.”
As Hadag Nachash kept on, the audience lost its shyness, and people jumped, waved their arms and held up their cell phones as lighters during the band’s one slow song.
There was good reason for the audience to be excited — students and other fans drove from as far away as Binghamton and Syracuse for the show. By the end of the concert, the venue was transformed into the typical jamfest that ensues during local shows at The Nines.
The group did manage to keep up a balance between fun and seriousness, though, at one point reminding the audience of “the problem of corruption in [Israeli] politics” — especially relevant in the wake of current Prime Minister Ehud Olmert stepping down amidst corruption charges.
They also performed several new songs, many of which were in English. A highlight was their introduction of an Arabic song about marijuana; they said of the topic beforehand, “People are smoking on both sides of the border [between Israel and the Palestinian territories]. Drugs are the only chance we have for peace.”
Finally, the band ended on their most popular song, “Shirat HaSticker” (The Sticker Song), a clever amalgam of political bumper stickers that adhere to most Israelis’ cars. That song was also one of the few that audience members were able to sing along to, and there was a noticeable increase in excitement as the opening notes were sounded.
Unfortunately the majority of the audience, which left after “Shirat HaSticker,” missed out on several songs featured during the encore. These included a few covers, as well as “Hineh Ani Bah” (Here I Come) and “Mah Sheh Bah, Bah” (What Happens, Happens) from the soundtrack to the film You Don’t Mess With the Zohan.
Hadag Nachash proved their Israeli popularity on Thursday night, and hinted at their upcoming American domination with new English-language songs. They put on an energetic, dance party of a show, and they did it in Noyes, of all places. If the concert did remind me of a bar-mitzvah, it was the best bar-mitzvah I’ve ever been to.