Crossroads culture

By Lindajoy Fenley

Just as Israel sits between Asia, Africa and Europe, members of the Israeli Ethnic Ensemble look to those three continents for their ancestry. “Each one of us has a parent from Europe [or America] and another from either Asia or Africa,” Avri Borochov told an Aberdeen audience this week.

Avri, the ensemble’s bass player, uses a favorite piece of music to illustrate the co-existence of East-West influences in Israeli music. First he plays a European version of a shepherd’s melody learned from his mother’s family. Yonnie Dror accompanies him on the flute and this piece called Alei Giva’a Sham Ba-Galil sounds like classical European music.

After encouraging students to listen to the difference, Avri and the full ensemble play a short Middle Eastern version of the same piece. This time Yonnie lifts a bamboo ney to his mouth; Sefi Afuri Hirsh plucks the melody on the round-backed oud; Aviad Ben Yehuda’s nimble fingers hit and shake an Egyptian tambourine called a riqq or daff; and Talya Solan punctuates the rhythm with her hands.

Avri says he learned the European version first and later heard Bedouins playing it their way. He asks students, “which version do you think is the oldest?” When young elementary students say the Arabic, or Bedouin, version is, he confirms they are correct.

In Israel, Avri plays an arrangement of Alei Giva’a with Debka Fantasia, an ensemble that includes his father and brother. It incorporates both versions and some of the verses in both Hebrew and Arabic. Blurring the boundaries between the diverse sources of Israeli culture has been a part of Avri’s life for many years. Over a decade ago his father, Yisrael Borochov, founded the East West House, the first alternative World Music non-profit venue in Jaffa, Israel. Musicians from Egypt, Iran, Jordan, India, Turkey, Europe and the United States, as well as Israel, have played there.

Avri is a graduate of the New School in New York and his brother Itamar, a trumpet player, is following in his footsteps.

Come hear the Israeli Ethnic Ensemble Saturday, November 6, at Aberdeen’s Capitol Theatre. The show begins at 7:30 p.m.

Avri plays the upright bass on stage.
Avri Borochov of the Israeli Ethnic Ensemble.


Very cool to read about the roots of this music and learn about the fusion of cultural influences that has gone on. Lucky Aberdeen. Bring the group to Chico, Calif.!

Even though I’m in Rapid City, SD, your descriptive Road Stories and the pictures, bring the Israeli Ethnic Ensemble and the flavor of the shows in Aberdeen right into my home. I particularly enjoy the sound bites you embedded in the story and the description of the various instruments the group uses in their travels. I think of all the people who may be unable to be there in person, yet can experience and learn the history of the group, the native instruments used, some of the sounds of the various instruments and a bit of musical history. I for one will be eagerly awaiting you next tour to this part of the state. Thank you for what you are doing.

Wow, I really liked hearing the two versions of Alei Giva’a Sham Ba-Galil . What a perfect musical discrimination and cultural exercise for for kids.

Cheryl Cohen from Chicago

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