Israelis like to party with unabashed gusto. It’s no wonder that the country’s club culture has produced a slew of innovative world class DJ’s. ISRAEL21c brings you a list of the top eight.
Like everything else they do, Israelis tend to have fun and party with unabashed abandon and gusto. It’s no wonder then, that Israel’s club culture has produced a slew of world class DJs, who have practically invented their own dizzying brand of body-shaking electronic music which is enjoyed around the world.
The juxtaposition of the grim, daily realities of Israel’s security situation with the unleashed emotion experienced at discos and clubs in cities like Tel Aviv and Jerusalem is perfectly natural, according to Nitsan Shor, the author of Dancing With Tears in Their Eyes, a history of 50 years of dance clubs in Israel.
Shor writes that going clubbing during times of high alert has evolved into a form of national pride for some Israelis. “For example, right before the first Gulf War, there were ‘End of the World’ parties. After the suicide bomber attack at the Dolphinarium disco, the club re-opened and the kids kept on coming. It wasn’t heartlessness. It was saying, ‘No, you won’t stop me living my life,’ ” he told Israelity’s Rachel Neiman after his book was published.
“I think this is true Zionism – to live as every other nation. I think Herzl would have preferred endless partying to endless war.”
Europe copies Israel
And party they do, with an ever-growing list of innovative DJs leading the way. Omri H Heilbronner, who for 11 years was the creative director at two of Israel’s most influential dance clubs – Oman 17 in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, says that what started out as Israel copying European trends and sounds has evolved into something uniquely Israeli, which has subsequently been aped in clubs worldwide.
“I think our big contribution has been trance music. That wasn’t copied from anyone else. Israel kind of invented it, with artists like Infected Mushroom and Skazi. The music was innovative and really something new,” he tells ISRAEL21c from London, where he is currently studying.
“The whole thing started to spread and grow all over the world, and Israelis began to get the confidence to go out and do their shows at clubs abroad. DJs like Guy Gerber and Shlomo Aber were influential in spreading these sounds around.”
According to Heilbronner, who has himself had some DJ gigs at clubs around the world, there are a number of traits that set the Israeli DJ apart from the pack and identify him as Israeli.
The Israeli DJ – cheeky and warm
“The Israeli DJ has a very warm-feeling mentality, touching and nice. There’s a very human aspect to it, but it’s a little cheeky at the same time. That’s why people find it interesting,” he says. “I think it’s more fun than other electronic music, which can be too serious.”
With clubs in cosmopolitan world capitals regularly hosting Israeli DJs, it’s not just the patrons who are benefiting. The DJ world has become a channel through which audiences are exposed to another aspect of Israeli culture, says Heilbronner.
“I think it’s a great boost to Israel to have these DJs spreading the word around the world. I can’t count the number of times people have come up to me and asked if we still ride camels. It’s good to have ambassadors around the world showing what Israel really is,” he says.
And what they’ll find out is that Israel is a rhythmic, pulsating sensory explosion. At the top of the heap of Israeli DJs making that beautiful noise is a handful of innovative wizards. The influential British music magazine DJMag recently published their list of the world’s top 100 DJs. And not surprisingly, Israeli representation is ample throughout.
Here’s a list of Israel’s top eight Israeli DJs working today.
Israel’s top trance act, the duo of Erez Aizen and Amit Duvdevani, has perfected a sound that encompasses rock, trance and psychedelic music. Their landmark CD is Legend of the Black Shawarma. During 2009, they performed at some of the best dance clubs in the world, including Pacha in Brazil, Ministry of Sound in London and Guvernment in Toronto. Duvdevani told DJMag that their sound “is continually evolving and building. Overall, our goal is to keep people dancing and interested.”
2. Offer Nissim
With a residency at the Forever club in Tel Aviv and ever-increasing dates as the DJ for worldwide gay parades, Offer Nissim and his spicy electronic music have had no shortage of work. Best known for producing Israeli pop star Dana International, Nissim has also remixed tracks by Whitney Houston, Barbara Streisand and Christina Aguilera. Nissim released his own double album – Happy – in 2008, increasing his stature even more.
For full-on electronica that fuses the power of trance with club elements and euphoric breaks, Astrix (Avi Shmailov) is the ticket. From performing at The Beach festival in Japan and at a series of other high-profile international shows, to working on his third album, Red Means Distortion, Astrix is pushing the boundaries of electronic music. He told DJMag that he intends to “explore more complex music productions, like remixes and commercial electronica, but always with my trademark sound and groove.”
4. Astral Projection
More than other Israeli electronica, Skazi combines head-banging metal guitars with gritty trance to create a thunderous wall of sound. A highlight in 2009 was playing at the Mexican pyramids and getting that “Maya energy,” he told DJMag. His goal is to combine rock and electronica and bring it to the mainstream.
An Israeli trance icon, Yahel creates “ethnic-kissed slabs of trance wonderment igniting dance floors,” according to DJMag. He played this year in Korea, Panama, the US and the UK and put the finishing touches on his upcoming album Corrosion. “I concentrate on making each beat meaningful. I only have a limited time on stage and every beat is one less that I have to reach the audience,” he says.
7. Guy Gerber
A former soccer player for Maccabi Tel Aviv, Gerber mixes the raw power of rock with the nuances of electronica. His first electronic project, Captain Coconut, produced Israel’s first ‘dirty disco’ sound, and his group Cocobit swept the country in 2000. Since then, he’s established himself as one of Israel’s most diverse musical adventurists. During 2009, he performed in clubs and festivals in Finland, Estonia, Russia and Croatia, as well as working on music for award-winning choreographer Ohad Naharin’s latest dance show.
8. Shlomi Aber
Beginning his career by throwing parties for friends in his parents’ garage when he was 14, Aber has developed into a DJ wunderkind, performing at main attractions like The Love Parade, Gay Parade, and Dance & Levis. DJMag says Aber’s sets “are full with warm and unique sounds that make you feel like you are going back to the better days of music, it was something I can’t define just by one word, if I must I will call it something between house and techno.” His status is shooting ever higher with the launching of his Be As One label, focused on releasing quality underground music.