July 6, 2003

Eve’s Women (with Orit Orbach center) is bringing its explosive klezmer fusion of Latin rhythms, rock and traditional Jewish music to American audiences.Orit Orbach is a Israeli musician who refuses to be pigeonholed. While it is true that she is one of the top classical clarinetists in Israel and has played in symphonies all over the world, her musical interests range from traditional Jewish klezmer music to Latin rhythms to Middle Eastern tunes – and she plays them all with style.

Orbach is bringing her diverse musical menu to the United States this summer with her all-female klezmer band Eve’s Women, one of Israel’s most exciting local music ensembles.

Performing in the summer festival, Celebrate Brooklyn! on July 12 in New York City, and continuing on to other U.S. cities, Eve’s Women is bringing its explosive fusion of Latin rhythms, rock and traditional Jewish music to American audiences.

The U.S. is familiar territory for Orbach. Born in New York, Orit Orbach immigrated to Israel with her parents in 1970 at age five. She began studying the clarinet at the age of seven, almost by chance. In fact, the instrument “was chosen for me at the conservatory,” says the musician, who is trying to find the right balance between her classical orchestral career and her less conventional funky klezmer band.

There was a time when Orbach believed that her only true destiny was to play “pure classical” music. But then she discovered klezmer music during her studies at the New England Conservatory and Northwestern University in the U.S.

“American composer, Robert Starer, one of the chief teachers in Julliard, once wrote a klezmer concerto for Giora Fineman,” she recalls. “He had a disagreement with Fineman and decided that he didn’t want him to play the piece. He had never had an Israeli debut of his concerto and the Jerusalem Symphony decided to perform it and asked me to play the clarinet. Never having been exposed to Klezmer during my studies in Israel, I was completely inspired by Starer’s concerto and started to get involved with klezmer. At the same time, I was looking for a job in Chicago and coincidentally, as if by fate, I saw an ad looking for a klezmer clarinetist to play in a band (Maxwell Street Klezmer Band). They gave me cassettes and material and I learned it. I played with them almost every night for two years.”

Her initial exposure to klezmer was very conventional reflecting the classic style that is predominant among American klezmer musicians. But following her training, when she returned back to Israel and started her own klezmer band, it began to take on diverse ethnic style.

“I infused it with Israeli accents: Arabic scales, Druze and especially Greek strains, Latin American rhythms as well as the original Eastern European influences. All of this is incorporated into the original American klezmer style that continues to form the foundation of my music. My music is a strong reflection of both my American and Israeli experiences. It’s eclectic and it’s very personal. Just as my English will always have strong hints of an Israeli accent, so will my music. It’s how I talk and how I play music. It goes back to the same soul – this is soul music. It’s something that can’t always be done with classical music because there the music first goes to the brain and only then to the soul. What is wonderful about this music is that it’s so soulful there is no need for so many interpretations – it goes straight to the right place.”

“I have always searched for connections between classical music and all sorts and forms of ethnic music. And on this occasion, the ethnic elements are jazz, South American and Middle Eastern rhythms. It’s much more open, free and flowing.”

Now 38, Orbach is married to Tel Aviv economist Yuval Hochberg, and has two daughters aged 3 and 5.

Joining her in Eve’s Women are bassist Dafna Sade, jazz keyboardist Alona Turell, and percussionist Michal Rahat.

Being an all-female band, they challenge the role of the traditional Jewish musician. “One of the reasons why we decided to form a female band was to provide religious Jewish women with entertainment as well,” says Orbach, who is not religious herself. “When I attended the Klezmer festival in Safed in 1996, I was so moved by the intense desire of so many Orthodox women to find their own female expression of Klezmer and other Jewish music styles, it served as my inspiration to launch Eve’s Women.”

Now the band members feel that their dynamics and chemistry are heavily influenced by their female character. Orbach claims, “there is something to be said for female intuition. Playing with other women is great. At first, I thought there’s no difference between the way men and women play, but our playing is more intuitive, we have an added special female touch.”

Over the past few years, Eve’s Women has been honing its musical style through their many festivals and concert tours which have taken them from China to eastern and western Europe and, of course, the world music-loving communities of the U.S.

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

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