Singin’ the Yemen Blues


Ravid Kahalani, an Israeli drummer and dancer, is rediscovering his Jewish heritage–and he’s doing it while singing the blues.

Growing up, Kahalani used to sing during services at his Yemenite synagogue. He was born into a family of cantors and composers, and the melodies used in their synagogue liturgy were among the oldest in the Jewish world. As a teenager, Kahalani distanced himself from his tradition, immersing himself in Western blues and soul music.

When Kahalani met bassist Omer Avital, he went through a personal renaissance. The two explored their shared ancestry, both cultural and musical, and decided to put their own spin on it. In their new band, Yemen Blues, Avital and Kahalani team up with string and brass players, improvising with their own sounds and their own instruments. On one song, Kahalani uses a keychain as a percussion instrument; on another, he uses traditional Yemenite instruments to play blues from a very different tradition. The resulting music is intensely rhythmic and fiercely addictive–good luck listening to it without drumming your feet or fingers.

Yemen Blues does American tours. Check them out if they’re playing near you–or watch their short film from the safety of your computer and have a Yemenite dance party on your own.

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