Israeli Protest Music


Given how infamous Israelis are for their political passions and fiery tempers, and how many political songs have emerged from the country (ranging from “Utsu Etsu” from the right and “Blow Wind Blow” from the left), it may be surprising that the first dedicated album of protest songs is coming out only now. The good news is that Yuval Ben-Ami’s “Shak Li, Ivet” (“Kiss My [Arse], Lieberman”) is worth the wait. The album, which hails from the august tradition of English protest music, combines the passion of an activist with the lyricism of a poet.

Tracks include the satirical lullaby “There is No Occupation;” a loving adaptation of Tom Waits’s “In the Neighborhood,” which here describes Ben-Ami’s Jaffa; and the title track, an homage to the Irish “Póg mo thóin” and a blow to recently-resigned Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Ben-Ami, who blogged about the album and here translates the title song into English, writes that the total budget was “zero shekels” and that most of the album was written on his living room couch.

After a spot on IDF Radio, critic Guy Tene said of “Shak Li, Ivet”: “It will undoubtedly prove a stepping stone in the history of Israeli music. It is an unprecedented phenomenon in the Israeli discourse.” And it makes for great (and free) listening, too.

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