From news article:
Give Them Shelter: Where Rockets, and Drums, Go Boom
By JENNIFER MEDINA
SDEROT, Israel â€” The underground Israeli pop-rock music scene seems to start here, in a bomb shelter set in the center of town.
It does not matter how loudly the teenagers hammer at their drums or pluck at the guitars; the green tin that is meant to protect residents from incoming rockets also works as a sound barrier for the funky music.
It is not unusual for Israeli towns to turn shelters into community centers of some sort. But Sderot, barely a mile from the Gaza Strip, is one of the few cities where such shelters are still used frequently.
And in Sderock, as the shelter-turned-music studio is called, the teenagers grapple with the dueling realities that have made the city famous: the music that comes out of it and the rockets that come into it.
â€œThis is the safest fun place in the city,â€ said Nir Oliel, 21, who has played guitar for several years. â€œIt is also where everyone great came from.â€
In the Israeli public consciousness, Sderot is a place of poverty and danger. It has been barraged by more than 4,000 rockets in the last six years, including nearly 200 since the shaky cease-fire began in November. Six people have died from the attacks, and dozens of homes have been damaged.
And yet Sderot is also the hometown of a pop culture hero of the moment: Kobi Oz, the lead singer of the Teapacks, the Israeli pick for the popular Eurovision song contest. Mr. Oz made headlines in March when organizers of the contest suggested that his song â€œPush the Buttonâ€ might be disqualified for carrying an inappropriate political message. [The Teapacks are scheduled to perform in the Eurovision semifinal in May.] The song riffs on the Israeli fear of being obliterated by an atomic bomb. Mr. Oz, who is also the host of a weekday morning television news program, makes no apologies for the lyrics, which he says are meant to reflect the â€œhot politicsâ€ of the region.
â€œThere are not sweet love songs to play,â€ he said in a telephone interview. â€œIf you are here, you have to have all kinds of conflict inside the music. Our way to deal with it is to laugh in the face of terror and make rock â€™nâ€™ roll for the craziness.â€
Mr. Oz, with two platinum albums in Israel, is by far the most successful musician to come out of Sderot, but he is hardly alone. He got his start with Sfatayim, whose name means lips, a band made up of young artists from Sderot who played Moroccan music. On Israeli radio it is possible to hear more than half a dozen bands from this city, quite a feat for a place with about 25,000 people.
The musicians who grew up in the 1980s are the children of immigrants from North Africa and other parts of the Middle East. They blended their New World guitar and drum with their Old World counterparts â€” an oud and a goatskin-covered drum called a darbukah â€” to create what critics called ethnic-pop. Those who perform it say it is â€œpashut Yisraeli,â€ simply Israeli.
But it is a particular kind of Israeli, reflecting the sort of chip-on-the-shoulder attitude that many children here grow up with, convinced that the wealthier European Jews in the bigger cities like Tel Aviv look down on them.
When the Qassam rockets â€” 70 pounds of steel each â€” began landing here, much of the Israeli mainstream seemed unperturbed, favoring a less aggressive military stance. After the rockets started landing in schools and houses, the residents grew increasingly frustrated with the government.
Encouraged by their hawkish mayor, Eli Moyal, they set up protest tents, crying out, â€œConquer Gaza now,â€ and demanded that the Israeli military take action. When Israel did take action, it did not help much: the rockets returned.
The teenagers at Sderock seem less convinced that more force will calm their lives down. Their music captures their angst.
â€œDonâ€™t Break,â€ a song one group recorded for Independence Day celebrations, focuses on their sense of defiance and fear:
â€œWe wonâ€™t break; we wonâ€™t be afraid,â€ the chorus goes.
How does the state abandon
This war, who is extending his hand?
They do nothing, when it comes to you.
The verse ends with â€œShma Yisrael,â€ which translated literally is a command: â€œHear, O Israel.â€ It is also a reference to the ubiquitous Jewish prayer that is said during daily worship and also on oneâ€™s deathbed.
With the success of so many musicians in the last decade, the city has poured considerable resources into cultivating more talent. The city estimates that it spends $30,000, a considerable portion of its budget, on music. International groups have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars on projects like Sderock.
Chaim Uliel and Micha Biton, native sons who became successful performers and producers, teach classes here. Mr. Biton, 42, mused about how much more sophisticated the youngsters are.
â€œWhen my older brother was the first one to get a guitar, it was like a diamond,â€ he said. â€œAll the neighbors came over. It was something that everyone wanted to touch. Thatâ€™s not something so exciting or special anymore.â€
With so many opportunities, Mr. Biton said, one of the cityâ€™s younger stars is almost certain to rise to the top soon. In particular, Mr. Biton has his eyes on Hagit Yaso, 17, a daughter of Ethiopian immigrants.
â€œSinging is just what we do,â€ said Hagit, who has won several festival competitions in the country. â€œWe do it to escape, to smile, to laugh.â€ In a sign of the ever-shifting identity here, she raised her nose a bit at the suggestion that she would perform Oriental music. Asked which musicians she admired most, she did not hesitate: Mariah Carey and BeyoncÃ©.
For their teachers, it is only a matter of time before the younger students become more political in their songs and outlook. A byproduct of parentsâ€™ insistence that their children stay inside to avoid the crash of Qassam rockets, the music shelters have become more popular than the basketball courts.
Mr. Oz says he is determined to sing about a place that lives in a constant tension between joy and sorrow. Mr. Bitonâ€™s anthem for Sderot has become a sort of mantra for the residents: â€œI donâ€™t leave the town for any Qassam.â€
A nice story but I'm always suspect of the NYT's motives. As if what could possibly be bad about living in Sderot despite what all those objectionable Israelis (non Liberal variety) say about it?
From news article:
Back in March, I linked to a post on Jerusalem Diaries: In Tense Times entitled From Laura in Sderot: The last 36 hours...--by Laura Bialis, an independent documentary film maker, describing her impressions of Sderot over 36 hours. Bialis was in Sderot while preparing a film about Sderot.
The name of the move is Sderot: Rock in the Red Zone:
SDEROT: Rock in the Red Zone, tells the story of the people and the music of Sderot -- a town in Southern Israel that for eight years has been under almost daily attack by Qassam rockets launched from Gaza.
Though thousands of rockets have been fired into Sderot, the town's suffering is largely unknown to the international community. But the voice of Sderot resonates through Israeli culture, as its years of anguish have bred a vibrant music scene that profoundly articulates the despair of a town in the crosshairs.
Told through the eyes of Sderot's talented and diverse young musicians, this documentary explores daily life in Sderot and the effects of living under the long-term stress of constant bombings.
From those who have already made it big -- Teapacks, Knessiat Hasechel, Sfatayim, now among Israel's cultural elite -- to the up-and-coming teenagers who play in SDEROCK, Sderot's underground rock club (which doubles as a bomb shelter) the artists and their music represent a culturally and ethnically diverse representation of Israel.