I walked down a path in the woods on a gray April morning, wind blowing lightly; the air still cold with the scent of rain. It was early, but the day had already begun.
Children were moving about, eyes wide, quietly alert by the side of their sleepy parents. Black coffee boiling in a pot. Here and there, someone curled up on the ground asleep. On the stage – students from the Tel Aviv Academy of Music began to play: Appalachian Spring at the Yearot Menashe Festival, April 30, 2011.
The sun came in through the trees, I heard the music through the quiet of the woods and had to keep reminding myself that I was just an hour away from Tel Aviv. A world away from Tel Aviv.
This is the third year of the Yearot Menashe Festival – two days of music, art and activities in the green quiet of the woods between Kibbutz Ein-Hashofet and Kibbutz Hazorea, in Megiddo, where ancient prophesies foretell Armageddon and the end of days. There are two stages set up a short walk away from one another, between the stages the grounds have ample room for workshops, a play area for children that made me wish I was four years old again, food stands, and mats on the ground where you can listen to music, talk, or just stretch out and relax.
At the Armageddon stage, people sat on the ground close to the stage. Yair Yona played in and out of the rain, fingers streaming on the acoustic guitar: the flow of music and movement as one.
The festival atmosphere is loose and relaxed, embracing a range of sounds and styles. People spend time at one stage then drifting off to a conversation, and perhaps something to eat or drink, or walk a tightrope on the way to the next stage.
Whatever else we may or may not have going for us here in Israel, the connection of this place to history has an undeniable force and it can take different forms…on my way back to the Armageddon stage, rain merged with the sound of the woods, the sound of time. The air had a prophetic feel.
The Armageddon Allstars seemed to wander onto the stage, letting sound begin to happen, improvised music on diverse instruments, Omer Dayan, Artistic Director of the festival) talking to the people gathered around with a megaphone: “Thousands of years ago …we have a tradition at Armageddon just this thing I do …scream my lungs out. This is not just a stage, this is the real Armageddon.”
Later when I asked Omer who was playing, he answered, “All from all sorts…That’s the Armageddon family… the Allstars… Didn’t plan a big thing- it just happend…Ziv Harpaz (Shalom Hanoch’s bass), Master Gilad Harel on clarinet with Assaf Ophir, Yael Zamir on oboe, Eran Zamir (Daniella Spektor and more…) guitar, Yogev Haruvi drum & dig, Vadim Alexnitzer Armageddon child on guitar, Oded Naftaly on harmonica (Tal Cohen Shalev), Dor Harpaz, Orr Hasson, Stav Ben Shachar on the all around… Doron Butnik (Inga-Dingo) and Costa Kaplan (Haya Miller) on keyboard, Yaron Ben Ami & Tzlil Danin with MC OD on the mic. That’s what I remember…”
I remember sitting on a trunk at the side of the stage as they played, music filling my body, vibrating in me like the strings of a guitar, or violin, or lyre…something ancient and timeless.
There’s a place on the path where you can hear both stages, layers of sound in the air. A natural mix. A place to slow your steps for a while, and rest in the strange harmony of the moment.
Writing about music, sometimes you just have to put down the notebooks and camera and dance. That’s how I felt when Pas Mal + an Afro-beat/Latin band from the Congo, living now in Belgium, played on the main stage. You can’t hear them without dancing. Gentle reader, you there, at your laptop, wherever you are – at home, at work, in a café – I know you are dancing now.
The harmony of the Yearot Menashe Festival is something that has to be experienced. There’s a phrase in Hebrew, Latet Barosh; it means doing something in an extreme, perhaps ever harsh manner – it’s that kind of harmony, a harmony that can contain the stillness of the trees and the intensity of distortion. The harmony between people as they crash and embrace…by the Armageddon Stage, Uri Shafir and Noa Paran embodied that intimacy and intensity in Net Work – a dance performed entirely on a trampoline, choreographed by Maya Levy and Anando Hanan Mars.
At the same time, Umlala were crashing on the trampoline of my heart, in moments of understanding and forgetting, sound and silence and the space between. Words come from the body.
They were followed by Shirly Kones and Itamar Rothschild in an acoustic set, singing: hazman yerape et hakol, time will heal everything. A blaze of guitars or a blade of grass, every set, and every song felt like the right song in the moment, that was Yaarot Menashe. The trees and air took in and released the sound in a way that opens it up, you hear differently. A sense of heightened awareness and sensitivity to the environment echoed in the organization and management of the festival. Nature and rock concert in peaceful co-existence, with so many people working to make it happen.
Everything flowed, everything was smooth, the grounds were clean, people were kind, the dogs were happy and the children and musicians played all day. This is Israel too, this beauty and quiet, this crashing, hard driving rock music, this flow of guitars, violin and improvised instruments.
Walking between the the two stages: Phototaxis on the main and a Family Jam (TREE, Ramirez & more) on Armageddon; a jazzy arabesque, an electric tangle in the afternoon air. And when you’re tired the earth can take in your weariness, the wind embraces the music, and it does not disappear.
Uzi Ramirez Fainerman – “sending shivers up my spine” – and I discovered new sensations in familiar places. Songs that I had heard before sounded different to me now. If the woods had a prophetic feel in the morning then by late afternoon it was a party, the kind of party that heralds, not the end of days, but the beginning.
Watching Rockfour set up and do their sound check, I felt that sweet tension – waiting, wanting to hear them play, and knowing that this was the final set of the festival and I did not want to say goodbye.
See you next year at Yearot Menashe…
One last note, between spiritual and material – oh so much material – still downloading and organizing photos and videos from Yearot Menashe, eventually all materials will be online.