Bobby McFerrin: Moments of Discovery in Tel Aviv
Written by: Ayelet Dekel
There was excitement in the air, a charged sense of anticipation as the crowds waited for Bobby McFerrin to take the stage. No one knew quite what to expect from this evening, as McFerrin hosted several artists in a jam of genres and cultures. Noa (Ahinoam Nini) & Gil Dor, Harel Shachal, Muna Msheal, Shlomo Bar and Ilan Ben Ami were to perform with McFerrin, the first happy surprise of the evening was that drummer Al Foster joined the ensemble.
McFerrin does not let fame get in the way of creativity, and went his own way from the first. Exploring sound from within, getting a sense of the place and people, the concert began in a quiet mood, the musicians onstage listening intently, finding their connections.
Listening to Bobby McFerrin is entering a universe filled with small gifts of sound, moments of discovery riding the air around and within us. Searching and finding, McFerrin moved through the night between solos and jams with the other musicians. His range and vocal quality are exceptional, constantly inventing a new vocabulary and rhythms for the human voice. He can make his voice sound as if it comes from afar, with the grace of birds flying over the water, sunlight on their wings. He can be playful as a child, making each sound bounce. Sometimes McFerrin takes it to the edge, the place where sound meets silence, a place of becoming.
McFerrin is comfortable onstage and easily led the audience in song a few times, Achinoam Nini, with whom he developed a wonderful musical rapport, joining him. At another point, like any good friend, McFerrin stopped to say “don’t clap” when the crowds were missing the beat on his solo. He followed his urges – “I just gotta sing the blues” – and his wonderful rendition of “Sweet Home Chicago” made me wish for more Bobby singing the blues… The audience was spontaneous and uninhibited, following their urges as well. When McFerrin called out “I need a beatboxer,” Yael Deckelbaum ran up and took a seat right next to the legendary vocalist for a short singing jam, as well as two bold young men from the crowd. Later, a host of people came up to dance onstage with Muna and McFerrin, including Bollywood dancer and choreographer Gilles Chuyen.
Some may have been surprised and perhaps disappointed that he didn’t sing that song. You know – it’s probably dancing around in your head right now as you read. I think Bobby McFerrin wanted to introduce the audience to some new sounds, new images and ideas, and I’m glad he did.
Bobby McFerrin is hosting the Tel Aviv White City Music Festival which takes place from May 1 – 10 at the Port of Tel Aviv. The full program is available online: http://www.tlv-music.com/