Atzmai Bashetach – Israeli Rock
Written by: Ayelet Dekel
Put me in the middle of a field with some music and I’m happy; put me anywhere with music and I’m happy. Make it live music with some of my favorite bands, great sound and several thousand people – and it’s a night to remember.
Atzmai Bashetach took place at Kibbutz Regavim last Thursday, June 21, 2012, with a marathon of rock from late afternoon on through morning. The festival takes its name (Atzmai Bashetach means ‘independent in the field’) and inspiration from the lyrics of a song by the late great musician Meir Ariel – “Holech Batel.” The name translated literally means ‘wandering aimlessly’ yet as Musical Editor of the concert, Israeli Rock guru Yoav Kutner explained to me it’s not quite so aimless. “Holech Batel” is a response to the phrase “Holech Batelem” which means literally – to walk in the furrow dug for planting, figuratively – to walk the straight and narrow, the path that someone else has laid out, to do what is expected, to stay within the bounds of cultural norms.
Rock lives outside the lines, beyond the borders, and it felt wonderful to go beyond the Tel Aviv urban cultural density to Regavim, surrounded by the Kibbutzim, towns, fields, hills, and a night full of stars. The people around me were of all ages; those within talking distance were mostly from Karkur, Barkai and Pardes Hanna. The event was very well organized, and the staff friendly. Upon arriving, I discovered that they did not have allocated spaces for handicapped parking, but once we showed them our credentials, the parking supervisors let us bring the car in close. A big white dog, wandering on his own in Atzmai Bashetach mode, tried to sneak past the guards at the entrance, but order was maintained and the white dog was left outside.
In the early evening hour the people did not quite fill the field, the Clique had just finished a number, and I could hear Danny Dotan tell the crowd, “That’s what I like – a small group of people who make a lot of noise,” adding later, “that’s all we need to change the world.” Singing “Al Tadliku Li Ner” (Don’t light a candle for me) a powerful anti-war song that came out during the first Lebanon war in 1982. Dotan said that he had not performed the song in the past 30 years, feeling that there was no point, as nothing would ever change, yet in the gathered crowd at the festival he saw that hope for change. In the spirit of rock rebellion, going his own way against the system, I saw the white dog had managed to elude the gatekeepers and was wandering among the growing crowd.
Juxtaposing classic voices of Israeli rock with alternative bands, the festival lineup was diverse and full of vitality, reflecting an active rock scene. Video clips shown between bands not only made for diversion during sound checks, but added to the atmosphere, with the late Meir Ariel, the Tammuz band, Gary Eckstein and other scenes from the collective Israeli rock consciousness.
Berry Sakharof, the amplified troubadour, with the help of Pied Piper Eyal Talmudi carried the crowd to heights of rapture– at one point all waving their shoes in the air to his song “Na’alayim” (Shoes). Asaf Avidan with a new ensemble that includes Karni Postel and drummer Hagai Fershtman, performed new material, yet kept his promise to sing at least one “shlager” (hit) – Weak.
Rock and roll is always in the moment, and for me that night, the moment belonged to Rami Fortis. Outrageous, unconventional, madman wizard Fortis made the stage and the night his own with a wild burst of energy and one great song after another. The white dog and I had a wonderful night, and look forward to the return of Atzmai Bashetach next year.