Saturday, August 20, 2016

Northern Soul Music from Tel Aviv

Do Israelis appreciate soul music? Do they miss the mod-inspired “northern soul” scene of the 60s and 70s? Can a brass-powered beat and English language lyrics be considered Israeli music?

Ask Men of North Country, an Israeli soul band hailing from Tel Aviv also known as MONC. “The sound is not really Israeli,” admitted lead singer Yashiv Cohen in a 2012 interview with the Jewish Chronicle Online. “Israeli ears don’t understand it. We tried sending songs to the radio here. They don’t really get it. If we send music to the UK stations, they know exactly what it is.”

After the huge success (in Europe) of their debut album, “The North”, MONC celebrated its second album with a release party at the Bascula Club in Tel Aviv earlier this month. “We're super proud and thrilled to introduce our new album, ‘This City’ (out on British label Acid Jazz), to the city it was written about,” the band announced on its Facebook page.

Ahead of the new album’s release, the band described its sound as “space mod lounge music that emerged from the Bauhaus-inspired architecture of Tel Aviv and a thousand other influences, most of them unexpected.”

Tel Aviv is certainly the focus of “Let’s Get Away,” one of the album’s singles. The song’s catchy tune and a video comprising a 50-kilometer ride through the streets of Tel Aviv on a 1966 Vespa on a hot summer day will captivate listeners with no clue as to what soul music is all about.

Other tracks on the album include a cover of Lou Pride’s classic, "I’m Com’un Home (In the Morn’un)" and “a tribute to obscure Stax singer and Wu Tang Clan favorite, Wendy Rene” described by Acid Jazz as “an epic heart-thumping monster of a soul song with a horn arrangement of omnipotent proportion.”

So, who are Men of the North? The band started by chance in 2008, when DJ Yashiv Cohen was overheard singing along to the tunes he was playing at one of his Tel Aviv Soul Club parties. Cohen's friends Nitzan Horesh (guitars) Doron Farhi (bass) and Boaz Wolf (drums, keys) from the Israeli rock'n'roll band Electra soon joined. The three-member brass section consists of Sefi and Ongy Sizzling and Ido Kretchmer. At the end of 2012, Jonathan Ydov took Horesh's place as lead guitar.

Cohen hails from a kibbutz on the Lebanese border, truly Israel’s north country, but the band says that “North Country is a state of mind.” MONC has staged highly successful tours in Germany, the UK, and even Moscow (“That’s up in the north, mind you!”) Hopefully with the release of its new album, the band will be finally get the recognition it deserves in Israel as well.

Originally published on The Times of Israel.

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