rita un review
“Only dreamers can do changes in the world,” Israeli rock star Rita reminded the crowd as she exited the stage after an exhilarating, politically radical, hourlong set for a private audience seemingly composed of dignitaries, their guests and a scattering of media at the United Nations General Assembly hall last night. Her English may have been slightly fractured, but she left no doubt in the tone of her voice. Rita is as big in Israel as Madonna was at the peak of her popularity here in the US; she is just as popular in Iran. Her dream: peace in the Middle East. On one hand, the pressure on her to cave in to partisan politics must be enormous, especially for someone whose family escaped a brutally repressive regime in her native Iran for the democracy of Israel when she was eight. On the other hand, she refuses to give up on that dream. Last night marked the historic occasion that a performer had ever sung in both Persian and Hebrew on the same night at the UN, but it also might have been the first time that anyone ever spoke those two languages side by side in public there. To see ten Israelis onstage singing lustily in Persian – the langauge of their country’s sworn enemy – was radical to the extreme. And this was with the blessing of the Israeli ambassador, who acceded that it had always been his “dream to open for Rita,” and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who described Rita as “A reminder of the role of music to transcend cultures, build bridges and connect people. Instead of global hegemony, global harmony!”
And the audience ate it up! They seemed to know all the words, whether or in Persian or Hebrew, sang along, and by the end of the show there was a lively circle of dancers gathered at the front of the stage. This wasn’t some small posse of peaceniks from the kibbutz hanging out in a cramped Tel Aviv basement: the auditorium was packed with a mainstream, monied Israeli crowd. Nor was the music bland, tepid pop: in Israel, Rita may be top 40, but her band’s closest American musical equivalent is Gogol Bordello. Laughable as it may seem, from an American perspective, to imagine such a cutting-edge, haunting blend of Middle Eastern folk themes and epic art-rock as Rita plays getting airplay on commercial radio, it’s an everyday thing in Israel. That general, mainstream listeners would not only accept but embrace this music makes the idea of dropping bombs on the people of Israel, or the people of Iran, all the more repulsive. Rita self-effacingly hinted more than once that she would have liked to be singing something other than love songs, but it didn’t matter: her message couldn’t have been more clear, or vividly shared.
About the music: it was brilliant. The concert began with a long, plaintively crescendoing improvisation played by Mark Eliyahu on the Persian kamancheh fiddle over an ominous keyboard drone – this is not how Madonna starts her shows. It finally picked up with a lush majesty over a swaying dance beat and in a split second the crowd was clapping along. The show ended with Yeladem Zim Sincha (Children Are a Joy), a feral gypsy-rock romp completely at odds with its saccharine title, the band exploding out of a biting Galia Hai viola solo midway through. In between, Rita alternated between her Hebrew-language hits and the vintage Iranian songs on her most recent album My Joys. The most exhilarating solo moment of the night belonged to Jonathan Dror, playing shivery microtones on a genuine rams-horn shofar on the introduction to Hachnisini Tachat Knafech (Under Your Wing), Rita adding her own spine-tingling, chromatically-charged vocalese solo. She gave energetic vocal cameos to rapidfire accordionist Ariel Alaev and eclectically fiery guitarist Ofer Koren; Dror also energized the crowd with his dance moves late in the set. The biggest hit with the crowd, predictably, was Shah Doomad (The Groom King), an ecstatic but rather ferocious wedding song: this guy is something to be reckoned with! To paraphrase what Edward Said said long ago, there is no discrete, exclusionary Middle Eastern culture: there is only Orientalism. As Rita made defiantly clear, it is possible to be both pro-Israel and pro-Iran: we are all in this together, with her. And who wouldn’t want to be?
Jerusalem Post ?- 4 hours agoIsraeli-Iranian singer performs at the UN General Assembly Hall, calls for closer cultural ties between Israel and Iran.
Haaretz (blog) ?- 1 hour agoUN Ambassador Prosor has pulled off one of the most unusual diplomatic achievements ever: a full-fledged UN-sponsored Farsi-Hebrew …
3 hours ago – Musical artist Rita holds concert at UN headquarters—Musical artist Rita performs during her concert that is entitled as Tunes for Peace and …
Rita gave a concert at the UN, performing selections from her latest album, “My Joy.” Entitled the “Tunes for Peace” concert, the event was sponsored by the …
VIDEO OF UN PHOTO OP AT THE END OF THE CONCERT – by Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN
Hi Pincas. So far I’ve put up this outtake video:
and our own older announcement:
Feb 22, 2013 – Matthew writes: Israel Plans UN Concert by Iranian-Born Singer Rita, … the Viva Vox choir, invited to perform a concert at the UN by General …
and even earlier –