The Arty Semite

Five Songs for the Tent Protests

By Robbie Gringras

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What is the theme song for Israel’s tent protests? Although there are some brand new candidates (Mosh Ben Ari’s “Look Me In The Eyes,” and “The Good Guys Will Win,” which HaDag Nachash wrote specially for the protests), Israelis are rediscovering popular songs from the recent past that would seem to have been written with the current protests in mind. Writers of Internet posts and YouTube uploaders are hailing them as prophecies finally coming to pass.

My top five are as follows:

1: The hands-down winner for the funksters has to be from HaDag Nachash, whose entire back catalog reads like a manifesto for today’s protesters. “Lo Frayyerim” (“Not Suckers”) is the band’s early attempt to both describe and ridicule a situation that the middle classes seems to have finally chosen to reject. “Until when?” they sing with a great Sisters Sledge-like rhythm guitar, kicking bass line and lyrics of disbelief and yearning. “We’ll serve reserve duty, pay our taxes, stand in traffic, no one screws with us…” Here is the clip with a translation into English, but this is the best version I’ve heard, where the lament for h-a-r-m-o-n-y rings out in brass celebration.

2: If we’re going more easy-listening, then Eti Ankri’s 2004 soft reggae tribute to “No Woman No Cry,” called “Millions,” would make it to the top. This song takes the personal route, exploring the terrible sense of humiliation one undergoes when judged only on one’s income. Ankri warns sweetly yet pointedly: “There are millions like me, of all shapes and sizes, with no money, not worth a dime.” Her sign-off — “Today it’s me, tomorrow it could be you…” — sent shivers down everyone’s spine, though it took another seven years for us to try to do something about it.

3: Following the flow of faux-reggae protest, who can forget Mook E’s Israeli take on a more Jamaican original Everyone’s Talking About Peace (click on “interactive transcript” for translation)? A classic that was voted Israel’s best song of 2002, it resonates even more today as protesters work hard to separate their demands from security and defense issues. As the chorus points out: “Everyone’s talking about Peace, but no one is talking about Justice…” Maybe now they are, Mook E, maybe now they are.

4: Though the video clip that accompanies Kobi Oz’s powerful rendition of the liturgical cry for the poor, Shavat Aniim,” offers a shocking picture of Israel’s poor, it would have to be his song “Rolled Up in a Newspaper” with his band Teapacks that makes number four for me. Set to a traditional Moroccan tune (recently sung by “A Star is Born” winner, Hagit Yaso), the song take us on a surreal ride through a dysfunctional society that now, 18 years later, protesters are attempting to fix.

5: Apologies to others — Micha Shitreet’s “Inti Omri” is strong, “I Have No Other Land” always polls high, and “Numbers” by HaDag Nachash is a financial classic — but I have to grant the final place to another more recent HaDag Nachash cracker: “I Believe.” With jaunty brass and falsetto, the guys make a list of all of Israel’s ongoing craziness, and carelessly sing: “Ain’t no one around who gives a rat’s ass” (or translations to that effect). Thankfully, when the activist hero of the song goes on to recount his fall into despair, we find an example in which the current protests may be proving HaDag Nachash wrong.


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