InDnegev Israeli Music Festival 2016
Let us start on a celebratory note and commemorate InDNegev for successfully completing their 10th annual music festival this year. It all began in 2006 on the historic kibbutz named Gvulot. It was originally named Mitze Gvulot, literally meaning borders lookout, because it was the first of three lookout points in the Negev. It was used for researching the soil and climate of the region in order to assess their suitability for agriculture, so when the lookouts became obsolete, it evolved into a kibbutz.
For those unaware of what kibbutzim are, they are collective communities traditionally based on agriculture that are dedicated to mutual aid and social justice. The movement began in 1909 as utopian societies driven by the combination of socialism and Zionism. According to the Jewish Virtual Library, the socioeconomic system is based on “the principle of joint ownership of property, equality and cooperation of production, consumption and education.” They were vital to the creation of Israel by turning barren land into farms, and thus achieving a large percentage of Israel’s agricultural output today.
InDNegev festival captures the motif of a rural, communal utopia in many ways. The festival’s structure intentionally created a strong sense of community, including a family-oriented and eco-friendly atmosphere. Regarding the family-oriented aspect of the festival, there was face painting and arts and crafts workshops for children located next to the Old School shop, which sold clothes and used books. There was also a camping area designated for families, which included a playground for kids.
There were many group activities for all ages, such as the Indi Quest, which encouraged attendees to go on a scavenger hunt in order to win a prize, a confessional booth where people confessed their secrets, poetry readings and Shabbat meals. A large ride-share board was hung in the food court area for people to find rides home. The board asked for your name, phone number, where you need to go and lastly, to add to the whimsicality of it all, what you want to be when you grow up. As most festival attendees do, they cooked elaborate meals during the day for lunch in the campgrounds for both old and new friends. Their eco-friendly incentives included half-off drink refills when you buy a reusable cup and receiving a free beer if you fill up a glass of cigarette butts or if you collect enough plastic bottles from the floor.
This communal quality and family-oriented nature is intrinsic in Israeli society. For example, when I woke up the first morning an Israeli asked me something in Hebrew as he pointed to my toothpaste with his toothbrush, so I assumed he wanted some toothpaste. The next day I forgot my toothpaste and did the same. This illustrates how easy it is to make new friends in Israel. When new friends at the festival shared their food with me, I kept asking if it was okay if I could have this or that since I felt bad that I had nothing to offer. An Israeli responded by telling me about how he hosts couch-surfers at his apartment in Jerusalem and every time an American stays with him they always ask, “Can I use this?,” and he finds it strange. If he invites someone to have lunch or to host them, then why would he or she need to ask to use everything? This anecdote captures the nature of Israeli society and InDNegev, how everything is meant to be shared, and the theme of a communal utopia was clearly present at the festival.
If I had to choose four traits to describe InDNegev music festival, it would be pure, intellectual, liberal and diverse. I saw many attendees practicing acroyoga, hula hooping, playing Frisbee and juggling balls. I saw an Israeli man playing with light sticks in a tight blue leotard with a sailor’s hat who was entertaining two little girls; when the song ended they applauded his performance. It was adorable. I saw two little girls jumping around to the music with their father shouting “Abba!” (Hebrew for dad). They were all dancing around on a blanket in the sand giggling. It was sweet. I saw a group of 20-somethings holding hands and running in a circle laughing. It was spontaneous and pure. During the day, many artists performed Ethiopian music, which is very light-hearted, feel-good kind of music, and it enhanced the sense of purity at the festival. It also felt pure when I saw many people (at a music festival nonetheless) reading books on their blankets by the stages.
This leads me to my second characteristic of the festival: Intellectual. There was an evident book culture at the festival. They were selling books at one of the tents that hosted face-painting, arts and crafts workshops and sold clothes. Many people were not only browsing and buying but also reading. There was a poetry reading held at one of the tents as well as a psychologist that spoke about depression at the religious tent. The Shabbat tent also held speakers about topics such as the poetry of Moroccan Jews. There were also comics on display as an art installation with stereotypical Jewish dark humor. One comic, for example, said something along the lines of, most people count sheep to go to sleep, I count my failures. Another comic displayed a photo of a computer’s error message saying, you messed your life up; do you want to follow your dreams? Click: yes, no, or (where the pointer was) remind me later. There was also a CyMagic tent where you can experience music with all of your senses. You can feel the vibrations of music in water, for example, and there was a keyboard for guests to play with.
Having said that, this leads me to the trait, liberal. A punk band named “Lucy’s Pussy” is known for their humor and having that typical “f**k the system” punk attitude. They performed their song “Shalom Shel Anim” literally meaning peace of poor. They told the crowd to turn towards east towards Gaza and sing together to them. The song is basically about making peace and forgetting about the politicians and banks. They sing about partying, dancing and playing futbol together. This was definitely my favorite moment of the entire festival. They, of course, kept to their punk personas and sang a song that basically said f**k the police.
A sign that a place is liberal is vegan food, which they had a huge variety of including delicious Ethiopian food and vegan sausages.
Another red flag is when one of the most famous liberal icons in the knesset is a frequent attendee, and that would be Stav Shafir. She is also the youngest female member of the Knesset in Israeli history. Before her career in parliament, she gained popularity by being a post-grad with student debt who became one of the leaders and spokeswoman of the Israeli social justice protests in 2011.
System Ali is another group that is politically involved in social justice and they’re known for promoting messages of peace. They performed with Tamer Nafer of the Palestinian hip-hop group DAM, which is a political statement to begin with. Nafer raps about political messages that are very controversial in Palestinian society, such as feminism. They’re a 10 piece hip-hop group comprised of both Arabs and Jews who rap in Arabic, Hebrew, Russian and English. They originally met at Jaffa Youth center, an education and arts center, where they would jam. They decided to perform together as a group in 2006 while simultaneously continuing their educational work with youth. This band is an incredible example of how Israelis and Palestinians could and should come together to promote peace through music.
Zeev Tene also sang a song, “I bombed Beruit everyday,” which is a spin-off of the American anti-war song titled “I bombed Korea.” He took part in the first Lebanon war and according to his performance, seems bitter about it. He has been recording albums since the 80s, with his most popular album entitled Black Cat.
System Ali is a very diverse group, which brings me to my final characteristic of InDnegev: diverse. The festival was musically very diverse. The genres represented included indie pop, Ethiopian, reggae, rock, electronic dance, heavy metal, hip-hop, punk, classical, moroccan oriental, funk and jazz. Songs were sung in least 7 languages, including Hebrew, Arabic, English, Russian, Amharic, French and Farsi. Some Reggae/Ethiopian bands included Zvulu Duo System, which is named after one of the tribes of Israel. An Arabic classical orchestra performed beautifully; their name translates to “Blessing of the Sun.”
Riff Cohen not only sang Moroccan oriental music in French, but she did so about 8 months pregnant, AND she totally rocked it.
Tamir Moscat, the drummer of Balkan Beat Box, played with artists from his label, APE Records. The Balkan Beat Box didn’t play together as a group but all the members were there playing side projects. Elad Kahara and Marina Maxilimin played alongside Tamir, to name a few. Tamir played his iconic funky style with songs in Arabic, Hebrew and English.
Tigris is a notable Ethiopian band who performed with singer/songwriter Gili Yalo. There was also diversity within the instruments, Tomer Yeshayahu, for example, played the bouzouki at noon on Friday.
Betzefer played heavy metal at 2 in the morning the first night, which wasn’t necessarily ideal for people that were trying to sleep, but hey what do you expect at a music festival. This band also doesn’t play often anymore so it was cool that they were playing live.
There was a “MoveIn Ensemble” which was a contemporary dance performance where they improvised with jazz/rock musicians.
The Overall Festival
The music wasn’t only diverse but it was in abundance. The festival began Thursday night from 5 pm until around 3 am. Then, there were performances all day Friday, from 9:30 in the morning until 6 in the morning on Saturday, and the music started up at 9:30 am and ended around sunset.
There were 6 stages: Monkey, Elephant, Artizakhin, Beetle, InDtronix and InDtox.
Artizakhin is a German word meaning “old stuff” and is used as Israeli slang. Apparently Israelis would say “Artizakhin!” about 20 years ago on the streets to sell their stuff. The Beetle stage is named after the dung beetles that you can see everywhere on the kibbutz. Apparently they were initially brought in as food for the ostriches. InDtronix was the stage that hosted electronic dance music and InDtox was the religious tent that kept shabbat, hosted shabbat dinner and lunch, prayers, concerts and speakers.
InDnegev is ultimately a platform for independent artists. What everyone said that they really enjoyed about this festival is how you always discover new music. I would definitely recommend this festival to anyone who loves music and I would absolutely come back again.