Shir Madness 2016

June 7, 2016 by Geoff Sirmai
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Jewish music festival SHIR MADNESS returns to Sydney for 2016 and the first list of acts has been announced.


With more than 30 acts on 5 stages, there will be something for everyone…writes Geoff Sirmai.

The first acts to be announced include popular favourites, soulful Melbourne duo Deborah Conway and Willy Zygier (Melbourne) – just as their new album is released – and world music/gypsy dance fiends Monsieur Camembert.

Returning to Australia with a specially created cabaret show is Sydney-born, now New York based singer/actress Alexis Fishman who won international accolades, awards and popular acclaim with her darkly powerful show Club Der Gelbe Stern (about a Jewish cabaret artist in Germany performing her last show as the Nazis come to power).

Colorfully costumed Jewish/Assyrian dance-rock worldbeat duo Yael and Robin Zirwanda are the force behind Azadoota. With an incredibly talented line-up of young musicians including Ben Samuels on sax/clarinet and 16-year-old Paris Freed on backing vocals, front-man Robin comes from Iraq, where the Assyrians can trace their ancestors back 7000 years. Singing in Neo-Aramaic, they perform an extravaganza of contemporary Assyrian dance-rock worldbeat, featuring sassy brass and punchy percussion, with an irrepressible sense of celebration.

Also new to the festival are Junkyard Beats who have made their name with high-energy, dynamic rhythm shows. With body percussion, junk percussion and hilarious skits, their family-friendly shows draw on inspiration from everyday life, the streets and the junkyard. See ordinary household items transformed into musical instruments as they create a booty shaking, toe-tapping, electric atmosphere that makes you want to get up and move!

Plus Sydney Jazz legend Leonie Cohen and her trio, Melbourne group Bashevis Singers (featuring Husky Gawenda and Gideon Preiss from Husky) and orient-inspired fragrant melting pot Masha’s Legacy, who comprise singers and dancers from every corner of the globe and sing in multiple languages including Ladino, Hebrew and Arabic.

Conway and Zygier directed last year’s Melbourne festival and introduced the hit ‘Song of Songs’ section in which a dozen or more Australian stars (not necessarily Jewish) perform a song by their favourite Jewish composer that might have moved them. Jewish composers have been pivotal in Twentieth Century popular music. Last year this featured Archie Roach, Kate Ceberano, Kate Miller-Heidke, David Hobson and Linda Bull among others! This year it will be backed by the Band of Bands (led by Sydney legend Jonathan Schwartz). This is an event not to be missed. Details soon!

Shir Madness takes place on Sunday 18 Sept 12noon to 10pm at the Bondi Pavilion, Queen Elizabeth Drive Bondi Beach. Early-bird tickets for the festival ($55/$33 conc) are available until sold out. Children under 12 are free and family passes and special VIP tickets (including reserved seating and entry to VIP lounge, with food and drinks included) are also available. Visit and on Facebook and Twitter

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