The Festival of Jewish Arts and Music coming soon to Melbourne

June 23, 2019 by Arts Editor
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The Festival of Jewish Arts and Music (FOJAM), formerly Shir Madness Melbourne, takes over the Melbourne Recital Centre in a day-long immersion of contemporary Jewish culture with 30 performances across music, theatre, dance and conversation on Sunday 8 September.Inspired by Lou Reed’s urgent call to Walk on the Wild Side, the program features over 140 international and homegrown artists who are breaking or have already broken convention to carve new paths.

Among the international headliners making their Australian debut on Australian stages are Israeli beatmaker and producer Noga Erez; American singer-songwriter Chris Cohen, formerly of the band Deerhoof; stalwart British journalist and performer Vivien Goldman (aka “the Punk Professor”). Also on the international roster Zackary Drucker, a multimedia artist and LGBT activist, will speak about her work as a producer on the TV series Transparent and the intersections of queer and Jewish identities in one of the festival’s panel discussions.

In the Festival’s headline performance, Transformer – A Tribute to Lou Reed, indie-pop artist Gabriella Cohen serves as musical director to artists including Alex Gow (Oh Mercy), Emily Lubitz (Tinpan Orange), Bella Venuti (IV League), Spike Fuck and ARIA-winning post-punk legend Deborah Conway, who perform songs from Reed’s iconic album Transformer. Deborah Conway and Willy Zygier also curate and perform in the Festival favourite Song of Songs, a tribute to Jewish songwriters and composers (details of line up will be announced 24 July)

Elsewhere on the program, Gabriella Cohen and her full band present a sonic wonderland in their performance of songs from her new album, Pink is the Colour of Unconditional Love.

After exhilarating festival performances at WOMAD and Ashkenaz Music Festival in Canada, the 22- piece avant-garde Yiddish funk and klezmer ensemble YID!, perform their new work whilst Yidcore, the beloved Melbourne punks, reform for the first time since their infamous 2011 reunion.

Deborah Conway and Vivien Goldman in Conversation : Jews. Rebels. Feminists has both women reflecting on what those those things meant to them in the 80’s and what they mean to them
now. Continuing colourful conversings, Spun Stories invites five writers – Elise Hearst, Nevo Zisin, Nathan Besser, Emily Lubitz and Magic Steven to join a storytelling slam in the spirit of the original Knitting Factory on New York’s Lower East Side.

Chris Abrahams, the pianist in legendary group The Necks, joins forces with Robbie Avenaim andOren Ambarchi to form AAA, a project that explores the extreme sonic outer limits of their instruments. Ambarchi will also perform alongside his collaborator in musical synthesis, Canadian sound artist crys cole to perform ‘Hotel Record’.

Curator and choreographer Gideon Obarzanek brings his Circle Dance work, based on an Israeli folk dance, to Melbourne Recital Centre Salon, one of the other spaces for the festival, whilst Israeli choreographer Israel Aloni shakes things up with their solo dance work My Body, My Nation which carries a full nudity warning.

Asis D’Orange, a household name in Tel Aviv’s underground drag scene for their subversive performances, plays with the borders of both genre and gender. Asis’ passions cover fashion, feminism and veganism, which converge in dark and glamorous ways in their performance of The Carrot.

The festival takes a civilised u-turn when esteemed Australian contemporary classical, film and television composer George Dreyfus leads his quartet to celebrate a life in music whilst Russian- Israeli avant-garde artist Mary Ocher who has been pushing against the current, making work that confronts ideas of authority, identity and conflict, performs a solo set on piano and also closes out the festival with a DJ set.

Other musical gems include the tight, indie-pop package Approachable Members Of Your Local Community – a seven-piece band of charismatic, nebbish boys delivering neo-soul melodies; rising soul sensation Emilia; Tamara and the Dreams whose catchy, lo-fi pop music is laden with angst and a skeptical view of nostalgia whilst the multi-award winning composer Josh Abrahams and singer Galit Klas bring their unique brand of art music; the subversive sonic approach to Jewish music from transgender Perth-based bass clarinet player Shoshana Rosenberg and the silken sounds of Alma Zygier, who presents songbooks of eras past through a wholly contemporary filter.

Celebrated New York based jazz pianist Tal Cohen will take over the festival club along with improvisational five-piece Claps led by saxophonist Greg Sher and pianist Joel Trigg (The Rookies), draws from the history of house music and broken beat rhythms to craft kaleidoscopic new dance music experiences.

“We are bringing together critically acclaimed and emerging artists working across music, dance, drag, comedy, theatre and moving image from Australia, Israel, Russia and England” said FOJAM Artistic Director Lior Albeck-Ripka. “Whether it be through their performance, their process, composition or ideas, each artist is trying something new, and this year, we are asking our audiences to do the same.”

“The festival is a celebration of Jewish identity, history, culture and arts – an expression of freedom,” says Festival Producer, Jesse Lubitz. “We hope artists and audiences walk away from FOJAM delighted, inspired, and maybe even challenged to reconsider their idea of the Jewish experience.”

The full FOJAM program including Song of Songs line-up will be announced 24 July and is supported by the City of Melbourne Arts Grants Program.

11AM – 11PM

Full Day: $180 / $110
Daytime: $90 / $70
Evening: $90 / $70
VIP Full Day: $220 (includes premium seating, artist meet & greets plus more – 100 available).

Tickets on sale now through Melbourne Recital Centre – BOOK HERE

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