As the conflict in Gaza unfolds, I often find myself wondering how this ongoing crisis affects the
creative psyche of Israeli and Palestinian artists. A recent chance encounter with Israeli musician Yuval
Haring provided me an opportunity to find out.
Haring plays guitar for the Tel Aviv-based indie band Vaadat Charigim. The group's dreamy
soundscapes recall both the early '80s American indie scene - think Hüsker Dü or The Feelies - and the
early '90s British shoegaze sound.
A cursory listen to Vaadat Charigim's well-crafted pop creations might not immediately suggest that
this is art created in a war zone. But there are darker textures and anxieties lurking below the surface,
as my conversation with Haring revealed.
NUVO: Can you tell me about your musical background and the history of the band?
Yuval Haring: I was living in Berlin for a few years with my wife and bandmate Mickey Triest. We had a band there called TV Buddhas. We toured a lot, but we decided to come back to Israel. Before that, I wrote something like 10 songs with the idea they would be used for a future band. In Israel, I
found Yuval Guttmann and Dan Bloch and we played once or twice in a rehearsal room located in the
bomb shelter of an elementary school. We clicked immediately and started Vaadat Charigim.
NUVO: Is there any significance behind the band's name?
Haring: Vaadat Charigim translates as "exemptions committee." It suggests that we are all pressured to act under the normal. If we were to be tested by an institution, we would most definitely find ourselves facing such a committee to explain ourselves. As this world works and always will, people like us won't be able to really express ourselves. We won't be able to express our individuality, but rather we will get squeezed into their box and we will become what they want us to be.
NUVO: Can you tell me about the music scene in Tel Aviv?
Haring: Rich, amazing, full of talented people with the drive and passion to make a scene of their own - something comparable to the American scene of the early '80s. There is a sort of post-post-Reaganism ruling Israel now. There is war always and there is an uncertainty to life. These factorsmake for very potent artistic expression at times.
NUVO: Can you describe the state of mind of an artist creating creating work in what is
essentially a war-zone?
Haring: Get it done fast, that's the state of mind. I used to be part of an indie music society called Fast Music. The premise was to get an album done in 24 hours. I'm not saying you couldn't record for weeks if you wanted to. But we were working under the idea that nothing is here to stay, nothing has time to grow, nothing has time to remain a part of our lives and everything is fleeting. This is what it is to create here.
NUVO: Have you been personally exposed to any of the violence?
Haring: Only sirens and distant booms this time around. When, I was young Iraq bombed Tel Aviv and also back then it was only sirens and distant booms. I was very close to a suicide bombing once in central Tel Aviv. These things stay with you. I do not hate anyone for them, but I am sometimes full of anxiety. When the sirens re-started a week ago in Tel Aviv, I had such a strong flashback that my heart just raced. For people in the south of the country and people in Gaza, I would probably multiply what I went through as a Tel Avivian by a hundred.
NUVO: In your opinion what's the role of an artist in a time of war?
Haring: To create, to be a critic of violence on a human level and to say the things that people with the luxury of time would say - not people in panic. The artist should remind everyone of beauty.
NUVO: Are your thoughts and opinions on the conflict reflected in your lyrics?
Haring: Yes, some of the songs are about being stuck. Others are about the world ending or the feeling that the world as a modern concept has long ended, and instead there is chaos, morally speaking.
NUVO: Do you think artists and musicians can influence social change in a time of war?
Haring: I would say yes, but only to those willing to listen. It cannot force itself onto the audience. The best music is like water, it fills in the gaps and goes deep and low. It can wake you up and make you realize things about your life and the lives of others. It can shatter logic and make you dream bigger and longer.
But I don't like music that is in-your-face or confrontational. The best wartime music seeps like water
and hits the deepest parts of the heart because it rings true - not because it is "powerful."
Each edition of A Cultural Manifesto features a mix from Kyle Long, spotlighting music from around the globe. This week's selection focuses on psychedelic sounds recorded in Israel during the late 60's and early 70's.
You can download and subscribe to the Cultural Manifesto podcast on Itunes here.
Kyle Long discusses creating art in the midst of conflict with Yuval Haring of the Tel Aviv-based band Vaadat Charigim.