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Pop-rock Central Park Festival comes to northern Israel

CM 12/08/2021

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Nimrod Eldar is a hard fella to pin down. Not that he’s an elusive character. It’s just that when he takes his pew and lays his nimble fingers on his piano keys, you’d be hard pressed to guess what’s on the cards.
Eldar and oud player Eliran Swissa are the driving forces behind the Caifas band featured on the first evening of the forthcoming Central Park Festival. If the name of the event, due to be held at the Ochberg Bird Sanctuary up North in the Ramot Menasheh region, between Kibbutz Ein Hashofet and Kibbutz Ramat Hashofet, August 18 to 21, is unfamiliar, you are probably not alone. It is the successor to the Yearot Menasheh Festival, an annual pop-rock gathering which took place in the Galilee for a decade and became pretty popular. For some reason, the powers-that-be have rebranded the festival, presumably to imbue it with a more “sexy” offshore image.
Be that as it may, artistic director Nati Vierba has assembled an impressive roster of pop and rock A-listers with the likes of Dudu Tasa, Evyatar Banai, Beri Sacharoff and the Idan Raichel Project all lined up for the four-day event.
In such illustrious company, Caifas’s appearance may not grab the early headlines, but, should you find yourself in the Caifas show crowd it is highly likely that you will not regret making the effort.

The band performs with varying personnel permutations, with Eldar and Swissa the only constants, as they pick and choose the instrumentation to suit the ad hoc job in hand. Judging by the viewer numbers on the group’s YouTube channel, the duo’s high quality lineups, as they delve into a broad array of styles, genres and cultural baggage, appeal to a broad musical market sector.
Eldar gives the impression of being a big-hearted type, and that clearly comes across in our conversation and, naturally, in the Caifas growing oeuvre. For starters there’s the group’s moniker. “We looked for a good name for the band that would say something about us, and our work, and stuff that is important to us like pluralism, good food and good living,” says the larger than life pianist. “I am originally from Haifa, and Caifas sounds like the name of the city and also like keff (fun). So, that really suits us.”
Eldar and Swissa first crossed each other’s path as students at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Academy of Music and Dance. “I walked into a room without knowing it was Eliran’s room,” the 28 year old pianist recalls. “I don’t look like a typical Israeli and Eliran started talking to me in English,” he laughs. “After about five minutes we realized we are both Israelis.”
Lingual faux pas notwithstanding, the pair found a common language from the off. “We started writing music on the spot,” says Eldar. The initial score eventually segued into a number called Nur. The personal and creative chemistry was clearly there for the taking, and there was no stopping them. “After that we wrote Bilbi,” Eldar continues.
The floodgates were well and truly open, and the pair fused their musical backdrops to telling effect. Inte Arabi, a beguiling mix of Arabic music, jazz and groove, soon followed. The Eldar-Swissa songwriting combo was a musical marriage made in heaven. “I worked in all sorts of groups in the past, and I got tired of it. I decided I wouldn’t get involved in any more projects that were not mine. And then I met Eliran, around three years ago. I met a person who thinks exactly the same way as me about music.” It is, he notes, something of a complementary relationship. “On the one hand he is the opposite of me. He comes from a completely different world. But we think the same about music, about life in general. It was really God-given that we met up.”
Swissa brings some pretty hefty Arabic and other ethnic musical roots with him to the Caifas fray. “Eliran introduced me to Andalusian music and things like [Tunisian singer-oud player] Dhafer Yousef. I didn’t know about Dhafer Youssef before that. He exposed me to all sorts of things – [Lebanese-born jazz trumpeter] Ibrahim Maalouf. Let’s say, all good guys,” Eldar laughs. If there is any common thread running through Swissa’s record collection it was the eclecticism. “There was also [iconic Egyptian composer-singer-oud player] Mohammed Abd-el-Wahab. He was the Egyptians’ Mozart.”
The pianist returned the compliment. “I introduced Eliran to [western] classical music, and fusion, like [American instrumental ensemble] Snarky Puppy. They make music for the body and for the soul, music that moves you and makes you think.”
That is a fair description of Caifas’s output too, although, personally, I find their material tends more to the emotive side, with some rock- and abstract-leaning elements in the mix too. There is a delicious lyricism and rich melodic substratum to everything they do, and a sense of tranquility. It came as no surprise to hear that Bill Evans, the jazz pianist credited as introducing tension to romantic scores, is among Eldar’s chief points of inspirational reference.
Swissa and Eldar also manage to maintain delicate equilibrium between their desired lineups. “Eliran always jokes that I want to have as many people in the group as possible. I wouldn’t mind having 200 players,” he laughs. “I like to think big and Eliran taught me to think on a smaller scale.”
They will make do with just adding a drummer for the Central Park gig which, as with all their work, they say is very much the fruit of their stint with seasoned jazz, blues, world music drummer Danny Benedikt. “We were on the Hamaabada (The Lab) program of the Rimon School of Music, and Danny was our mentor,” says Eldar. “We had a fantastic time. We learned so much from him.”
The Central Park crowd can expect to be entertained, moved and even grooved next week.
For tickets and more information: eventim.co.il/centralpark

Source: Jerusalem Post

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