Mediterranean music is a generic description for music that comes from Middle Eastern countries. But this description does injustice to the music, because it is just as complex and diverse as the Jewish world that has brought it: Turkish music fuses with Greek, Egyptian differs from Moroccan, Iraqi and Yemenite styles have no resemblance to one another. But within all this, a style that is characteristic of Israel has formed – combinations of musical genres from Arab countries with influences of Holy Land music from the early twentieth century. This music has suffered over the years from constant discrimination of public opinion despite their popular success. However since the late 1990s, there has been a change in the status of Mediterranean music, becoming now the dominant musical genre on radio and television.
Mediterranean music has been characterized as “southern music, infused with the bright light of the Mediterranean air, aspiring to brightness”, as Max Brod wrote in his book. The climate and landscape have had an influence on the musical style of Mediterranean music in tempo, harmony, consistency, melody and orchestration. This music features repeating trills in many songs, emphasizing guttural consonants employing many musical instruments in creating incredible tunes, ranging from happy rhythmical music to sad ballads. Mediterranean music can be snappy happy, music that will brighten your day too. Ballads that talk about pain and suffering in life. Many in Israel call these songs “depression songs”.
Over the years, many musicians have worked in the field of Mediterranean music. Singers of the 1980s were the ones who paved the way to today’s modern stars. Famous singers of the generation were Joe Amar, Zohar Argov, Chaim Moshe, Tzlilei Ha’ud Band, Shoshana Damari, Ahuva Ozeri, Diklon, Avner Gadasi and many others. Two of the female singers who broke through Israel’s consciousness and became well known international musicians were Ofra Haza and Achinoam Nini, known by her stage name Noa. Haza, whose parents hailed from Yemen, released an album in 1984 that was fully devoted to Yemenite music. Two of the album’s songs became international hits that are still played on the radio today: Galbi and Im Nin’alu. These hits led to her breakthrough as an international singer, who in 1990 declined an offer to join a world tour with the king of pop, Michael Jackson. Achinoam Nini comes from a family of Yemenite extract whose genre is world music. Her international breakthrough led to compilations with leading artists such as Mercedes Sosa, Sting, Cheryl Crow, Stevie Wonder and others. One of the highlights of Nini’s career was to perform in 1994 and 2000 in which she perform before Pope John Paul the Second.
In recent years, the younger generation has been actively reconnecting with their roots. Members of this generation, whose parents suffered oppression from many Mediterranean countries, have more closely embraced their history, language and art. Young musicians today are learning the characteristic regional musical instruments: the oud, tar, bouzouki and kamancha. Ethnic music schools have opened as an alternative to the genre that dominated Israel’s music scene until recent decades and many such as Mark Eliyuahu, Yemen Blues, the Alaev family and even Dudu Tasa, have actively contributed to the development and acceptance of Mediterranean music in Israel.. Many blogs have emerged, holding lively discussions on music and teaching readers about music from the Levant countries. Mediterranean music evenings are held throughout the week, and it has now become “cooler” for many restaurants to combine music from the Middle East alongside their local dishes.