The Israeli rocker who wishes he could be more angry

By Jessica Elgot, July 15, 2010
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Asaf Avidan (centre) and the Mojos

Asaf Avidan (centre) and the Mojos

For Israeli musicians, politics comes with the territory. Except that Asaf Avidan does not see it that way.

"I haven't ever written anything political. I write about what I feel," he insists. "It's like cheating if I sit down to write about an issue. I do listen to a lot of political artists and I wish I could feel as angry as they are so that it pours out into my music."

He adds, defensively: "If I want to go to a protest, I'll go to a protest, but I won't write a song about it."

Avidan is the front man - vocalist and songwriter - for Asaf Avidan and the Mojos, who have enjoyed long success in their native Jerusalem, including supporting Morrissey in Tel Aviv. And now the band has released its first international album, The Reckoning, accompanied by a successful tour of the UK.

Their style is frantic and folky, heavily influenced by old American rock and blues. There are punchy guitar riffs too, a whisper of Led Zeppelin, with Avidan's vocals sounding not unlike Jake Shears of the Scissor Sisters.

After the problems faced by the classical ensemble, the Jerusalem Quartet, whose concert at the Wigmore Hall was stormed by pro-Palestinian protesters earlier this year, it would natural for Israeli bands to be apprehensive about playing abroad. Again, Avidan bucks the trend.

He says: "Unfortunately, being defined solely as an 'Israeli' band is an attribute we have to live with. My parents were diplomats, so I moved all over the world as a kid, living in Jamaica and in the US.

"I never felt defined as an Israeli. It is my home, and my passport, but it's just another feature, like having a mohawk or having blue eyes. It's another part of me, it's not what defines me.

"The negative reactions to being an Israeli band is mostly from the media anyway, not the audience. I do get why that is. It's the country which has the most hype surrounding it at the moment.

"My songs are about relationships, about love and death. I want to understand my own mortality. I'm trying to understand what my time here is for. You don't need a particular passport to relate to that."

'The Reckoning' is out on Telmavar

    Last updated: 11:22am, July 15 2010