The Israeli rocker who wishes he could be more angry

By Jessica Elgot, July 15, 2010

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."


The National: America's Radiohead

July 15, 2010

This has been a fine year for The National. The Brooklyn-based band saw their fifth album, High Violet, peak at number three in the US album charts and number five in the UK. They sold out the Royal Albert Hall, were a hit at the Glastonbury Festival last month and will be playing two nights at the Brixton Academy this autumn. Not bad for a group that spent the first five years of their existence regularly playing to crowds in single figures.


Interview: Lucinda Belle

By Paul Lester, July 1, 2010

It would probably be easier to list the things that session musician, recording artist and all-round busy bee Lucinda Belle has not done. She has toured with the Pet Shop Boys and Annie Lennox, been Robbie Williams's backing singer and harpist at the BBC Electric Proms, performed a duet with Mel Brooks and jammed with Tom Jones.


The moment when Matisyahu lost his cool

By Paul Lester, June 17, 2010

This is probably not the ideal moment to be interviewing Matisyahu, unless you enjoy the company of fired-up pop stars. Because it's the Tuesday after the Gaza aid flotilla incident and the Chasidic reggae artist and rapper - staying at the Holiday Inn in Brent Cross as he promotes his latest album, Light - is not happy.

The rangy New Yorker, 31 at the end of June, prowls around his hotel bedroom in kippah and green jogging pants. He places his tallit under his crumpled white T-shirt and sits down on the couch. In between mouthfuls of vegan curry, he assesses the events of the weekend.


The music the Nazis couldn't destroy

By Jessica Duchen, June 10, 2010

Terezin: the name inspires both horror and wonder. This Czech garrison town, also known as Theresienstadt, was home to one of the most extraordinary cultural phenomena of the Second World War. The inmates of its Jewish ghetto included swathes of the intelligentsia of Prague and Brno who were deported there. Confined within its walls, desperately overcrowded, disease-ridden and malnourished, a generation of composers, writers, artists, musicians and actors turned to their art to keep their spirits alive.


In tune with the East End

By Jessica Elgot, June 10, 2010

The Jewish Community Centre has commissioned three composers, one Jewish, one Muslim and one Christian, to write works to be performed at the Spitalfields Music Summer Festival in London's East End this weekend.

The Radio 3 presenter and world-music fanatic, Max Reinhardt, has taken on the challenge of writing a piece inspired by the area's Jewish history, which he has called Fifth Quarter.


At 17, Janis Ian was snorting cocaine with Jimi Hendrix

By Jonathan Wingate, June 3, 2010

When a shy-looking 15-year-old Janis Ian finished performing her song, Society's Child, on Leonard Bernstein's television show, Inside Pop - The Rock Revolution, in 1967, Bernstein beamed at her with palpable pride. "You're a great creature," he gushed. "I think that's quite a remarkable job for a girl of your age, and I congratulate you on what's going to be a brilliant career."


The gospel truth about the church music that's Jewish

By Jessica Elgot, May 27, 2010

No one could accuse Jewish music of not being diverse. There is Jewish reggae and hip hop, Jewish folk, even Jewish heavy metal. But despite Judaism's eclectic modern sound, Jewish gospel still feels like an oxymoron.

Not so, says black Jewish gospel singer Joshua Nelson. The impassioned choir music most commonly associated with church singing groups is actually one of the most inherently Jewish sounds around.


When fame means having a full stomach

By Elisa Bray, May 6, 2010

'Nowadays when people ask me how I define success I'd say it was being able to order anything on the menu," says Joshua Radin.

The New York-based singer-songwriter, who says that for years he was a "starving artist", can certainly order any dish he likes in any restaurant in the world. His first album to be released in the UK, Simple Times, went straight into the top 10, and he has just completed a sell-out UK tour, while his songs have been heard on more than 70 episodes of television shows, including Scrubs and Grey's Anatomy.


Paul Weller's favourite kibbutznik

By Paul Lester, April 28, 2010

Geva Alon has been called "the Israeli Neil Young", his plaintive voice soaring above gentle acoustic guitar or the fuller sound of a band.

His newly released third album, Get Closer, was produced by Thom Monahan, who has worked with alternative folkie Devendra Banhart, Americana types such as The Jayhawks, and the grungier likes of Dinosaur Jr.