What is Trip Hop? People will have varied answers. Most will cite its inception as Britain in the early nineties. It is possible, however, that this fusion of genres could have been here well before that moment a British journalist conjured up its label.
In anticipation of Teder's upcoming collaboration with the Tel Aviv Chamber of Music this weekend, and a special show from Uzi Nevon alongside a tribute show to Trip Hop greats Portishead, we got in touch with Ofer Tal, one of the people we trust and respect most with Israeli music, to share some gems with us. As usual, he delivered the goods. But first, some history.
A Brief Analysis
It seems that Trip Hop came into existence around the early 90's, or at least that's what people tend to think. Perhaps it is more apt to say that the early 90's was merely when Trip Hop was given its name.
If we take a moment to dissect the genre, to understand what it fundamentally constitutes of, and what differentiates it from Hip Hop, we see that Trip Hop has been around much longer. Even in Israel.
The connection between Trip Hop and Hip Hop need not be explained, but the difference between them may be worth clarifying. Most prominently is a difference in rhythm. It seems that at its foundation, Trip Hop took on Hip Hop rhythms that were slower, heavier, and darker. And this naturally morphed into a new direction of music.
In essence, what caused the samples to arrive from different musical directions that did not quite overlap with traditional hip hop (and vice versa) – soul and blues minor, slower, darker, found themselves in down tempo.
A Lesson in Music
As mentioned, most people would attribute the foundation of Trip Hop to the early 90's. Likely in some underground basement in Bristol. But if we dig a little deeper we can find Trip Hop origins long before that, even in Israeli Music.
To illustrate this, Ofer Tal took us on a short musical journey, grooving in between organs and violins of the years between 68-71, a period that graced us with some unforgettable recordings.
There are two key players responsible for this wealth in music: Alex Weiss, the leading jazz pianist of Israel in the late Sixties, and Albert Piamenta, prominent Saxophonist and leader of Piamenta's Chants. Piamenta's Chants notably incorporated a heavy use of bass drums and a long bass guitar. Together with other performers - such as David Krivoshei, Martin Moskovitz, Benny Negri, Yair Rosenbloom, and of course, the young Shlomo Gronich and Matty Caspi – these pioneers put the essence of American Soul into their productions.
It would be amiss not to mention Zohar Levy, but this list will be focusing on slower sides of the matter, the more psychedelic aspects of the music – those that those Hip Hop producers would be sampling. And some already have done.
The first piece we'll be looking at is that by Israeli DJ, producer and rapper Edan. His Promised Land sampling Arik Einstein's 'Dark Dark'. Einstein's piece, produced in '68 by Alex Weiss, is the last track on the B-side of his album 'Capricorn'. Some might observe that it is darker than some of his other works. This didn't prevent Edan from morphing it into a masterpiece of his own.
Up next is another piece from Arik, arriving a year later in '69. This too was placed as the final track on the B-side. His revolutionary album "Poozy", arranged by Misha Segal, is different from any other of his. This piece is titled היה היה
The touching song laments the premature death of talented pianist and composer Ziggy Skravnik. With Skravnik's musical future prematurely cut, Arik breathed life back into it, combining bits from Skravnik's archives into the track making for a rather smoky end-product.
Third on the agenda is Ushik Levy. חוזה לך ברח sees Levy on his first LP, also in '68, again with Alex Weiss, and this time a big hit.
With words inspired by the bible over a groove from heaven, Yankale Rotbilt's lyrics come together with Shalom Chanoch on his first successful melody.
English electronic duo, Mattafix sampled the track. It was alright. But we can only imagine what someone serious could do with this.
Mattafix made a loop and called on a Jamaican friend.
Now for one of my favourite songs from one of my favourite films. Some more Ushik, this time melody and arrangement by Nurit Hirsch. Lead actor Shaika Ofir again left only with his shadow. Again we tell him to go, again we tell him to come. #ohviolins.
Closing the Ushik trilogy will be זה מכבר, a number produced alongside Leah Goldberg and Matti Caspi. The track opens befittingly with Ushik's voice on tape "Leah Goldberg Pam Rishona". Caspi, who played most of the non-string instruments, and who composed and adapted the song, intentionally left Ushik's recording on tape, bringing us that much closer to the track.
In Ushik's earphones is Caspi's הגייד - a song Caspi composed to play the song on the home recording, heard at the beginning of the song. Ushik states "this won't help me" – which is to say he wants to hear the recording in his earphones to come in properly.
And what an entrance it is. Someday, sometime, somewhere someone will sample this and it will be great.
Staying with Caspi, let's introduce Shlomo Gronich – a new friend from one of his first recordings. A one-off song from the musical "City of Men" (Israel 1970), Pinchas HaKatan evokes wonder and amusement. Don't let the seemingly simple sound deceive you. A captivating story over a mesmerizing melody, Caspi composed strange words of Dan Almagor (ktav) according to Damon Ranyon. כספי הלחין מילים מוזרות של דן אלמגור על פי דאמון ראניון
Singer Sassy Keshet transcends himself as Gronich plays the piano throughout the piece.
Here also, Blues Minor, here too don't call it trip hop.
In 1971, the same Shlomo Gronich came to release his first solo-album. The opening song, אל נא תלך, based on Bach's Prelude, was completely different from what we had heard in Israel until then. Gronich's piece announced the emergence of a slightly alternative style in the Israeli music scene, adopted by the likes of Shem Tov Levy and Yoni Richter to name a few. I was awake all night, and now my eyes are heavy with sleep.
Whilst on the topic of dark matter, we should also mention the opening song from the B-side of Gronich's same debut album רוזה מרציפן. Electronic synths dance over melancholic moods. Like a horrible children's song this song is somewhat unpleasant, yet paradoxically it slaves your ears to listen.
Tzila Dagan provided several sad moments in her debut album. Particularly in four blues songs composed by Danny Litni accompanied by heartfelt lyrics from Leah Goldberg. The songs were perfectly arranged by aforementioned Albert Piamenta. Israeli singer Karolina has already recorded excellent covers of two of them, maybe it's time for the remaining two?
First up, a song that Israeli band Tipex sampled in their song disco manyak: Tzila Dagan's ולא היה בינינו אלא זוהר.
The second from Tzila: יום בו יקום. This hit is a blues-soul in 6/8. A waltz of sorts, like a slow rock ballad with heavy words on relationships;
It should be noted that two years before Tzila Dagan performed it, Zemirah Chen released her own version of יום בו יקום. בנאיביות מסויימת.
And here is Karolina's take on it. Produced and arranged by Kuti, Shacam and Uzi.
And here are Piamenta's arrangements for all four songs (including the great לתמונת אמא" ו"נחל שלי). Lip-synced to the screen by Tzila
Ily Gorlitzky – 3 out of three million
To finish, another Danny Litni. Blues minor with lyrics by Amos Kinen. A YouTube gem that will pierce your veins, the song did not actually come out as an official record. Perhaps it was broadcast, but I did not see it. Litni himself also performed the song but what makes Gorlitzky's version special is the (not-so) trip-hop groove. Lend me some sun?
And last but not least, the darkest before dawn.