Storytellers of a new generation
Middle Eastern Rockers Ouzo Bazooka Debut In Mumbai Article Cover Image

Middle Eastern Rockers Ouzo Bazooka Debut In Mumbai

The Israeli quartet keeps it real with their retro-meets-modern-day music.

When it comes to Tel Aviv band Ouzo Bazooka, it’s a confluence of two different generations steering their Middle Eastern psychedelic rock sound. While chief songwriter with radical left leanings, Uri Kinrot and his bass man, Adam Schefflan are wired to their retro roots, the younger lot comprising of drummer Ira Raviv and keyboard player Dani Ever HaDani, injects their contemporary influences into the quartet.

Marking their India debut, the band with their garage rock and psychedelic staples, is on a high after pulling off a string of rousing shows at the IIM in Ahmedabad and the IITs in Kharagpur and Guwahati. With the final leg of the tour in Pune, the band plans to hit the beaches of Goa to shake off the tour fatigue.

“Our first experience here was really different than what we thought it would be. There were huge stages and the crowds received us nicely,” Says Raviv, who was smitten by a set, performed by brothers Ayaan and Amaan Ali Khan, sons of legendary Sarod player Amjad Ali Khan.

“It was amazing. That was my first introduction to Indian classical music. It’s very different from classical European music. It was like a privilege to see them,” he adds.

The band however missed the train for the usual post-military-service-India-pilgrimage.

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Acknowledging how India had eluded them so far, Kinrot, says, “Many Israelis are coming to India after serving in the army and most Israelis have some kind of India experience. Only our sound engineer and manager have travelled to India before.”

With their second album SIMOOM, almost ready for an international release, the band is chalking out their plans for 2016, with Western Europe and Japan as their viable markets.

Says Ever-Hadani, “Our first album was released in Japan and the second album will be released in Germany as well. Israel and Western Europe is our main market.”

I met the band at their nondescript accommodation in the suburban Andheri, before their Mumbai debut where the band spoke about the Tel Aviv music scene, Palestinian conflict and performing in India.

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1. Tell us about your music and songwriting routines.

Kinrot: Usually I say music speaks for itself and people should listen to it. Our music is more or less love songs and at other times, a little political or social. It’s kind of hard to describe the way I write the lyrics as it just comes out and I have to figure out what its all about. Sometimes it may sound like a love song, but it's not really.

HaDani: There are some songs he (Kinrot) comes with all the ideas, and then some, where he comes up with a little bit of an idea and we work on it together.

2. What’s your take on the India tour so far?

Kinrot: We didn’t know what to expect from the students. We’re not a well know international act and we were surprised with the reaction we got. People were into the music and some were crowd surfing. We hope to come back here and do more tours and club shows. And we hope we’ll have support from our government again because that’s the only way we can get our tax money back (laughs).

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3. How has music as a career endured in an expensive place like Israel? Has it been sustainable?

Kinrot: We’ve managed to make a living being musicians in one of the most expensive cities in the world. So I guess it's possible and it’s okay to be a musician. We’re not rich people so I guess you can make a career in music. You got to bust your ass.

Raviv: But winters are a bad time for musicians as there’s no work. It’s freezing now in Israel for some reason and nobody’s playing, so this (India tour) has been a good start this year.

HaDani: My dad is a musician and brought up his four children including me. It’s like 24/7 you go do the job. Sometimes there’s lot of jobs and sometimes none. You need to work hard to be good and successful in everything you choose. We’re lucky we’re in India now; it’s like our winter escape.

4.  Tell us about the Tel Aviv music scene? Lot of young people taking up music and arts?

HaDani: Everyone is a musician. If you’re not a musician you’re some kind of artist. It’s all about music and art. Because now you have the choice since technology has made it easier to do music.

Kinrot: It’s like more and more people getting into the scene. Get to know amazing musicians. Hip-hop is getting huge now. You don’t need your own recording studio, because its so hard in Israel, if you’re not in Tel Aviv it’s hard to find stage to play, hard to be a musician. The scene is not very big in Jerusalem and Haifa which is why everyone comes to Tel Aviv.

5. With the generation gap in mind how do you define the band’s chemistry?

Kinrot: Sometimes it’s easy sometimes it’s more difficult but that’s how it works I guess. Even though we love what we do we don’t expect it to be easy. We have a good chemistry though.

Raviv: When we were working on the new album we only struggled in one or two songs out of the 10 songs.

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6. What are your thoughts on the Palestinian conflict? Most musicians and youngsters (both Israelis and Palestine) I’ve met want peace in the West Bank.

Raviv: It’s just shit. Unfortunately most people in Israel do not want to give up land for peace and believe that this is the right way for Israel

Kinrot: You only met the musicians who would talk about peace. You didn’t meet the people who want to fight. I’m not saying I believe that if we give up the land everything should be peaceful. But at least we should be fair with our neighbours and then we can resolve things. As long as Israel occupies territories it’s like everything is too fucked up.

HaDani: I don’t know these people and I just prefer to walk away from such people who say this is our land and that we’re right and they (Palestinians) are wrong. It’s a very complicated situation.

7. How do you juggle the military training and music?

HaDani: I’ve been in the army. I’ve been a musician in the army. It’s not only fighting. But the army won’t hire a musician, who didn’t enlist, to play in front of soldiers or at gig organized by the government.

Raviv: There’s every job in the army like in the real world. But until a few years back there used to be issues with performing for shows arranged by government offices if you had no had military service. It’s not an absolute rule but you can see examples of this happening.

Kinrot: At first I didn’t want to go at all. I was a radical left wing when I was young; a bit of it is still there. Then I had some thoughts that maybe I should because everybody goes and I wanted to do my bit. Once I was enrolled I got ill and I realized I didn’t want to take part in any kind of military activities and I left it. The music of musicians who didn’t go to the army is banned by the army from playing at their gigs. But the army owns the biggest radio station in Israel and they will play any kind of music. So it’s not such a big problem. Nothing specific.

 

By Mohan KK
Photo Courtesy: Ouzo Bazooka