If you’ve watched our film Israel’s Radical Left all the way to the end, you’ll know how good the psychedelic rock ‘n’ world band Boogie Balagan’s song “Lamentation Walloo” is. If you haven’t, it’s probably the most listenable song ever written about the Israel/Palestine conflict, or any land-related conflict for that matter.
As we grew ever more distraught struggling to find good Israeli bands to soundtrack our doc (other than Tsenzura, who we chatted to last week), we jumped at the opportunity to have a chat with Azri and Gabri from Boogie Balagan about the borderless Promised Land their Middle East rock dreams of.
VICE: Shalom! What have you been up to today?
Boogie Balagan: Today we’ve been recording percussions and drums for our second alboom [sic] The Donkey Shottes and the Holy Quest of Falaf Hell Power. It's dedicated to the flower power movement. Haha, OK. What does your band name, Boogie Balagan, mean?
Balagan means "messy" or "complicated" in Hebrew. It’s a popular expression in Israel. So messy boogie. Complicated boogie. Nice. I bet the word "balagan" gets thrown around a lot by people trying to describe the Israel/Palestine conflict.
Indeed, it’s filled with problematic angles. How long have you been playing together?
We first met in Paris ten years ago, through a mutual Israeli friend. At first, we mainly played Muddy Waters covers with an oriental touch…
…Yeah, then we decided to take the passionate discussions you inevitably end up having with people when they hear you’re from Israel to heart, and set out to promote a different view of our homeland.
What’s your different view on your homeland?
For example, in our music, we talk about an imaginary kibbutz called Palestisrael. It’s a place where social life is a model of coexistence. Do you think a real-life "Palestisrael" is possible?
Unfortunately, extremism is a much more convincing weapon than culturism [sic]. We feel increasingly concerned about social diseases linked to the Palestinian issue. When Yitzhak Rabin was murdered, socialism and justice in Israel were killed too. We’d like for our country to have a conscientious awakening in regards to what we’ve been up to the past 60 years, instead of continuing on this ego trip. We’re also concerned about Netanyahu’s poker game with Iran. Hopefully, it’ll remain just a poker game. Are these problems the reason why you chose to move to France? Maybe you need to answer this one separately.
Azri: No. I’ve lived in France for more than 20 years. My mum is French so we moved from Israel when she divorced my dad.
Gabri: Israel is our homeland. It’s the place where we feel at home in the sense of familiar landscapes, food, sun and culture. I came to Paris in 1997 because I wanted to see the world, and ended up staying. We also tour a lot, not only in France and Israel, but also in Italy and Hungary, and we’ve toured Turkey six times. How come you’re so popular in Turkey?
We’re influenced by the 1970s Turkish rock star Erkin Koray. I think that’s why the Turkish alternative scene likes us. We’re delighted to go there because, whenever we’re over, we meet activists and refugees from Iran, Syria and Palestine. Istanbul is an underground hub for them to meet and tell their stories of struggle to the world. In other words, it’s a top place to meet our so-called official enemies. Is music your full-time job?
Yes. We’ve been playing with Boogie Balagan since 2004, which has its ups and downs, because of the state of the music industry these days. We also make music for films. Recently, we did the soundtrack for a movie called When Pigs Have Wings. What’s next for you?
Our next step is to finish our second alboom-boom and to push our ironic shmuck ‘n’ roll around the globus. Bring us to the UK, our Queendome come!
Follow Milene on Twitter: @Milenelarsson
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Watch: VICE on the protest trail with Israel's Radical Left