Firstly they have the Zion Reggae Fest concert series, Zion Reggae Fest 2012 is an anuual concert held in Jerusalem's Sacher Park and featured this year such names as Barrington Levy (in his Israeli debut), Alpha Blondy (back in Israel after 20 years) and local talents Zvuloon Dub System, Shabak and Hatikva 6.
For Israeli reggae fans, this was major and the action behind the scenes is almost as exciting as the talent out front.
Producers Guy (Afficoman) Dreyfuss and Gil (Rasta) Bonstein saw it as an opportunity to transform their first collaboration in two years into a much bigger event.
Dreyfuss and Bonstein are the authority on reggae in Israel, so much so that there should be a picture of the two of them next to the word "reggae" in every Hebrew dictionary.
Dreyfuss is a well-known producer and DJ, both in Israel and Europe, whose expertise goes far beyond reggae beats. He is also the owner of an online ticketing website and the man behind some of Tel Aviv's most infamous street parties. Bonstein, Israel's most veteran reggae producer, could be called his mentor.
The father of Israeli reggae
Bonstein first heard reggae music in Paris in the '70s, and was the first to bring it to Israel.
“I discovered Bob Marley and reggae when there wasn’t any information about it yet. I went into a world that was completely unknown,” he says. “Once upon a time, people could discover worlds. Now everything is exposed on the Internet.”
In 1980, Bonstein returned to Israel, where he began organizing reggae shows and bringing in artists from abroad. In 1985 he established the Soweto (South Western Township) club in Tel Aviv, which was open for 12 years and became a hub for Jamaican and African reggae.
Together, Bonstein and Dreyfuss set up the Web portal reggae.co.il, which is now celebrating its fifth year. It was the first Internet site in Israel to consolidate information about reggae, including history, reviews, articles and updates on reggae parties and performances. On the website’s forum, a genuine community was born, delighted to have a platform for discussion and the exchange of information.
Its primary draw is its textual and photographic documentation of the history of reggae in Israel.
“The main thing is that we were on our own, and we did everything by ourselves, and we got tired,” says Dreyfuss. “There’s such a massive flow of information that it’s impossible to keep up with the pace,” adds Bonstein.
There are few Israelis in Jamaica
Despite the rough patches, Bonstein is optimistic. “In Jamaica, Israel is considered a reggae superpower in terms of the number of artists who have performed here and the number of Israelis who visit and live there in the 'hood,” he says proudly. He takes out an enormous binder – one of 30 similar volumes on his shelves – stuffed with reports and newspaper clippings.
Bonstein credits the Israeli celebrity reality series "Pa'am Bahayim," in which singers Ninet Tayeb and Ben Artzi lived in downtown Kingston, with creating a huge wave of Israeli tourism there.
Like any good conversation between two Jews, however, this one soon erupts into an argument.
“No, no, no!” Dreyfuss interrupts. “There are very few Israelis in Jamaica. You personally know everyone who has ever been to Jamaica. Everybody went to your place. Relatively speaking, it’s very few. Also, what you said about how Israel is a reggae superpower – I think that’s very far from reality.” But Bonstein insists. “Israel is a reggae superpower, Rasta,” he says, showing me interviews and album reviews in the Israeli, American and Jamaican press. Among them are articles about Soweto, praise for albums by Israeli bands, and reports about performances in Israel.
Every band is a miracle
Dreyfuss and Bonstein consider every performance that they bring to Israel a cultural achievement. One example is the show by Ziggy Marley, who performed in Israel during the Second Lebanon War. The performance venue was changed twice as rockets fell deeper and deeper into Israel.
But while Depeche Mode canceled their show around the same time period, Marley never gave up for a moment. The producing duo have given every artist they have brought to Israel a tour of Jerusalem (except for Burning Spear, who came to Israel in 1990 when fatal rioting broke out on the Temple Mount). They have also given them a comprehensive look into local cultural life.
The show went on, the singer didn’t lose his voice, nobody got hurt? Then that’s it. We did it. They’re leaving in three days, so from now on, we’re going to have fun. We’re going to enjoy every moment, Rasta. I’ve been bringing people here for 30 years. I’ve never had a cancellation. No Jamaican artist has ever canceled a show in Israel no matter what the situation – not even during a war. It was a miracle that they all came. When Metallica comes here, that’s a miracle, too. Every band is a miracle.”
Excerpts taken from Haaretz newspaper of Tuesday, October 09, 2012
Here are excerts from the show....Maaad