Saturday, November 30, 2013

Arik Einstein- Fly, little bird

It's already been four days since the death of Arik Einstein but a part of me still has trouble believing it's all real. I'm so used to Arik hiding away from the spotlight, it always felt like he would forever be at home, away from the public, and then one day he might make a surprise appearance at one of Shalom Hanoch's late night shows at the Barby, or maybe at the more intimate Ozen Bar. But that day will never arrive and we are left with the interviews, the archive footage (like this golden clip from the cult comedy Lool) and most of all the music. In the last few days so much has been said about Arik Einstein and what he symbolized for us and what his passing means for us, but I just want to focus on a few highlights which offer a glimpse into his world-a world we all wanted to be a part of and in a way has found a permanent place in our hearts.

My little birds have already left the nest
They spread their wings and flew away
And I, an old bird, remained in the nest
Hoping that everything will be fine

I always knew the day would come
When we will have to part
But now it came to me so suddenly
So what's the wonder that I'm a bit worried

Fly, little bird
Soar the skies
Fly wherever you want to
Just don't forget
There's an eagle in the sky
Be cautious, little one

Now we are alone in the nest
But we are together
Hold me tight tell me yes
Don't worry, together it's fun to grow old

Fly, little bird...

I know that this is how it is in nature
And I too left a nest
But now that the moment has arrived
So I'm a bit choked up in the throat
I'm a bit choked up

Fly, little bird...

(thanks Ulpan la Inyan for the translation)

I've always interpreted this song as the perfect graduation song-it fits how a parent probably feels when his (or her) child finishes kindergarten, elementary and high school, although the association that comes to my head is right before the army when parents have to let go of their kids who have no choice but to grow up into adults (sometimes much too quickly). Although I spent most of my army service away from home I only felt I was "leaving the nest" when I began University and lived on my own learning how to deal with bills, clogged pipes and the perfect rice/water ratio. I always felt that this was a song for parents but this week it became a song for children and anyone who grew up with Arik's music. There's really a sense of emptiness which caught us completely off guard even though we always knew the day would come to part. The first time my throat got really choked up (and eventually I let a few tears shed) was when I saw the clip of Shlomo Artzi announcing the death in the middle of a concert. The crowd spontaneously began to sing Artzi's "Where can be found more people like that man?" and after that they decided it was best to end the concert and go home, Shlomo later thanked them on facebook for being so considerate and sensitive. "Now we are alone in the nest, but we are together"-so many people came to the memorial service in Rabin Square and so many people stayed there late at night singing his songs to take part in the collective sadness and shock.

My first memory of an Arik Einstein song (or an Israeli song for that matter) is "You and I" which I first heard as a child when I was living abroad. The first notes are so...Israeli. Only a singer as cool as Einstein could sing such a naive song in such a sincere way.

You and I we'll change the world
You and I, then all will follow
Others have said it before me
It doesn't matter-you and I will change the world.

You and I will try from the beginning
It will be hard for us, never mind, it's not so bad,
Others have said it before me,
It doesn't matter-you and I will change the world.

I first heard "San Francisco" as part of the golden Arik and Shalom in Concert album. It's so poetic, like a modern "My heart is in the East", capturing nostalgic feelings for home that catch you by surprise when you are somewhere distant, and also the longing to share a special experience with someone you love.

Sitting in San Fransisco on the water
Washing the eyes with blue and green
It's beautiful here in San Fransisco on the water
So how come I feel far away

In front of me the geese, swimming between the boats
And the Golden Bridge is beautiful like in a movie
It's a shame you're not with me here to see
You would say that from here you're not going back

Sitting in San Fransisco...

Seeing Dr. J rip the hoops
And Kareem Abdul Jabbar touching the sky,
It's a shame you're not with me here to see
It's so beautiful in San Fransisco on the water.

Sitting in San Fransisco...

Suddenly I want to go home back to the swamp
To sit at Kasit and laugh with Moshe and with Hetzkel
Give me a piece of Tabor give me a piece of the Galilee
I love falling in love with the small country of Israel
And wonderful

Sitting in San Fransisco...

Einstein was a talented songwriter but he was also a very talented performer in that he was able to take texts written by others (in this case Avraham Chalfi) and perform them with all his heart, from the point of view of the speaker in the song. I sometimes watch the music talent shows and what bugs me a bit is that the contestants all have beautiful voices-but that's about it. They emphasize in their songs their vocal abilities but you sometimes get the sense that they aren't really aware what they're singing about-and for me it kind of ruins the experience. Einstein was famous for his modesty and I think it really shows here in this beautiful song-he knows how to harmonize with Yehudit Ravitz and Korin Elal, looking here like their older brother, and he knows how to emphasize the text and really tell the story. He does all this with effortless charm making you feel as if he is singing only to you.

Adorned is your forehead with black gold
(I don't remember if they wrote that in a song)
Your forehead rhymes with eyes and light,
(I don't remember if they rhymed like that in a song)
But for whoever you'll be
His life will be filled with song.

Your pink robe is fleecy and soft
You always wrap yourself in it at night
I wouldn't want to be your brother,
Nor a monk praying to the image of an angel
And seeing gloomy dreams of holiness
And in front of him you, a woman...

You like to be
Sad and silent
Listening to a story about something close, something far
And I, who not once will be watching you quietly
There is no sound and words
Forgetting everything about others.
My soul lies within the walls of your home
And captivated between your walls
Separated from me
While I in my body part from you.

My dream is stretched out like a carpet at your feet
My beloved steps over its flowers your paces
Wear your pink robe at night
I will soon come to you.

And your forehead adorned with black gold
Will approach my lips like a rhyme to a song
So I'll whisper in your ears until the morning, until the light
Like an intoxicated man...
Your forehead adorned with black gold.

(thanks Boomerang for making this rich text much easier to translate)

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