Thursday, May 8, 2014

Naftali Alter feat. Roni Alter-In This Place

I walked and walked
And wherever I arrived
I didn't get there
I didn't get there

And I remain in this place
With the pad and the piano and the coffee
Everyone passes here by chance
Like a short story or a monolouge in a play

And quiet in this noise
And everyone is on the edge
Waiting for something to happen
In the diminishing time
In the beauty between the pad and the coffee

And however it will be
And however it will be
It won't be

I walked and walked
And wherever I arrived
I didn't get there
I didn't get there

I can't believe that it's actually raining in May. So surreal. And yet it fits perfectly with my mood and with this song. It's been exactly a week since Assi Dayan's death and it's still hard to think of him in the past tense. It really feels like with his death a part of our culture died as well-not always a pretty part but a vital part none the less. On Saturday I watched the fascinating documentary "Life as a Rumour" in which Dayan narrates events in his life starting with his childhood in a kibbutz, his experiences growing up as Moshe Dayan's son meaning that he was practicaly royalty-a title he struggled with all his life-up to his career as a succesful actor and later as an important director, directing some of the country's most memorable films among them the cult-comedy from 1976 "Hilfon Hill Doesn't Answer" and the acclaimed drama from 1992 "Life According to Agfa". This song, written by Dayan is taken from Agfa which also includes the touching song "Daniela". To my delight I discovered the whole film on youtube (with french subtitles!) and it really is an essential film for anyone interested in the conflicts of our society along with a healthy dose of existentialism. One of the most memorable scenes is when Dalia, the owner of the bar "Barby" where the film takes place (and short for the mental institution Abarbanel) is asked by her friend why she continues to see night after night Eli, a married family man. She answers "You don't understand. These three hours are the only hours in my life. All the rest are next to life, it's not life itself. Errands, procedures, go, bring, close, open. Shit shit shit". (Thank you Assaf Levnon for sparking my interest in the film and this scene). I think that this is a very important way of thinking: how much of our life is "Life" and how much is merely next to it? The two can be easily blurred in the midst of daily life. Watching this film fell for me into the category of "Life" because it affected me quite deeply due to Assi's special way of not only seeing things as they really are but also how they could be in the future and I suddenly realized that as a society we give heavy attention to the past, and also to the present, but it's difficult to look towards the future, at least in a sober way. "Let's just focus on next week" seems to be the mentality.
Maybe I'm thinking this way because I just finished reading Dahn Ben Amotz's 1973 grounbreaking novel "Doesn't Give a Damn" which tells the story of a soldier injured and becomes paralyzed from the waist down. I don't think I was mentally prepared for the dark criticism of where things are heading and this was especially heartbreaking to read as 40 years have passed and it seems that almost nothing has changed. Here is an example:
"Yigal: We need to write something...I don't know, some kind of summary-something. I went with his father to an office that deals with publishing booklets like those. They showed him all kinds of examples. He wanted good paper. The most expensive. He wanted a big photograph on the cover, but they offered him a sketch of a chopped tree. They said that it's...symbolic. They almost said "It's what people are buying now". I wanted to throw up but the old man looked at the sketch, like that, from afar and said "Yes, it's nice". It was terrible.
Rafi: Damn it! What will be the end with all this shit?
Yigal: The sun will shine, the birds will chirp...
Rafi: And the shelves will be filled with memorial booklets. I'm telling you those whores don't want peace. They're afraid to move their butt from the chair. Shaking from fear that one night the phone will ring and it will be the end. I don't know what to do. Petitions, demonstrations-nothing helps.
Yigal: There's nothing to do. There's no point wasting life on demonstrations. It's a waste of time. I want to study..."(pp. 191-192).
Understandably, reality today isn't exactly as it was in 1973 (written before the Yom Cippur War) but without a doubt this book and especially this scene fall under the category of "Life" for me.

In "Life as a Rumour" Dayan affectionaly refers to Naftali Alter as his "partner in debts and creation". They worked together in many movies, Dayan writing the lyrics to songs and Alter composing them. In a touching interview shortly after Assi's death Naftali said that Assi was the "ultimate friend". At times he would spend more time with him than with his wife and kids and they were in the middle of so many projects before his death put an abrupt stop to everything. At first glance it seems like an odd pairing with their very different personalities but it makes a lot of sense and I can see how the two probably complemented each other in the best possible way. Alter has composed many of the country's most beautiful songs including "Yonatan, Go Home" and "The Same Old Tune". In 2011 he released his debut album and said upon its release: "I'm not a singer, period. But that doesn't mean that I can't sing. And along the years in which I compose songs for singers, there always hides deep inside, covered with many layers of insecurity, the desire to bring my performance to songs I composed. Regardless of the singers who performed them. I have my own intimate version and my way of playing the piano, and I'm not alone in this experience". Better late than never and there's something very simple and beautiful about the songs (five of them can be heard here and the album can be bought here) which are first and foremost a form of self-expression.
Naftali's daughter Roni is a succesful singer well known for her participation in the succesful musical group "Metropolin" but also as a solo singer. In 2010 she released her debut album "Air Pocket" and earlier this year she released an album in English titled "Go Wild", written in Paris. I somehow overlooked the winter release but now is a perfect chance to catch up, especially with the very fitting weather.

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