cover art: Neta Most
Image © Avital Raz 2007
click on image to visit Avital's MySpace
Image © Avital Raz 2009
cover art: Kirsten Wolf
Image © Avital Raz 2009
(28 December 2009) Tel Aviv, Israel is the home based of singer songwriter Avital Raz. In addition to her work as a singer songwriter, she is also a highly trained and active performer of both Western Early music and Indian classical music. Born in Jerusalem to American parents, Avital studied both singing and composition at the Jerusalem Rubin Academy of music and dance and earned a B.mus. In her early twenties she moved to India and studied Druphad, the oldest form of north Indian classical music for six years under Professor Ritwik Sanyal of Benares Hindu University.
Avital performs her own folky material which is of mostly dark, alternative and is most certainly Indian-influenced. In addition to her two EPs, she recorded a full album of songs based on James Joyce's Chamber Music poem cycle with Indian and Israeli musicians in 2004. However, release is delayed until 2011 until copyright protection on James Joyce's work expires. She is the soloist of the Ritmo Anima early music ensemble, gives frequent concerts and workshops of Indian classical music, and is soloist and co-writer in Voices of the Levites, an avant garde rock project. The is on the faculty at Musrara, The Naggar School of Photography, Media and New Music. Shortly Avital will release a full length album produced by multi-instrumentalist Gai Sherf entitled Infidelity.
Avital Raz is one of an ever growing list of self-produced Israeli musical artists that are reaching worldwide audiences with English lyrics. Avital's recordings are best described as female-fronted folk and her work will certainly appeal to fans of Joan Baez, Judy Collins and Joni Mitchell. Israeli artists have a knack for blending the best styles and textures to produce their own unique and stunning sounds. Visitors interested in music by other artists from Israel should read our reviews of Align (Manga) [Yael Akron], Buffalos [Bella Leshed], Eatliz [Lee Triffon], Feel About [Roni Weinstock], Karma Noir [Kathy Ben Haroush], Noah Babayof, Savannah Zwi, Ruth Delores Weiss and Xamavar [feat. Savannah Zwi].
Strange Love Songs. Avital's debut recording is a six-track EP and was self-released in 2007. Written and composed by Avital and produced by Itzik Yona, the artist is credited with voice, vocals, guitar and tanpura. The EP's lineup also includes: Itzik Yona (guitars, banjo, vocals), Ofra Avni (bansuri), Shira Ilan (vocals), Avi Agababa (drums), Gedi Ronen (bass), Boaz Reinschreiber (electric guitar) and Mark Smolian (bass).
Avital's debut album includes two extended length tracks with running time longer than seven minutes. Her crystalline vocals lead the first of these, entitled "Migraine in Katmandu." The light acoustic arrangements include a lovely melody performed on the bansuri, an Indian flute made from bamboo, as well as some lush vocal harmonies. Harmonies continue into the very light and short track "Weep," accompanied by Avital's backing on tampura, a long necked plucked lute of South Asia.
Avital's crystalline lead vocal is again supported by bansuri and tampura in "Migraine in Jerusalem." The track "A Strange Love Song" is heavily Indian influenced in both style and arrangement. The drone makes it quite medatative. "In You" is a more traditional folk ballad sung atop light acoustic and electric guitar. The bansuri adds a lovely texture to the sung passages. The EP concludes with the track "All Pains."
Avital's crystalline lead vocal with Shira Ilan's and Itzik Yona's lovely harmonies work perfectly alongside the tenderly performed acoustic arrangements.
Skin & Feathers. Avital's second EP was self-released in Israel (cat. no. 8 84502 12833 8) in 2009. It is a collection of six tenderly delivered compositions with a total run time of just over 23 minutes. Avital delivers the lead vocals and plays guitar. The lineup also includes: Itzik Yona (production and guitars), Ofra Avni-bansuri (Indian flute), Shira Ilan (vocals), Gedi Ronen (vocals, bass), Boaz Reinshrieber (electric guitar), Avi Agababa- (percussion) and Mark Smolian (bass). Avital's well-trained voice is featured on the lightly arranged recording that she produced with Itzik Yona. With its folky sound, Avital's EP is already garnering acclaim from publications in Australia, Belgium, Israel and the United States.
Avital's second EP, in addition to the track titles, is a brighter sounding project than her debut. Her crystalline vocals glide above acoustic guitar in "Sweeter Than Candy," the track that opens the album. Ofra Avni's bansuri flute and harmony vocals add lovely texture to the recording. Equally folky, "Unknown Angry Female Rock Star" is a more upbeat track released by the artist. The light electric guitar produces a great texture in the track.
The crisp multi-layered percussion and acoustic guitar provide a great texture to accompany Avital's soaring lead vocals in the track "Beautiful." It must be wonderful to see performed live. "Songs of Waiting" is a tenderly delivered ballad sung atop lone acoustic guitar. The short track "My Next Lover" is bravely sung a capella and is most illustrative of Avital's tremendous sincerity and vocal prowess.
The EP concludes with the stunning track "#3972." We not only appreciated the vocal harmonies but adored the robust arrangements as well.
Avital's two EPs are readily available worldwide in physical and digital formats. The artist performs regularly in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Ber Sheeva. For those that can't get to one of her live performances, her MySpace page includes both full songs and links to videos at YouTube. We anxiously await her full length album.