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Adam on Arts & Culture

Celebrating Israel…onstage!

Adam Hadag image
Hadag Nachash.

When he envisioned a new Jewish state, Herzl had a culture in mind akin to that of Vienna transplanted to the Mediterranean. The reality today is something dreamed up by the father of Cultural Zionism, Ahad Ha'am, who felt that Israel could be a place of cultural renewal for the Jewish people. New expressions of Jewish art, music, and literature rooted in Hebrew language and classical source texts coming out of a homeland could be the basis of a regenerative force in Jewish life around the world. This month, some great examples arrive in Chicago to celebrate Israeli Independence Day, each with their own unique flavor and take on the Jewish State.

Hadag Nachash - Israel's leading funk and hip-hop group has been entertaining audiences around the world for 15 years and Hadag Nahash is still going strong. Their blend of eastern and western musical elements has always had a layer of serious messaging on peace, tolerance, and equality. Among their best known songs are "Gabi ve Debi," "Lo Frayerim," and "Lezuz" from their second album of the same name. Another notable hit was "Misparim," a social commentary on Israeli society and the Jewish obsession with numbers, taking a jaundiced eye towards everything from the peace process to economic inequality to the Holocaust. Their famed 2004 "Shirat haSticker" (The Sticker Song) consisted of a reading of the colorful and contradictory bumper stickers found on Israeli cars, compiled by poet and writer David Grossman. Hadag Nahash's hallmark is their funk-infused groove to which one cannot help but dance. 8pm, Monday, April 22, City Winery, 1200 W. Randolph, Chicago.

Achinoam Nina (Noa) has been one of Israel's leading performers and cultural ambassadors for over two decades. Her infectious pop songs reflect the hope and optimism of her generation while incorporating many influences and of her Yemenite heritage. 8pm, Sunday, April 25, City Winery, 1200 W. Randolph, Chicago.

Matisyahu, The Maccabeats, and King David Drummers headline JUF's Israel Solidarity Day. This year's official community celebration of Israel's 65th birthday will take place on the grounds of Ravinia Festival in north suburban Highland Park. Pop star Matisyahu will make his fourth Chicago area appearance in six months, performing stripped down arrangements of his recent releases and a few of his greatest hits.

A cappella ensemble The Maccabeats will also perform their upbeat parodies of pop songs to the delight of many. The vocal ensemble originated at Yeshiva University and became a YouTube sensation for their quirky, humorous, and sometimes touching musical videos. Their clean-cut appearance, positive message, and bright sunny harmonies are appropriate and entertaining for families and audiences of all ages. The whole day will march to the rhythm and beat of the King David Drummers. With djembes, darbukas, tofs and riqs in arm, their mix of Middle Eastern and African drumming will keep everyone grooving and moving before and after the kickoff rally and Walk with Israel. It should be an excellent day. Israel Solidarity Day, 11am, Sunday, April 28th Ravinia Festival, HIghland Park.

The Fountainheads - The Community Foundation for Jewish Education and the Midwest Region of the Jewish Agency (JAFI) present a community concert by The Fountainheads to celebrate Jewish education on the evening of Tuesday, April 30. The ensemble is group of young Israeli singers, dancers, and musicians, all of whom are either students or graduates of the Ein Prat Academy for Leadership. The institution, located just outside Jerusalem, is a unique forum for developing young minds that brings together Jews from all backgrounds for a course of study that turns them into a new generation of Zionist leaders. The more musically inclined among them have decided to take Ahad Ha'am's message to heart, creating energizing new Jewish artistic content online. Asher Ginsberg may not have envisioned YouTube at the time, but the Fountainheads are successfully using to spread their music.

Their material is primarily pop songs with lyrics centering around the theme of a specific holiday. They have posted four charming music videos online, all of which have been viewed hundreds of thousands of times. They include "Dip Your Apple," a 2011 release timed with Rosh Hashanah that was the most watched online video in Israel that year. They have subsequently released other music videos online, including "Light Up the Night" for Chanukah, "Dayenu, Coming Home" for Passover, and "Raise Your Mask" for Purim. In each, a large cast joyfully sings and dances in front of familiar Israeli backdrops.

Attractive, fresh-faced, wholesome and fun-loving, they convey a positive image and clear lyrics conveying Jewish content that feels like a sort of contemporary Jewish "Free to be You and Me." The Fountainheads have succeeded in creating a sort of video midrash that has made their material a useful educational aide in the classroom. Beyond this, they're simply a delight to watch and hear. Their performance is engaging and appropriate for audiences of all ages, including children, young families, and teens. 7pm, Tuesday, April 30 at Chicagoland Jewish High School, 1095 Lake Cook Rd Deerfield.

Adam Davis is the founder and executive director ofKFAR Jewish Arts Center, a leading presenter and advocate of contemporary Jewish arts, music, and culture programs in and around Chicago.For future arts suggestions and feedback, e-mail Adam at

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