Stars align for Sydney’s Shir Madness music festival
An exciting all-star line-up featured at the recent Jewish Music Festival SHIR MADNESS which was held at its original home in the Bondi Pavilion on September 18.
Multiple Hall of Fame inductee Dave Faulkner (from the Hoodoo Gurus), Steve Kilby from The Church, rock and roll powerhouse (and daughter of Jimmy Barnes) Mahalia Barnes were among a number of Australia’s favourite singers who performed a song by their favourite Jewish composer in one of the festival’s major attractions Song of Songs. In addition, Monsieur Camembert’s charismatic frontman Yaron Hallis combined the beautiful traditional Hava Nagila with “This Love” by US band Maroon Five. Hallis told Jewish Australia Online [JAO] that what he most liked about Shir Madness was: “The wonderful diversity of the music on offer and the quality of it.” Local legend Bernie Hayes also gave a stirring rendition of Laura Nyro’s “And When I Die”.
Other artists included disco party fun band Confetti featuring Shir Madness site director Wayne Black on drums, ARIA-nominated African-indy folk blended the Miriam Lieberman Trio, meditative new-age artist and ‘DidjeriJew’ Steve Mazabow, Mark Ginsburg’s award-winning Jazz Band, the Sydney Jewish Choral Society – in its 30th anniversary year, and Leonie Cohen with her jazz trio. “I love the spirit of inclusiveness in the festival,” Cohen told JAO. “It’s an opportunity to celebrate and share a wonderfully important and vibrant part of Jewish culture – music!”
Some sessions were too popular and required Full House signs to be placed – including cabaret artist Joanna Weinberg, as well as Sydney-born, now New York based Alexis Fishman – who presented her new show “Boychiks of Broadway”.
Other crowd pleasers were Klezmer Divas (stars of the documentary Pockets of Hope), classical activists Music for Refugees, the Bashevis Singers (featuring Husky Gawenda and Gideon Preis), and soulful Melbourne duo Deborah Conway and Willy Zygier.
Conway and Zygier were patrons of the Sydney festival and ran the Melbourne one last year. “It’s a lot of fun,” Conway told JAO. “It’s a great way for people who want to find particular things that interest them in the one place.” And what’s her favourite piece of Jewish music? “The Hatikvah is beautiful. I really like it. I always find it moving.” Their new album Everybody’s Begging was released on September 2, and they performed it in its entirety at the festival for their many fans.
Another popular item was Festival director Gary Holzman’s multimedia presentation Yid Rock – which revealed an amazing number of Jewish composers behind many of rock and roll’s greatest hits. “The festival showcases a lot of popular music that people don’t realise was created by Jewish composers,” Holzman observed.
Multi-lingual chanteuse Dahlia Dior charmed her audience. “I think having a Jewish music festival is wonderful!” Dior told JAO, whose favourite Hebrew song is the modern and rhythmic Yemenite dance song “Keren Or”.
A special presentation of highlights from the blockbuster hit Atomic – the Musical, co-written by songwriter Philip Foxman with Danny Ginges, was showcased, which featured stars from both the Sydney and US productions with a full stage band. “Music appeals to everyone – across gender, race, language, age and ethnic backgrounds; Shir Madness offers the opportunity to break down barriers,” Foxman told JAO.
Special mention goes to the impressive young talent – including 2016 YouthRock winners the Haze Trio, and Celine Farkash who sung sassy jazz and sweet indie and pop. Talent runs in the family – her cousin Adam Katz, who has performed several times at Splendour in the Grass Festival, presented an energetic fusion of hip-hop, R&B and pop.
It was lovely hearing beautiful Hebrew sung to a blend of rock’n roll and blues with other elements thrown into the mix by Aussie-born Israeli singer-songwriter Simon Shaw and his band from his Jerusalem Hollywood album.
The sultry Brazilbeats band, featuring Julie E on vocals and bass player Phillip Taig brought to life the infectious rhythm of Brazil, while the talents of accomplished musician Rick Melick – who has recorded/performed with John Denver and B.B. King – with his rock/blues/roots band The Self-Made Men, were really on show as was Israeli-born, Australian singer Sam Joole who’s created his own Aussie acoustic rock.
Glenn Cardier & The Sideshow also captivated the audience with a blend of rock and blues, featuring Shir Madness festival director Dave Fester on drums.
The over 30 acts across four stages meant Shir Madness certainly offered something for all musical tastes.
Review by Paula Towers