Northern Soul Music from Tel Aviv

Do Israelis appreciate soul music? Do they miss the mod-inspired “northern soul” scene of the 60s and 70s? Can a brass-powered beat and English language lyrics be considered Israeli music?

Ask Men of North Country, an Israeli soul band hailing from Tel Aviv also known as MONC. “The sound is not really Israeli,” admitted lead singer Yashiv Cohen in a 2012 interview with the Jewish Chronicle Online. “Israeli ears don’t understand it. We tried sending songs to the radio here. They don’t really get it. If we send music to the UK stations, they know exactly what it is.”

After the huge success (in Europe) of their debut album, “The North”, MONC will celebrate its second album with a release party at the Bascula Club in Tel Aviv on August 3rd. “We’re super proud and thrilled to introduce our new album, ‘This City’ (out on British label Acid Jazz), to the city it was written about,” the band says on its Facebook page.

Ahead of the new album’s release, the band describes its sound as “space mod lounge music that emerged from the Bauhaus-inspired architecture of Tel Aviv and a thousand other influences, most of them unexpected.”

Tel Aviv is certainly the focus of “Let’s Get Away,” one of the album’s singles. The song’s catchy tune and a video comprising a 50-kilometer ride through the streets of Tel Aviv on a 1966 Vespa on a hot summer day will captivate listeners with no clue as to what soul music is all about.

Other tracks on the album include a cover of Lou Pride’s classic, “I’m Com’un Home (In the Morn’un)” and “a tribute to obscure Stax singer and Wu Tang Clan favorite, Wendy Rene” described by Acid Jazz as “an epic heart-thumping monster of a soul song with a horn arrangement of omnipotent proportion.”

So, who are Men of the North? The band started by chance in 2008, when DJ Yashiv Cohen was overheard singing along to the tunes he was playing at one of his Tel Aviv Soul Club parties. Cohen’s friends Nitzan Horesh (guitars) Doron Farhi (bass) and Boaz Wolf (drums, keys) from the Israeli rock’n’roll band Electra soon joined. The three-member brass section consists of Sefi and Ongy Sizzling and Ido Kretchmer. At the end of 2012, Jonathan Ydov took Horesh’s place as lead guitar.

Cohen hails from a kibbutz on the Lebanese border, truly Israel’s north country, but the band says that “North Country is a state of mind.” MONC has staged highly successful tours in Germany, the UK, and even Moscow (“That’s up in the north, mind you!”) Hopefully with the release of its new album, the band will be finally get the recognition it deserves in Israel as well.

About the Author
Ellis Shuman made aliya to Jerusalem as a teenager, served in the IDF, was a founding member of a kibbutz, and now lives on Moshav Neve Ilan. Ellis is the author of ‘The Burgas Affair’ – a crime thriller set in Israel and Bulgaria; ‘Valley of Thracians’ - a suspense novel set in Bulgaria; and 'The Virtual Kibbutz' - a collection of short stories. His writing has appeared in The Times of Israel, The Huffington Post, The Jerusalem Post, Israel Insider, and on a wide range of Internet websites. Ellis lived with his wife for two years in Bulgaria, and blogs regularly about Israel, Bulgaria, books, and writing.
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