MUSIC Diwan Saz, an ensemble from Israel, researches the depth of musical traditions of central Asia
Israel is a young country with an ancient heritage and over the years musicians Shye and Udi have carried their culture, imbibed new ideas and changed shape to build something new. Udi is a member of Diwan Saz, a unique ensemble from Israel that probes the depth of musical traditions of central Asia. The compositions and the poetry played by Diwan Saz embrace the spirit of Hebrew and Sufi heritage.
The group's India tour has been special for these two musicians because of their relationship with Indian music. Udi moved to Varanasi at 19 and learned to play the sitar. Shye, a flautist and qawwali singer, was inspired at the age of 19 after attending a concert in Jerusalem by musicians Hari Prasad Chaurasia and Zakir Hussain and moved to Ajmer to learn qawwali.
“Diwan is where we all meet to share stories and laugh, and Saz means instrument, especially the picking kind, that's how the name of the group came about,” says Udi. “We are about eight musicians but this time we have a special guest with Shye joining us on the tour.” The tour was hosted by the Israeli Embassy to celebrate the 20-year relationship between India and Israel.
“This is a great honour, being the ambassador of Israel, and to come here being a representative of cultural and non-political issues,” Udi says. The music of Diwan Saz is usually instrumental from east and central Asia, but for the show in Bangalore they were going to play songs produced and composed by Shye, who is also a poet. “You have instrumental music and songs, it can be classical, light, folk, there are several genres,” says Shye. “I write poetry for books, and I also write poetry that has been inspired by music, and can be sung. I express myself in poetry and music, and it is a melodious moment that inspires a mood for words.” Udi, who also has an electronic music group, decides what pieces go in the final programme.
“Every musician brings something different, every instrument brings a different sound and the personalities of the musicians cannot be compromised, so it can get very complicated, but it is also challenging and a lot of fun,” he says. The two seemed thrilled about the show in Bangalore. “It is different playing in another country, but it also differs from venue to venue. In Bangalore we are going to be playing in a club so it will be more groovy, it depends on the place, the feel, the vibe – but most of all it will be a celebration,” says Udi.