Various Artists

Rough Guide to the Music of Israel

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Listening to the collection, you have to wonder if Israel's music scene is as moribund as it's portrayed. Many of the best cuts, such as those by the Israeli Andalusian Orchestra or Yair Dalal, owe a huge debt to Arab music, showing how broad Semitic culture is, but not giving a real clue to Israel's own identity. Granted, Israel is a very young country, but its heritage is ancient. And that history helps two of the best tracks, Chava Alberstein's Yiddish "Margaritkalach" and Yasmin Levy's Sehpardic "Locura," which show two of the major strains of the Jewish Diaspora. Past there, it's difficult to find anything absorbing. Even the late Ofra Haza, arguably the biggest international star to emerge from Israel, isn't shown in her best light. It does pick up the energy level a little toward the end with Zehava Ben, and closes with Hadag Nahash's hip-hop lite "Kamti," but not enough to redeem the compilation. One only hopes that there's much better material out there.

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