Wacky side up

Israeli musician-singer Tal Kravitz created music from a matchbox and played a flute through his nose. -By Divya Kapoor

He plays the flute from his nose and can make even a matchbox and a wood-cutting saw produce the most melodious music. Israeli musician and singer Tal Kravitz, as part of his India tour, entertained the royal audience at the Israel Ambassador’s residence recently.

After getting frisked for 15 minutes by the security — after all it is the Ambassador’s residence — we got in, only to find the atmosphere inside in complete contrast. While on one side stood Tal, singing a traditional Hebrew song and swinging to his own guitar- playing, the other side was full of “special guests” who had been invited to witness the performance. The song ended and Kravitz swiftly got his black bag from another room, which we later found out, was the source of all his music. Taking a gigantic saw out of the sack, he handled it between his knees, held the far end with one hand and began to play it using one leg for vibration. This musical saw, he pointed out, was what made the whooping sound in old cartoons. “It probably all started 200 years ago when some bored woodcutter started using his saw as a violin and to his, and everyone else’s amazement, it produced a great sound. Since then, musicians from all over the world have taken a liking for this instrument,” he quipped.

Just when the audience started to get amused, Kravitz took out another instrument to play. This time, to everyone’s surprise, it was a matchbox. He held a match and its box in such a manner that it created sound. And then came another surprise: A flute that you could only play with nose. “I found some tribes playing it through their nose in the northern mountains of The Philippines and got inclined to try it out myself. It’s played from the nose but the music comes from the heart,” he says, calling it an ‘instrument of food which is played during the night’. The music it produces is so emotional that a legend says it makes the gods cry, resulting in rain,” he says adding, “It’s played by nose because our mouth sometimes produces evil words and nose is way cleaner and spiritually purer than the mouth,” he added.

In India, as part of a Lorraine Music Academy and Embassy of Israel initiative, Kravitz, an expert at a range of global ethnic instruments, insisted he couldn’t remember what inspired him to become a musician. “Would you believe me if I told you I don’t know what inspired me? But ever since I can remember, I was charmed by the world of music.

Whenever I would see an artiste performing on television or hear him on the radio, the performance touched my soul,” he recalled.

 

Face the Music

Tel Aviv-based musician Tal Kravitz, who is know for playing more than 100 world instruments, in on his maiden India tour

Israeli musician Tal Kravitz specializes in playing rare musical instruments specific to the culture of each new country he visits -Debesh Banerjee

The musical saw, in the hands of a novice, can be a very tricky instrument to play. Unlike its cousin, the ordinary carpenter’s saw, this thin strip of metal comes without any serrated edges. Yet it’s capable of inflicting serious injury, Tal Kravitz, a traveling Israeli musician, however, looks totally at ease, as he sits nursing the instrument in the Sacred Heart Cathedral, opposite the Gole Dak Khana, and introducing the assembled guests to the harmony it produces. “The more you bend the blade, the higher the pitch of the sound will be,” he says, gentling guiding the violin bow over one side of the saw.

Kravitz is in India at the invitation of the Israeli Embassy for performances in Delhi. The 36-year old Tel Aviv-based musician has been playing the musical saw for the past 22 years and enjoys the distinction of playing close to 100 other unheard of world instruments. “My home has run out of space for these instruments on the wall as well,” he grins. A musical gypsy of sorts, a variety of Scottish bagpipes, the musical saw, and a rare flute called the Mashrukita, which was played by priests of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem in 2nd century BC. In fact, he travels from place to place and picks up rare instruments to play. The musical saw, for instance, is a Russian inheritance, learnt from a Russian-Jewish friend in Israel.

After training in classical music and choir conducting from the Israeli Music Conservatory, Kravitz decided his purpose as musician was to go beyond cutting record deals and creating albums. He maintains a website and posts his tracks online earning money from concerts across Israel. “I want to explore cultures whose musical traditions are in danger of extinction,” explains Kravitz, whose first trip outside Israel was to Papua New Guinea in 1994, where he worked with the indigenous tribesmen. His most frequent destination has been to Africa – to western Kenya, where he has worked with the Baluya tribe over the years. “They have a unique way of welcoming strangers. They will spit on their hand and touch it to your face to welcome you in their community,” he smiles.

As part of his first India tour, Kravitz also jammed with a few lesser-known Delhi based Indian classical musicians like Surjit Singh on the sitar, Mahesh Prasad on the basuri, Lorraine Fiona Aloysius on the piano, Meena Rajan on vocals, Karun Chakraborty on the harmonica for a performance at the Alliance Francaise, on Lodhi Estate, on Monday. “I am mesmerized by the bulbul tara at present. One of my Israeli friends gifted it to me and I am mastering it slowly,” says Kravitz, who will conduct a music workshop with children of Scottish High International School, Gurgaon, today, organized by the Gurgaon-based Lorraine Music Academy. There are other workshops planned over the week.