Rockiah – A New Jewish Rock Group in Ramat Bet Shemesh

Those who attended the Shemeshfest Sukkot festival last week at the Bet Shemesh ampitheater were treated to a talented local rock group named “Rockiah” – the English name of the band is a play on their Hebrew name ???? (The Earth’s Firmament), and their American rock music roots.

Rockiah are Yehudah David (vocals, guitars), Zvi Newman (bass), and David Epstein (drums). Eli Krantman joined them on backing vocals.

Yehudah, Zvi, and David all live in Ramat Bet Shemesh and are olim from the USA.

I spoke with Zvi about the origins of Rockiah and what they hope to accomplish. Zvi told me they are all married with kids and come from different backgrounds, but their music speaks one language.

“Rockiah is about fusing the raw power of rock music with the spiritual inspiration of the Jewish mekorot (written sources). Yehudah is influenced by Van Halen and other power-pop artists, so his guitar playing is among the wildest on the scene. Dave’s drumming is influenced by punk, so we have a harder-driving sound in our shows – and his aggressive fills make you take notice. I’m influenced by John Entwistle of The Who, so the bass surprises the crowd with “stolen” solos that bubble up from underneath. And Yehudah’s singing overflows with pure heart and soul.”

“Rockiah’s music is written entirely by Yehudah, while the lyrics are straight out of the Psalms and various prayers. It’s meant to be lively and catchy for the audience, and it’s challenging for the musicians – the chords change every few seconds, so we have to be on our toes. Also, we love to improvise solos off the top of our heads – but all of this is meant to augment the uplifting, danceable essence of the songs. You can drive, work, jog, or clean the house to Rockiah, and come out of it very inspired.”

“At the end of the day, we try to give a fresh and energetic musical foundation to the experience of the holy as espoused by the lyrics. The Jewish content takes rock to a higher plane.”

Rockiah - Bonei Yerushalayim
Rockiah - Bonei Yerushalayim

Rockiah is now promoting its new CD and plan to join the performance circuit.   Their debut album, Bonei Yerushalayim, was released just a couple weeks ago and is available online at shemeshmusic.com and at GalPaz stores. You can hear sample tracks at shemeshmusic.com before purchase. You can also learn more about Rockiah on their Facebook and Myspace homepages.

We wish them much success!

Bet Shemesh Sukkot Jewish Rock Festival

As a citizen of Bet Shemesh for the past 14 years, I can tell you that nothing swells our civic pride more than the awesome Jewish Rock Festival that Jonty Zwebner has brought, along with the Bet Shemesh municipality, to our fine city.

Moshav Band Performing at Bet Shemesh Festival in 2003
Moshav Band Performing at Bet Shemesh Festival in 2003

It began about a decade ago as a one night event with five or so groups playing in front of a couple thousand locals. It has blossomed more recently into a big two night festival with many thousands (perhaps 15,000, maybe more?) jamming into the outdoor amphitheater with most of the top names in Jewish Rock, such as Moshav Band, Soulfarm, Adi Ran, Reva L’sheva, Lenny Solomon, and many, many more. As a result, the national media have taken notice.

Here is the Festival’s homepage for links to all the performers and more information.
ShemeshFest Website

Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson Coming to Israel

Now that Sir Paul McCartney has come and gone, the road has been paved for other 66 year old rockers to step foot upon the Holy Lands of Tel Aviv.

Laurie Anderson (O Superman, Brave Heart) is an experimental musician who is also the wife of famous (Jewish) 60s and 70s rocker, Lou Reed. Laurie will be playing Nov 3-4 in Tel Aviv at the Heichal Tarbut and at the Moadon Redding in “Little” Tel Aviv.

Her husband, Lou Reed, is said to be accompanying her on this trip, and may join her onstage. Lou Reed is one of my favorite rockers from the late 60s and 70s. He was part of the legendary group Velvet Underground, which had some success with Sweet Jane and Rock and Roll. His solo career is best remembered for his signature hit Walk on the Wild Side, and the collaborative effort, Perfect Day. Lou was born to Jewish parents in 1942 in Brooklyn, NY.

One can only hope that these tickets will be a little easier to come by, and won’t break the bank as much as did Sir McCartney last month.