Gilad Atzmon and “The Orient House Ensemble”

by Eleonora Catalli, London

The Orient House Ensemble

Hideaway, London – 22 October 2011

Gilad Atzmon (foto da Atzmon – well known jazz musician and writer – performed with the Orient House Ensemble at Hideaway in London on Saturday 22 October 2011.

The show was preceded by an inspirational talk where a humorous and humble Gilad presented his personal history of gaining awareness, his love for music and of understanding the importance of an open and honest dialogue based on listening.

Gilad was born in 1963 in Israel. After many years he understood that he was born in an occupied land that did not belong to the state which claimed its ownership. He wanted to become a patriotic hero; he was ready to die for his nation. At 17 years old he discovered his passion for music: after listening to Charlie Parker on the radio he bought his first saxophone and in just a few weeks he became a saxophonist; although his passion for music lessened his desire to die for Israel it could not spare him the experience of military service. He entered the army during the 1982 Lebanon war; he was totally unaware of the Palestinians, ‘They were there but I could not see them; the pain and the misery were there but they didn’t touch me’. However, he started to understand that there was ‘something wrong’ in the contrast between what he could hear on the official news and what he could see in the battlefields. During a tour in Lebanon he visited a Palestinian prisoners’ camp. ‘I was there as a musician to entertain the soldiers; I saw the Palestinians behind the barbed wire and for the first time in my life I felt that I was the Nazi and the Palestinians were the Jews. It was a devastating experience. I understood that I didn’t want to have anything to do with it and that I didn’t want to live in a land that belonged to somebody else.’ He left Israel and moved to the UK; he wanted to be a musician and a writer. During the second intifada in 2000 for the first time in his life he saw the Israeli barbarity through a non-Israeli media and felt the need to do something. Music gave him the key: he decided to ‘palestinise Jewish music’ to enable intercultural understanding. He proved to be ‘exceptionally talentless’ in his attempts to understand Arabic music and it took him a very long time to realise that he had to ‘listen’ to it. ‘One problem of Western society is that we are visually oriented but we never really listen. Ethical thinking is about listening’.

The Orient House Ensemble was founded in 2000; after the talk, Gilad Atzmon (saxes and clarinet), Yaron Stavi (bass), Frank Harrison (piano) and Eddie Hick (drums) performed some of their pieces and some ‘classical’ ones with energy, passion and enthusiasm.


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