Yemen Blues are bringing their cross-cultural brand of jazz, funk and soul to Melbourne

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Yemen Blues are bringing their cross-cultural brand of jazz, funk and soul to Melbourne


Founded in Tel Aviv and featuring members from the USA and Uruguay, Yemen Blues are a unique picture of cross-cultural unity. Formed by Ravid Kahalani – an Israeli of traditional Yemenite origin – the band’s songwriting is influenced by Kahalani’s family background as well as West African, Latin American and Western jazz and funk music.

“We never really planned on how the music should sound in the final outcome. That’s the wrong way to create music,” Kahalani says. “[Our music is] also not about what we are interested in, it’s more just what we want. It is what’s right for the music and how we feel we are serving the situation best.

“Having fun sometimes is part of it too, but never will it be something that will not feel right. We all bring our influences and what we know into serving the music and not into controlling it. The best result comes when you don’t try to control, you just try to be as exact as you can be with your gift and always look for new ways to say it by learning from others.” 

Yemen Blues have two studio albums under their belt, 2011’s Yemen Blues and 2016’s Insaniya. Earlier this year came Live in Tel Aviv, which was recorded in 2012 and features the majority of songs from their self-titled release.

“The music that we are going to play and the instrumental of the show in Melbourne will be very different from the live album,” Kahalani explains.“It will be more of the second album’s sound with a few world-top beasts, players and musicians – Shanir Blumenkranz, Brian Marsella, Dan Mayo, Edo Gur and myself. It focuses more on a heavy groove, super high energy and something in between the Arabic, jazz and rock [sound]. But we will play songs from both albums.” 

Live in Tel Aviv demonstrates Yemen Blues’ incredibly adept onstage capabilities – it’s the work of a group of wildly animated, brilliant instrumentalists skilfully holding an audience’s attention.

“Yemen Blues live shows are known by the super high energy and also by our deep approach of playing and feeling the music on stage,” Kahalani says. “The songs we are presenting were created from a very deep understanding to serve the music and use this great thing to be a very important communication with our brothers and sisters around the world. At the end of the day we all have our connecting soulful points as humans. 

“I do also believe in presenting the music with the greatest performance and bring all my body movements and best-looking outfit to the situation like I would be preparing for the most important event in life. And it is – every show.” 

Lyrics also play a prominent role in Yemen Blues songs, sang in a mixture of Arabic, Hebrew and French. The band has an incredibly joyful sound and Kahalani’s lyrics tend to mirror this mood.

“Most of my lyrics are very positive and very naive, around one of the most important things people sometimes forget, which is the basic human understanding just to remember that we are here to complete each other. Without learning from each other, we are very limited to evolve. 

“There is one song, ‘Insaniya’, which seems very happy, but it’s talking about very hard things. [It’s about how] people are always looking for more bad news in the papers and looking for more revenge even when they see the blood of their own children on their hands. This is the most horrible thing a person can place himself into.”