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Jewish arts come to Southbank

06 Aug 2019

Jewish arts come to Southbank Image

By Sarah Bartlett

Melbourne Recital Centre (MRC) presents the Festival of Jewish Arts and Music (FOJAM) in September.

The festival, which takes place on September 8, is a contemporary international music and arts festival celebrating the diversity and essence of Jewish identity, culture and life.

Taking place over one day across four stages, 30 performances will feature over 140 international and local artists.

The festival will be under the artistic direction of the founders of music and events agency Hear Them Hollar, Lior Albeck-Ripka and Jesse Lubitz.

Mr Albeck-Ripka said that that the festival was an opportunity for diverse artists to collaborate.

“We are bringing together critically acclaimed and emerging artists working across music, dance, drag, comedy, theatre and moving image from Australia, Israel, Russia and England,” said Mr Albeck-Ripka.

Featured artists include international headliners Israeli beat maker and producer Noga Erez, as well as American singer-songwriter Chris Cohen, from the band Deerhoof.

Multimedia artist and LGBTI activist Zackary Drucker will speak in an Australian exclusive of her work as a producer on the TV series Transparent, as well as the meeting of Jewish and queer identities on one of the festival’s panel discussions.

The festival opens with a performance by poet, musician, educator and First Nations’ community activist Neil Morris with Why We Stand. The performance is a celebration of Yorta Yorta man William Cooper. Mr Cooper led a protest to the German Embassy in Melbourne in 1938, objecting to the treatment of Jewish people.

The festival’s headline performance is Transformer – A Tribute to Lou Reed, a performance of Reed’s iconic album Transformer. The tribute performance is directed by Indie pop-artist Gabriella Cohen and Kate “Babyshakes” Dillon (Full Flower Moon Band) and features artists including Chris Cohen, Alex Grow (Oh Mercy), Emily Lubitz (Tinpan Orange), Bella Venuti (IV League), Spike Fuck and ARIA-winning post-punk legend Deborah Conway.

Ms Conway will also collaborate with her spouse Willy Zygier to curate and perform in the festival choice pick Songs of Songs, which is a tribute to Jewish lyricists and composers such as Leonard Cohen, Paul Simon and Carole King. Artists featuring in this line up include: Paul Kelly, Vika Bull, Kate Ceberano, Clare Bowditch, Harry James Angus, Lisa Mitchell, Alma Zygier, iOTA, Benny Walker, James Henry, Alice Skye and Jacek Komen.

Other prominent performances include Gabriella Cohen and her band, 22-piece ensemble YID!, Australian contemporary classical film and television composer George Dreyfus, Russian-Israeli avant-garde artist Mary Ocher and many more.

The program closes up with Gideon Obarzanek’s creation Circle Dance, which is based on an Israeli folk dance, as well as choreographer Israel Aloni’s solo dance performance My Body, My Nation; a colourful performance that contains a full nudity warning, and Asis D’Orange’s The Carrot, which explores the parameters of genre and gender.

Asis’s passions cover a multitude of themes that include fashion, feminism and veganism. The themes gradually develop to become similar in dark and alluring ways.

Festival producer Jesse Lubitz said that the festival paid homage to Jewish culture and identity.

“The festival is a celebration of Jewish identity, history, culture and arts – an expression of freedom,” Mr Lubitz said.

“We hope artists and audiences walk away from FOJAM delighted, inspired, and maybe even challenged to reconsider their idea of the Jewish experience.”

For more information visit fojam.com

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