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World Music Features

Hadag Nahash

By Hillie Wurtman
Published June 5, 2008

Hadag Nahash (literally “snake fish” in Hebrew, but also wordplay for “new driver”) was a lightning rod for a progressive youth movement that was coalescing around a new, more unified attitude in Isreal.

Young music fans growing up in Israel in the mid-’90s experienced a tense mixture of their own inner turmoil and the abstract edginess of day-to-day life in their home country. None will forget the night Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in Tel Aviv, nor the bombings that took place before and after he was killed. With all the promise of peace accords in the air, what might have been the prime moment for a generation (one that had hoped and fought for a different reality and a different future) was suddenly in doubt again.

Each month, the Hadag Nahash played a small club in south Jerusalem called the Yellow Submarine for teenagers from all over the city. The sextet, with members all in their 20s, consisted at the time of Sha’anan Streett (lead vocals), Yaya Cohen Aharonov (bass), Moshe Asraf (drums), David Klemens (keyboards), Yaron Mohar (saxophone) and Guy Margalit (turntables). As they played, you could feel tremors from the ecstatic crowd vibrate across the dancefl oor and out into the city. At the tops of their collective lungs, the band and the crowd sang in Hebrew and Arabic, “Shalom, Salaam/Peace is possible here.” Finally, there was a band that voiced and expressed exactly what peace-loving young Israelis had wished for.

“I wrote ‘Shalom, Salaam, Peace’ with a friend in 1996,” Streett recalls. “We recorded the song and pressed 300 singles, which we disseminated throughout Jerusalem. One of the places we handed them out was a record store downtown. A guy named David Klemens was working there, and he told me he liked the single and that he had a small instrumental band I should jam with.”

Now a major draw in Israel and bubbling under worldwide, the core lineup of Hadag Nahash has remained intact only Yaron Mohar has left the ranks, with saxophonist Shlomi Alon and guitarist Amir Ben-Ami coming on board when the band recorded its debut Hamehona Shel HaGroove (The Groove Machine) in 2000. Together they’ve gone on to become one of the fi rst Israeli hip-hop bands to confront and unmask social and political issues in Israel. The group’s second single “Af Echad” (“No One”), became a hit on Israeli radio, despite the fact that many had misunderstood the band’s intentions and Stree