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Spotlight

Coolooloosh

By Malachai Phelps
Published July 11, 2008

Most would agree that hip-hop music has become a universal bridge between cultures, and who better to prove the point than Coolooloosh, a six-man crew from Jerusalem.

Most Gen X-and-Y-ers would agree that hip-hop music has become a universal bridge between cultures, and who better to prove the point than a six-man crew from Jerusalem? Since 2003, the members of Coolooloosh (named after a local slang term that roughly translates as “Let it go!”) have been heating up the Israeli underground—and parts of Europe and the U.S.—with their rambunctious live blend of jazz, funk and jeep beats. The group is now poised to break out internationally with its second studio album, produced by David Ivory (known for his work with The Roots and Erykah Badu), who hooked up with the band through a mutual friend and brought them to Philadelphia to record.

 

“We take inspiration from many musical styles,” explains guitarist and backing vocalist Yuval Gerstein, “and of course Middle Eastern and Jewish music traditions are in our roots. We apply a lot of Middle Eastern musical concepts, where you might find a Hasidic melody on top of hip-hop drums, bass and a funky guitar. But each one of us comes from a very different musical background, so we all just like good music from all genres.”

 

This melting pot of sound recently kept a packed house at Joe’s Pub in New York moving and grooving until well into the night—a memorable close to a brief U.S. tour that had brought Coolooloosh to New York’s Israel Non-Stop Festival and then down to Texas for the South By Southwest Music Conference. Behind the blaring horns of Arik Levy and Sefi Zisling and the cascading rhyme flow of MC Rebel Sun, the rhythm section of Gerstein, Ori Winokur (bass) and Yogev Shitrit (drums) delivers a funky punch that lingers.

 

“There’s a very large hip-hop scene in Israel,” Gerstein says, citing the support network that has raised bands like Coolooloosh (and their friends Hadag Nahash, featured in this issue) to star status. “Jerusalem has a big underground hip-hop community that includes many different origins and ethnicities. We’re probably the first Israeli hip-hop band to travel so far independently, and we plan to keep it going.” Watch out for the band’s new album, coming any day now to a booming system near you.