Who is she that looketh forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners?
Song of Solomon, 6. 10
worldbeatcanada radio: The world makes many demands on us, but so does the soul. The time comes in every life when the noise from outside must be silenced so the soul's voice can be heard. Inbar Bakal celebrates the release of her debut album, Song of Songs, a deeply spiritual but post-modern recording that bares her soul in light of the dichotomy of her life, from ancient and disparate traditions to war and peace. Inbar joins us from Southern California. Welcome to worldbeatcanada radio. What's the latest on the wild fires down there?
Inbar Bakal: There's one going on right now in Santa Barbara, but that's two hours north from here.
WBC: Let's start with with a social science lesson. The album updates ancient Yemenite Jewish wedding songs. How should we see the relationship between Yemenite Jewish and Arab cultures today?
IB: Well, back in the day in my grandmother's generation and before that they lived in Arab countries and because Israel was not founded yet, Jews and Arabs coexisted rather peacefully. They could practice their religion which was very important to them. But, since '48 when Israel was founded the relationship has become very strained and obviously the vast majority of them moved to Israel. At the moment, a relationship does not exist because most of the Jews are in Israel and if they want to go back it's pretty dangerous for them. But, back in the day they used to live together.
WBC: You've chosen the title Song of Songs, which is one of the most distinctive books in the Bible, in that it speaks very poetically and openly about human and physical love. Why did that represent a starting point for your music?
IB: Exactly because of that. As a child I was brought up in a very traditional home and my grandfather was very religious. He was practicing Kabbalah and I remember reading the Bible and being so amazed by the Song of Songs, and the erotic and sensual description in it and I was always picking it up and reading it. I remember asking my grandfather why it was in the Bible, and he said, "You know al to of people would say it's allegory for the love between man and God." But actually, I think it is a description of man and woman falling in love and that divine connection. And, I always wanted to compose it so that was the starting point.
WBC: There are lots of other prophets who speak of the kind of love between man and God, and this is certainly different. It implies the love between a man and a woman.
IB: And, it is divine. I think in Judaism they're not really shying away from the physical element. It's divine and very holy. One of the commandments on Friday night for a married couple is for a man to please his wife. So, it's a very interesting aspect.
WBC: I think a lot of women would believe that should be a cultural practice all around the world.
IB: Yes! It should be (laughs).
WBC: Inbar, like all Israelis, you were drafted into the military but you became the first female officer to serve in the Anti-Aircraft Combat Division. What were you duties in that role?
IB I was actually the intelligence officer so I had a very specific role. I reported directly to the commander of the battalion. I can't really go into the details of what I did because of the intelligence aspect of it.
WBC: You could tell me, but then you'd have to kill me, right?
IB: (laughs) Actually, ya. I'd have to fly all the way to Canada and ...
WBC: Your grandfather predicted you would be a singer. How did he and your family life growing up shape your musical aspirations?
IB: You know what? Although the Yemenite people are considered to be very musical and very religious, my immediate family was not that musical. However, my mom nurtured my passion for music and I remember my dad also, getting up really early just to drive me to practices and rehearsals and such. And, we always had music in the house. I grew up listening to very traditional songs so that definitely helped and shaped me.
WBC: This is worldbeatcanada radio and we have Inbar Bakal, no relation to Lauren Bacall, but similarly lovely and talented. Step into her world on-line and tantalize your ears with samplings of songs from Song of Songs her debut album at www.inbarbakal.com. The disc may be steeped in tradition but it's thoroughly modern, lush and ethereal with pristine production. You didn't go fly by night with this, you teamed up with the best, producer Carmen Rizzo, who our listeners might recognize from Niyaz but who also has lent his talents to recordings by Seal, Coldplay and others. How did you two connect and what kind of influence did he have on the album?
IB: Like everything good in life, it happened without planning. I actually worked with a different producer in the same building and we were searching for direction. I met Carmen through friends and we started talking and he listened to my stuff and he was just saying how amazing and special I am and look at my culture and background ... "Why not do an album about that?" Initially, I was thinking of doing more of a western album with songs in English. But, he convinced me and I had a lot of homework to do and then we teamed up and this beautiful thing was created; this hybrid of old and new.
WBC: I have to hand it to you, this is a shining example of all killer, no filler. The album clocks in at 26 minutes and 7 seconds. Was it a conscious effort to put forward only your best. And, why do you think it is that artists feel that since a CD can hold 75 minutes of music, it's their bounded duty to fill every last second with whatever?
IB: I don't know. We made a conscious effort. We talked about it a lot. We read the market out there and we read the map of what is out there and people just aren't buying CDs anymore. And, if they do, they just download two or three of the best songs. So we thought, why not have an extended EP, mini album and have killer six songs and then in a year of ten months you release another six songs? The project felt done after those six. I don't know ... I believe in short and sweet!
WBC: I gotta tell ya, I think it shows a lot of foresight and it also shows what might possibly be the future of the long play format. Because, that makes so much sense! You put out a half dozen really good songs and in six months, people are ready to revisit you as an artist and that style of music and you can come up with something fresh and new.
IB: People today, the fans especially constantly want something new, so hopefully I can provide that.
WBC: Good on ya! It's hard to pick a favorite on Song of Songs, so let's start at the top and go out on The Battle of Jerusalem. Can you set this up for us?
IB: Actually, if there is a favorite, that's my favorite, but I shouldn't say it! I wrote it shortly after I visited Israel during the second Lebanon War and I was deeply, deeply influenced by that. I was here in the United States and I was writing a song and thinking about what will motivate people to go and defend what they believe in. Carmen was very leery in the beginning. He was hesitant about doing something a little more political, but the end message of this song is 'let it be the last battle of Jerusalem'.
Inbar Bakal was interviewed May 15th 09 by Cal Koat for worldbeatcanada radio