Noga Erez's New Album Explores What It's Like To Be Israeli
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Noga Erez's music pokes and prods at what she feels it means to be Israeli.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FIRE KITES")
NOGA EREZ: (Singing) I sleep on enemies and friends. If you were me, well, won't ya? Whatever works, be sure it's kosher - kosher. We don't need bombs. We got fire kites.
SIMON: Her second album, "KIDS," is out now. And like her debut album, it is outspoken and often in your face. Noga Erez joins us now from Tel Aviv. Thanks very much for being with us.
EREZ: Thanks for having me. I'm so excited to be talking to you, Scott.
SIMON: Well, we're excited to be talking to you. Let's listen to a little bit of the title track from "KIDS."
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "KIDS")
EREZ: (Rapping) Speak now. No [expletive] talking. Gotta be now - not preconditions. Gotta move fast. Take a seat. Grab a pen. Spread the map out. Do it now big time. It's your big time. Remember '67? I forget that. Remember 9 [expletive] 11? Now restrain that. Get your head fact-sharp around the present. Speak now. Speak now.
SIMON: Wow. This is contemporary and political.
SIMON: You wanted to put that at the front and center.
EREZ: I wasn't looking to do that. It kind of just happened. The more I make music, the more I feel like it's simply a documentation of something that is currently happening, of something that is important for me to talk about. You know, with "KIDS," I got to have a new perspective on things, on life. I've experienced the loss of someone close to me. And, you know, to my partner, Ori Rousso, who makes the music together with me - his mom passed away to cancer. And she stayed at home while, you know, it was her last moments. And we spent the time with her. And that made me think about, you know, everything that we leave to the world after we are gone.
SIMON: Your mother's on this album. In fact, let's listen to her on the opening track.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "KTD")
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Kids these days.
EREZ: That's basically the track (laughter).
SIMON: What a beautiful voice. Why was it important for you to to open the album with it?
EREZ: I wanted her to be recorded. And I wanted her to be in my music. I mean, I was able to face the fact that one day my mom and I are not going to be together anymore. And, you know, for me, my mom has been such an important character, obviously. And I wanted to pay tribute to her. But also I thought that, artistically, the sentiment of having my mother's voice being there all the time and kind of seeing things that older generation might say to us like, kids these days, you know, how we get disappointed from the youth, the young generation, how lost we seem to think they are, even though, usually, they aren't. There's much that the young generation could learn from the older generation. But it goes both ways. So I wanted to have those two generations exist in the album.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "KIDS")
EREZ: (Rapping) I don't know what really, really happens at the end of the road. But my trip is mad. I ain't finished. I got loads. I think I'm up for the challenge - shoe show. I got me some mileage.
SIMON: You served in the Israeli Defense Forces, the IDF, as Israeli citizens do, but I gather as a musician.
EREZ: Right (laughter).
SIMON: What kind of gig is that?
EREZ: Wow. I mean, military service in Israel is mandatory. Women do it for two years. And men do it for three years. And a very, very small group of people get to be lucky enough to continue to be doing what they're doing while serving the army. And for me, you know, those gigs where I would basically go to a military base and perform all the Israeli classics and stuff like that or new pop music. It was a nightmare, honestly, because, you know, the entire experience is surreal. Music for me was the purest thing. And then mixing it up with something so complex and militant - and soldiers were really not into it. Every now and then it would be, you know, like soldiers coming back from doing whatever they were doing. But you can imagine. And then right before they would go home, you know, a group of five or six musicians would jump on the stage all happy. And I think that was the last thing that they wanted to see in that moment. So I got to experience the worst gig experience.
SIMON: May I ask of you, you were aware of the fact that the Palestinian musicians living not far from you...
SIMON: Very different kinds of lives. Have you collaborated with Palestinian musicians? Do you want to?
EREZ: I have never collaborated with a Palestinian musician. And I have made very ambitious declarations with my previous album that, in my next album, I'm going to have a collaboration. And my song that I wanted to do it with was "KIDS." And I started to research. And I found some musicians. And I started to reach out. And I realized very early that it was not an easy thing for Palestinian artists to do. For them, it's a statement about normalizing the situation. You're collaborating with an artist from the Israeli side of the conflict. And it's obviously something that has a lot of saying. I was like, very naive, wanting to be able to make peace through music. And it was a really big lesson for me.
SIMON: You know, this week in particular, I got to ask you a politics question.
SIMON: I'm going to guess you're not totally enthusiastic with what seems to be the results of the election.
EREZ: I don't even know what the results are. I know that Benjamin Netanyahu keeps getting, you know, many, many votes. It's like the third or maybe the fourth election that we have been through in this past two years. It's been very, very hectic politically here. But no. I'm not a Benjamin Netanyahu fan at all.
SIMON: You've been criticized by the Ministry of Culture for your debut album and saying the kinds of things you just did to us. At the same time, you were asked to perform for Israel's Olympic team.
SIMON: Are you concerned about getting into some kind of a face-off with the government in which they issue some kind of official disapproval of your work, which wouldn't keep you from performing but, you know, just get you typed as a certain way?
EREZ: You know, it's still a democracy, even though it's very shaky. And my side of the political map seems to think that it's in big danger. But still, you're able to say whatever you want to say. And your songs would be played on the radio, even though you can sometimes be criticizing towards the government. So right now, I mean, it's still in a good place where we all want to be. But it kind of feels like, you know, the more he gets elected, we're kind of going there. And it's - I mean, it's scary. I'm worried.
SIMON: Is there a song on this album that you particularly identify with now that we can play on our way out of this interview?
EREZ: I think the song that's ending the album is the one that's probably closest to my heart. It's called "Switch Me Off."
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SWITCH ME OFF")
EREZ: (Singing) I got no time to fight with you, my baby. The bus is gone. I won't chase it again.
Our most basic need in life is to survive. That is what we're trying to do all the time. And this is actually a song that asks for the opposite. It asks to be able to be in peace with the fact that you can just move forward from this world. So "Switch Me Off" is the closest one to my heart.
SIMON: Noga Erez - her new album, "KIDS," out now. Thank you so much for being with us.
EREZ: Thank you.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SWITCH ME OFF")
EREZ: (Singing) You said that love will kill us both. You said that love will kill us all. Won't you switch me off? Don't feed me bluffs. I won't take one bite - one bite. Please... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.