In this article I explore the aesthetics and political valence of shirei meshorerim (SM), a body of Israeli sung poetry that emerged out of a series of radio programs, festivals, and recording projects beginning in the 1970s and drawing on long-standing local practices in both Palestine/Israel and contemporary Mediterranean sung-poetry movements. I argue that the development of SM was characterized by an aesthetic distinction, wherein the high cultural register of poetry—a value produced by both the domestic discourse on art vis-à-vis politics and the broader global discourse in which the local field was embedded—and an associated move to cosmopolitanize music production contributed to the “cultural accreditation” of post-1967 pop-rock in Israel. This article explores what poetry meant for song, and vice versa, in Israel during the 1970s and 1980s through sociopolitical analysis and close listening to the text-setting practices and stylistic affinities of two musicians strongly identified with SM: Matti Caspi and Shlomo Gronich.
“Behind the Sounds”: Matti Caspi, Shlomo Gronich, and the Politics of Genre in Israel
Michael A. Figueroa is associate professor of music at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His research is focused on music and modern Middle Eastern history. He is author of City of Song: Music and the Making of Modern Jerusalem (Oxford University Press, 2022) and co-editor of Performing Commemoration: Musical Reenactment and the Politics of Trauma (University of Michigan Press, 2020).
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Michael A. Figueroa; “Behind the Sounds”: Matti Caspi, Shlomo Gronich, and the Politics of Genre in Israel. Journal of Musicology 1 October 2021; 38 (4): 401–418. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/jm.2021.38.4.401
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