Hagai Bilitzky is an Israeli-Jew double bass player and an educator (and also a gifted oud player), who is a master of Arabic music. He studied with oud player Nino Biton, an Israeli Jew who mastered the popular music of the Maghreb, and another oud player Prof. Taiseer Elias, a Palestinian who mastered classical Arabic music. Bilitzky played with Algerian pianist Maurice El Médioni’s trio, Ladino singer Yasmin Levy, Palestinian singer-songwriter Amal Murkus and oud master Simon Shaheen, and is the musical director of Hamadrasa, a local orchestra for Andalusian music.
Bilitzky released his first solo double bass album, Double BassEast, in 2010 where he presented the Western instrument, first introduced into modern Arabic music in the forties of fifties, the days of great artists like Umm Kulthum and Mohammed Abdel Wahab, as an integral one in modern Middle Eastern ensembles and of the maqams – The Middle Eastern system of melodic modes – including their quarter-tones, with extended techniques that he developed.
Now, after two years of work, New Sound of The Middle East takes Bilitzky’s musical journey even further. Bilitzky wrote seven compositions for a septet of local Jews and Arabs, renowned masters alongside young lions, and plays one solo improvisation. Bilitzky attempts to expand to vocabulary and the aesthetics of the double bass and of Arabic music, while the maqam is respected, and the format of the traditional Arab composition is kept almost unchanged, with its sonorities, dynamics and spiritual essence. But the rhythmic elements, together with the reference to the musical form, introduce influences from jazz and Western music. Bilitzky says that he wanted to show how cultures can live together and contribute to each other without compromising their unique elements that were developed over the course of many generations.
New Sound of The Middle East highlights Bilitzky’s deep knowledge of Arabic music throughout the generations and its many schools, but also his open, masterful command of the double bass, as well as his gift for elusive melodies that sound very personal but untimely. He refers to family memories in the playful «Nicho» and the lyrical «Riss». «Naama», «Takano» and «Junem» bring fond memories of the Israeli-Arab groundbreaking and seminal Bustan Abraham band. «Tarabass» plays with the Arabic music concept of ecstatic music – tarab – with Bilitzky’s bass leading the festive commotion.
Hagai Bilitzky (b), Elad Levi (vio), Yousef Zoabi (oud), Elias Haddoub (buzuk), Sahar David (nay), Hillel Amsallem (perc), Lev Elman (perc)