Kalbey Ruach.
Kalbey Ruach. Photo by Daniel Tchetchik
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"I want to be your pig / I want to be your dog / Your rat," importunes the male speaker in the Kalbey Ruach song "Hazir" ("Pig" ). Like all of the band's offerings, "Hazir" was composed by and is sung by Hila Ruach. The group's name, which can be translated literally as "wind dogs" or "dogs of the soul," is the Hebrew term for the group of dogs known as sighthounds as well as a play on Ruach's own last name.

In the latter part of the song Ruach switches to the female voice: "I really want you to sleep with me / What I want most is for you to protect me / For you to write to me." The lyrics reflect an anguished, internal female dialogue. Even though the opening verses are written in the masculine singular, the dialogue takes place inside a woman's head.

"I wrote this song during a period in which I was terribly alone, and in my head I imagined a relationship," explains Ruach. The 27-year-old singer-songwriter also plays guitar and keyboards. In the past three years she has collaborated with many musicians, most of them on the margins of the industry. Lately she has played with Tamir Albert (of The Gingiot and Nosei Hamigbaat ) on her songs as well as his. She has also worked with Eran Zur, Tzach Drori and Sagi Tzoref, among other. Kalbey Ruach is performing at Tel Aviv's Levontin 7 this Friday, July 13.

"We started as a cliche," Ruach says, before elaborating, "at Rimon School [of Jazz and Contemporary Music, in Ramat Hasharon]. Some left, others remained, but everyone passed through at some point." The other members of the group are Nir Kopelovich (guitars ), Noam Shaham (bass guitar ), Itai Shitrit (keyboards ) and Gadi Peter (drums ). Although Ruach is the group's creative spirit, she says she passes her songs through the filters of its other members. "We stripped every song naked, we raped and plundered it and afterward we dressed it and had a make-believe tea party with it," she says. Each person's influence is evident in the songs, according to Ruach, who is already planning a solo album.

For now Ruach is hard at work with the group on their debut album, which does not have a name yet and is expected to be released in a few months. Yehu Yaron is the producer. As Ruach tells it, the first time Yaron came to listen the band was having a "terrible" practice session. While they played, or more accurately mainly shouted at each other, Yaron merely sat in silence for three hours, reading Ruach's lyrics. "He was truly a balancing force for us," she says.

Ruach recently recorded, together with Noam Rotem, the 20th-century Israeli folk song "Sham Shualim Yesh" ["There Are Foxes There," words: Kadish Yehuda Leib Silman, to a folk melody]. Ruach took a composition workshop at Rimon taught by Rotem, whom she says was one of the first people in a long time to see her talent as a composer. "Hey, you're sababa [cool], he would tell me. It was good to hear that from him," says Ruach.

She describes her first year at Rimon as "difficult and lacking in 'sex appeal,'" a year that above all instilled in her an enormous appetite for creativity. Payback for all the hard work came in the following year, when the group won two intramural competitions, "You know, all those competition whose names end in the word 'rimon' [such as Shirimon and Rockrimon - U.Z.A.].

So were you guys the stars of the school for a time?

"Not really," Ruach says with a smile. "Even after we won, when I went to the main office no one would recognize me. We were the ones people would ask, 'How did the judges pick them?!' We weren't stars. But, yeah, it was nice in terms of our friends."

According to Ruach, at the time she and the group were modest and pretentious at the same time.

"Come knife come clown come rabbit come now / Come silly come wise come tired / Come star," Ruach sings in "Bo" ("Come" ). She laughs, adding with a wink that it's best to think very carefully while writing songs, because after writing one song called "Come," someone came into her life in a way that greatly reminded her of the song.

In both "Pig" and "Come" you call someone names while at the same time you call to them and eventually you take off your clothes.

"These are songs that invite someone into a life in which nothing is It isn't so much despair as it is an attempt to flirt with the universe, hoping that something will happen. You always have to ask, out of genuine desire."