Hip hop and dub with a Mediterranean flavor
Israeli duo Echo & Tito stand out for creating dance music that is dark yet joyful..
The electronic musician known as Tito is actually 30-year-old Jerusalemite Tom Aidan. Echo Morgenstern, 23, is a charismatic soul singer who grew up in Kfar Vradim. As Echo & Tito they will play the Radio E.P.G.B. Club in Tel Aviv on September 10. Together for only eight months now, they have already aroused interest in Tel Aviv's small indie clubs, and the reason is clear. There are not many groups in Israel creating dance music this dark yet also joyful, mixing hip-hop, glitch and dub enveloped in a Mediterranean sound.
Aidan says the two have been enjoying a burst of creativity ever since they started working together, and have completed 10 songs. Five of them can be heard on their Internet site (http://echotito.bandcamp.com/album/echo-tito-ep ).
The song "Halla" includes lyrics in Hebrew and Arabic but is mostly in English, and features the voice of philosopher and writer Alan Watts, the late British expert on Zen. "He was sharply critical of Western culture," Aidan says. "He believed in all kinds of Eastern theories." Aidan himself has been influenced by Eastern cultures, and at 19 played the tabla and other instruments in India.
"We used recordings of Watts where he speaks about people taking things too seriously, inventing rules and becoming trapped by them," Morgenstern says. "Our song is about the lightness of being and religion as a beautiful thing which may be celebrated in dance and song. With us there is less criticism and more suggestion."
Before she joined up with Aidan, Morgenstern worked with another musician with whom she had "a fabulous human connection," but not the musical direction she sought. At first she brought her own songs to Aidan and they arranged them together. Now they write their material with each other. "Echo is talented with words. When I give her music, she finds the words very quickly. Most of our material is produced quickly, three hours for a song and we go on from there," says Aidan.
The Hungarian connection
Morgenstern admits that sometimes she is "a little domineering," noting that a typical complaint from her goes, "This song is too dry for me. It needs water!" Quickly she adds: "Please understand, Tom is an expert with Ableton, [a computer program for generating music]."
At their performances, Morgenstern sings and Aidan is responsible for the music. "I do all kinds of manipulations, adding drums here, lowering the bass there, and also a little rap and spoken word, but Echo is the leading voice," says Aidan.
The duo has just returned from the Hanna Hanna Festival in Slovakia. "The organizers heard us on the Internet and invited us. There were bands and DJ performances. Our combination, a singer with an electronic music producer, intrigued them," he continues.
Was the show a success?
"Yes," says Morgenstern. "We had several good shows, each day on a different stage."
From Slovakia they continued on to Hungary and found themselves in a studio, recording a new song with a pair of Hungarian musicians. "Echo's father's wife is Hungarian," Aidan says. "We met them while they were on a visit. She introduced us to her friends. Two of them, a sister and brother, are well known in Hungary. Linda Kiraly is a pop singer who signed with Universal when she was 16. Her brother won the local version of American Idol."
Although the English language dominates the pair's material, they often include Hebrew and Arabic. "I really like playing games with languages," Aidan says. "The energy from these games comes through," Morgenstern adds. "That's one of the things I noticed most abroad. I didn't know how they would respond to the combination of ethnic music with hip hop." Aidan sums up: "We try to get people to react to us physically, to party."