The melody of random sex and social protest
Up-and-coming Israeli singer Tamar Capsouto lets go of innocent provocations and delves into political and social affairs.
"To buy a box of condoms / go out and roam the streets / sometimes all we want is / to gain experience and feel," Tamar Capsouto sings in her song "Condoms."
On the surface there's nothing too radical or provocative in this. So what is it about this song that stings listeners so much? What is she protesting with her sweet voice that goes on to sing: "to buy a box of condoms / for starters put one in the pocket / sometimes all I want is to talk obscenities / to take a bite," to a pleasant jazz arrangement?
"To me there's nothing provocative in this song," says Capsouto, 32, sporting a red "tika" dot common to Indian women on her forehead between her eyes.
Maybe she sounds that way because we haven't yet heard anyone else singing with such innocence and confidence about random sex. She agrees. "The song's message to me is that if I want to go out and experience, I can. But according to the prevailing view, which is very much influenced by religion, I can't," she says.
Capsouto plays guitar and has been active for over eight years as a singer-songwriter on smaller stages and primarily in street performances. She also has her own website at http://tamarcapsouto.com. Next Tuesday, August 14, she will perform at Tel Aviv's Levontin 7 club. "Condoms" appears more or less in the middle of her album, "Why No," released last year and which she worked on with guitarist Yossi Mizrahi, who was the producer, and Eli Lulai (Rockfour ) who was an artistic consultant and performs in the duet "Mixed Feelings," which is written entirely in the masculine form of Hebrew.
She considers "Why No" her first album even though before it she released an album she simply called "No," which she defines as a prologue. "There's a certain creative and personal continuity between 'No' and 'Why No,'" she says of the connection in the names.
"In the album 'No' I bring with me something relatively immature, a home recording, very personal songs and the writing is scattered. The goal was to distribute the discs on the street. In 'Why No' I already brought texts with more responsibility, the kind that also demanded a more responsible musical production."
Now she is about to release her second album (or third, depending on how you count ), "Da Li Lama." Listening to the first two albums in the order of their chronological appearance and then the new album makes it possible to clearly see the changes Capsouto is undergoing as a writer: the transition from writing that is totally personal and intimate and occasionally sexual, to extroverted writing, based on the surrounding environment and society.
"If you have a certain problem," she explains, "unless you resolve it yourself, it won't be resolved from the outside." That is why she says she had to first write about herself outwardly before she could start writing not about "I" but about "we."
The first song Capsouto is now releasing from "Da Li Lama" she dedicates to the victims of the horrors of government corruption, Moshe Silman and Mohammed Boazizi, the Tunisian vegetable stall owner who set himself on fire and prompted a wave of uprisings in the Arab world. Now she is choosing to not always be as bright and charming as she was. And the music is also a long way from being light.
In a new video clip, for example, Capsouto is filmed at one of the social protests in Tel Aviv wearing a black evening dress and smoking a long cigar, as if she were a wealthy aristocrat. "I Deserve, I Deserve," she protests. But she is saying the truth. She deserves and we deserve too. "The Israeli / he knows the truth about the home / the flaws in the language / where I come from and why say this / that I deserve."
Her songs have spirituality that is expressed in self-contradictions that appear side by side unhindered. Her approach is very much un-Western. She says one of the defining moments of her life occurred around five years ago, when she returned from a trip to India and experienced depression.
Fortunately, it seems she has not gotten over it, but grew and became stronger from the experience. This is apparent in her songs; even when she writes about hardship, she presents it with a half-smile, with a humorous touch. "Laughing and singing are the things that heal me. If I find the ability to laugh or sing, to get myself to the guitar in any situation, including when I'm sad or have no inspiration, then I'll just feel better afterward," she says.