Mediterranean Pop Goes Mainstream

This year's annual pop music awards, presented by ACUM, once again show preference for regional inspirations.

Lea Penn
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ACUM, Israel's music and literary rights association, this week announced the winners of its annual popular music awards. The jury consisted of musician Daniel Salomon, Mediterranean singer Yoav Itzhak, former Sfatayim (Lips ) soloist Haim Uliel, journalist Gal Ohovsky and music producer Ofer Meiri.

Avraham Tal.Credit: David Bachar

The awards will be presented at a ceremony to be held at the end of February at the Zionist Organization of America House in Tel Aviv.

The award for composer of the year went to Yehuda Poliker for his latest album "Conditional Love." The jury said that "Poliker has always been one of the best composers in Israeli rock, and this past year it could be felt that he was reaching new creative peaks."

Poliker, who has won a NIS 10,000 prize, said he was "grateful for the award and hopes this will be a good, fruitful and healthy year for all the people of Israel that will hail the release of Gilad Shalit."

Last year, in what was seen as a rather surprising move, ACUM rallied behind Mediterranean pop music, awarding prizes to Moshe Peretz and arranger Tamir Tzur.

This year, it continued to show its appreciation for this genre, awarding the prize for writer/lyricist to Yossi Gispan.

The jury noted that Gispan this year "wrote at least two of the most widely played songs in Israel - 'Those Who Believe,' sung by Eyal Golan and 'Good Evening to You,' sung by Lior Narkis." Each in its own way exemplifies, according to the jury, "Gispan's talent for weaving apt texts that are well suited to the melodies and the spirit of the new Mediterranean pop."

'Another day of celebration'

Gispan, who won a NIS 10,000 prize, told Haaretz he believes that "for Mediterranean music, this is yet another day of celebration. It is earning recognition from the establishment, and it is going to places we weren't that accustomed to going to."

Yehuda PolikerCredit: David Bachar

The prize for discovery of the year, also NIS 10,000, will be awarded to Amir Dadon. The jury wrote that his debut album marks him "as a confident male voice, who can grow and become a major, influential artist."

ACUM's arrangers of the year are Kutiman and Ronen Sabbo, who produced Karolina's album "What Do I Do Now," for which they won a NIS 10,000 prize. According to the judges, the two work from within "a profound understanding of Israeli music and its history and an intelligent use of local sounds and colors in order to produce something that is simultaneously both Israeli and international, and above all something daring, exciting and a fine work of art."

First award ever

The award for song of the year will be presented to Avraham Tal for "Lights." Tal told Haaretz that it feels as though his song continues to reverberate. "It's definitely a great honor to win an ACUM prize," he said. "It makes me happy to know the song that came out of my life has touched many hearts. As the words of the song say: 'May our heart be granted awakening each time anew.'"

ACUM also awards two prizes to dedicated to promoting the creativity of a composer and a lyricist. This year the NIS 13,000 prizes will be awarded to musician Jonathan Razel for composition and to Dan Toren for lyrics. Razel, who in two weeks will begin recording his second album, said he was very surprised: "I didn't even apply; the record company did it for me. Recently we have been in a quandary as to how to move ahead, and this has been very encouraging."

Toren, who in addition to being an active performer has written many hits during his long career, among them Sharon Lipschitz's "Cinema," "Hallucinations," performed by Barry Sakharov and "I Don't Touch You," performed by Yehudit Ravitz. He is currently working on a new album called "Under the Radar."

"This is the first time I've ever received an award and it's surprising and pleasant," Toren told Haaretz. "The feeling of recognition and appreciation is very pleasant, especially now when I'm working on a new album that I very much believe in and am proud of."

The external Aharon Geffen prize to artists in need of funds to complete their albums will also be presented at the ceremony. The recipient of the NIS 20,000 prize this year is musician Noam Gingold.