Saving Israeli Rock Music From Oblivion

Dudi Patimer has devoted his life to tracking down Israeli music from the 70s and 80s and bringing it back to life.

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Dudi Patimer is trying his hardest to put forgotten Israeli pop and rock songs back into the spotlight. Every day, he puts his job as a personal trainer aside and spends between four and six hours on what he has dubbed “research,” - finding rare clips of forgotten bands and singers from the 1960’s and 70’s.

Somewhat of a musical archaeologist, 26-year-old Patimer has more of an impact on our daily lives than the traditional stone and fossil digger, at least for music buffs. Patimer resurrects forgotten songs by uploading them to YouTube, from where, almost a half century after they totally fell off our radar, they find their way to our music collections - and often onto the radio and into local bars and pubs. Why not study Israeli history through the rich canon of Israeli pop music, instead of through war or literature?

Patimer has uploaded over 1,200 songs to YouTube, garnering over 100,000 views. His videos include songs like Jo Amar’s victory song “From Quneitra to Kantara,” “Bill Carter,” a song about a cowboy in the Sinai from the Sinai Entertainer Troupe, a forgotten IDF band, and lots of other rare finds. He even has songs from Yemeni immigrant bands recorded in 1953. In addition to uploading songs, Patimer has conducted interviews with the musicians, specifically those who played in Israeli rock bands in the 1970’s, in an effort to document that forgotten era.

Patimer discovered his passion for uncovering lost music at age 12, when he bought an album by Yehoram Gaon. Later on, he adopted the middle name “Elvis” (‘I was crazy about him’), which he has since dropped. He currently has a collection of over 18,000 albums, on which he spent tens of thousands of shekels.

“I’ve tried to find many songs and failed, even though I rummaged through record stores and searched on Google,” says Patimer, explaining how he began his mission to archive old Israeli hits. “So I started to get in touch with the artists themselves, in an attempt to obtain records. For example, I saw a write-up on Michal Wohl in Lehiton [an Israeli music weekly published in the 1970s and 80s], in which she mentioned two songs she had recorded. I tried to figure out how to find her. Through composer-arranger Nurit Hirsh, I got to Effi Netzer, who said that Michal Wohl had married radio broadcaster Ram Tadmor. So I searched for Michal Tadmor on Facebook and I found her. I showed her the article in Lehiton and she was shocked. We ended up finding a never-released recording of her song Yedidi from composer Yair Miller.”

“Thanks to Dudi, people who never knew I was a singer got to hear me,” says Michal Tadmor. “The song made it to the charts when I was 16.” Asked why she never made it as a pop singer, she responds, “Maybe I was too naïve. I also didn’t have a manager and I was too young.”

Patimer, himself a musician and songwriter, says he receives about ten messages a day from other musicians and songwriters with all kinds of requests. Some ask for help in hunting down their old songs. “When I hear about a song that fell off the grid, I go mad and I just have to find it,” Patimer says. “I’m addicted to the feeling I get from tracking down people and songs. If you tell me there’s even a slight chance of finding something, I’ll jump in the car and drive to Eilat, if need be. For example, Bezalel Jungreis released the song Ho Yaldonet in 1957, with other musicians on the recording. I found a 78’ record of the song and I wanted to figure out who the others were – there’s no mention of them on the web. So I got in touch with Bezalel, who is a businessman today. We sat together for hours and he told me about his career.”

Patimer uploads the recordings and the information he learns from interviews to his Facebook page, He is currently on his second page, having hit the Facebook limit of 5,000 friends on his first. He says that he doesn’t have the energy for blogging but dreams of writing a book about Israel’s forgotten bands and singers.

Some of the songs Patimer has found were never released – and he has had to extract them old formats and recordings. He found one song, Tali, by the band Dani Wellin and Cochvei Halechet, by contacting the now-deceased Wellin’s granddaugther, who he found on Facebook. “She was in shock; ‘Who is this crazy guy who has stories about my grandfather?’ It turns out that her mother was named Tali. Lucky that he converted the song to CD before he died.” When asked if he’s ever been approached about copyright infringement or unauthorized use of the songs, Patimer says it’s clear that he does everything out of his own pocket and does not seek to make any profit; only to ensure that the music isn’t forgotten.

One song Patimer saved was The Flood is Coming, sung by Moshe Hillel at a rock festival in 1973. Hillel himself had forgotten that the song existed. Hillel says that he and Patimer had arranged to meet at a restaurant and actually stood next to each other for a few moments without speaking, because Patimer expected to see a singer with a huge afro. Hillel’s hair had gotten shorter over the years. Hillel, who explains that his career never took off because he got stuck between Mizrahi and rock music, describes Patimer as a “great, rare person.”

According to Hillel, Yoav Kutner, a famous Israeli producer and radio presenter, once took interest in one of his songs, but Army Radio was reluctant to play it when they found out that Hillel was associated with Mizrahi music. “Back then, Mizrahi music was genuine,” says Hillel. “Today, there are some songs I wouldn’t touch.”

Patimer lives with his parents in the Yad Eliahu neighborhood of Tel Aviv. His father, Avi Patimer, who is also a music collector, has one of Israel’s largest collections of musical instruments.

But not everyone shares his enthusiasm for the old hits. “My friends aren’t interested. They used to say that I was wasting my time. Now that they see that I’m serious, they don’t dare talk about it,” says Patimer.

Patimer’s modest dream is to run a radio show, but despite his huge contribution to Israeli music and the fact that he is a walking musical encyclopedia, radio stations seem to prefer to give such jobs to people who are better known in the industry. “I’ve approached a bunch of stations, but they couldn’t care less. They prefer celebrities. When I was a kid, my friends would be out playing soccer and I would sit and memorize musical biographies. I’ve got the biographies of over 20,000 musicians memorized.”

Gila Adari, perhaps Israel’s first female pop singer, passed away the morning after Patimer had mentioned her. Media coverage of her passing was rather limited. Asked why Israel has mostly ignored its pop and rock stars, Patimer says, “This new kind of foreign-influenced music was unappreciated in its time. But when 20 year-olds hear the songs I upload, they think, ‘Wow, what an awesome band.’ Israel had pop stars on par with those abroad, like Bezalel Jungreis. He’s just like Elvis. When he performed, the groupies shrieked, just like in America. But the establishment saw them as freaks. There were brilliant artists here. I don’t have an explanation for why people think that Israeli music started with Arik Einstein. The situation hurts me. Often I’m the only young person at the shows of older artists. Everyone’s over 50. I asked my friends to come with me to see ‘The Lions of Judah’, but they didn’t want to. One of the reasons I research artists is that I don’t want their stories to disappear when they die.”

Dudi Patimer with covers of albums from his extensive collection.Credit: Facebook

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