Tel Aviv Pumps Up the Volume With Its First Mass Dance-music Conference

Adam Yehiel, the DJ-businessman behind Tel Aviv Volume, hopes to make the 3-day, 4-night professional schmooze and party an annual event.

Tel Aviv may feel the ground rattle this week, but not because of an earthquake, shifting tectonic plates or other force majeure. What’s likely to cause a temblor or two is the city’s first mass mainstream dance-music conference and festival, sure to include even more thumping bass lines and heart-pumping beats than the party-hearty, sleepless metropolis is accustomed to on any given weekend.

Tel Aviv Volume, a three-day, four-night affair, was spawned by Adam Yehiel, 36, a Jerusalem-born DJ and entrepreneur who’s been on the international club circuit and music scene for more than 15 years.

Yehiel sees himself as something of an electronic music envoy, cultivating connections between Israel and the larger digital music industry by encouraging cultural exchanges, performing in Europe with other Israelis or bringing peers from overseas to Tel Aviv – and now with Tel Aviv Volume, which he says will be an annual event.

“We’re here to open more channels and to broaden the ones that are there,” he said in a recent interview at the festival’s Tel Aviv office. “Israel is a major player today in the house and techno and trance scene around the world, and also in multiple subgenres, and we’re here to increase the volume on that from there and from here, both internationally and locally.”

Yehiel’s latest venture is a natural outgrowth of his musical path, which began early on. “I grew up as a child surrounded with music,” he said, describing how his father, Raoul Yehiel, helped create one of Israel’s first television shows for popular music, the “American Bandstand”-styled “Lahit Barosh.”

“As a child I remember bouncing on the knees of Ofra Haza, Yardena Arazi, Rita,” he said, ticking off the names of three local pop divas. “Being in my father’s studio daily, I remember seeing him working and preparing music and clips at home with VCRs and all kinds of tapes we don’t have anymore. At the time it was new, and that was my initial jump into music.”

Yehiel moved from bouncing on Rita’s knee to bouncing around clubs — starting in Israel, at venues owned by his brother. Then, after his army service, he worked in London, Glasgow, Rotterdam and Ibiza, finally settling in Amsterdam where, in 2003, he established a DJ bar-café. It wasn’t a big space, but it provided, he said, “an open stage for younger people with a passion for music” – specifically, electronic and dance music.

While in Amsterdam, he also connected with Richard Zijlma, founder of the Amsterdam Dance Event, one of the leading international electronic dance-music events that, in 2013, spanned five days and attracted 300,000 visitors to the Dutch city. It showcased more than 2,100 artists at 450 events and drew hundreds of industry people who took part in nearly 200 panel discussions.

That experience, and Yehiel’s ongoing collaboration with Zijlma, planted the seed for Tel Aviv Volume, and he began laying the groundwork for it when he returned to Tel Aviv three years ago. The event is “sticking to the ADE formula” of daytime panel discussions and nighttime parties and live sets – and, apparently, very little sleep.

On the daytime roster are workshops and master classes with dozens of electronic music aficionados and experts – including Zijlma and Tony Andrews, a British sound-system pioneer who has been “fuelling the best parties in the world for over 20 years,” according to Mixmag, a leading dance music and clubbing magazine. The panels, largely in Hebrew, will discuss everything from Israeli startups creating new music-related technologies to copyright issues in the electronic era to how to create a successful YouTube channel.

Then there are the nighttime parties and live gigs at 16 Tel Aviv clubs and bars with leading DJs from the Netherlands (Rob Manga), Berlin (DJ Oskar Offermann and Edward), Spain (Luis Junior) and Finland (Jori Hulkkonen), as well as homegrown talents, some of whom have made names for themselves abroad.

“The idea is to come and share,” said Yehiel. The event is “here to provide for the musicians … it’s here to let them do what they’re good at, but to give them the tools to do it properly – to say, instead of just having one or two contacts, come and meet another 300 like you and see what you can do then. And that opens channels all around the world.”

Yehiel added that Israeli DJs who have succeeded abroad are also naturally expanding those channels further. “Tel Aviv has a very good name all around the world for many years. Our music ambassadors in the electronic scene are hitting it hard all around the world – they’re superstars,” he said, mentioning names like Guy Gerber, Shlomi Aber and Guy J. “You say you’re from Tel Aviv, the door opens big-time.”

Tel Aviv Volume takes place January 15-18; daytime events are being held at the Enav Cultural Center in Tel Aviv (space is limited) and nighttime events are spread across the city. For more information visit the Tel Aviv Volume website telavivvolume.com. Note: Conference tickets, which can be bought for individual days or the entire conference/festival, are only available at the site.

Tomer Appelbaum