Knesiyat Hasekhel & The Middle Eastern Andalusian orchestra of Asheklon

 knesiyat hasehel

Knesiyat Hasekhel (“Church of Reason”) is one of the most popular and highly esteemed rock bands in Israel. The band has been active for more than 20 years, has released 7 albums, dozens of radio hits, has performed on all the major stages in Israel and has won many acclaims and awards including the Israeli Band of the Year Award.

Knesiyat Hasekhel was founded in the 1980’s in the town of Sderot, a small town in the south of Israel, located near the Gaza Strip, making it a sensitive geographical location that is constantly exposed to Palestinian threats and attacks. It is there that the band members grew up under the influence of Oriental music.

Owing to the wide range of musical influences upon it and due to its founders’ unusual upbringing, the band creates rock and new age music with personal, ethnic and world music touches. All of these are evident in their musical work: between the sounds of the wailing guitar and the fractured cries of the singer, Yoram Hazan; between the intelligent and sensitive production and the rage erupting from the drums; between the deep and sensitive lyrics and the ethnic elements from home. All of these are essential and basic components in the band’s identity. Its winding and fascinating contours of its existence parallel the Israeli essence. Under a war- clouded sky, among the sounds of falling rockets, a rock band emerged to become the soundtrack of the country of Israel for over 20 years.
The three band members (Yoram, Ron and David) met at school and, as a result of the bleak reality and the ongoing security dangers they faced, soon discovered an attraction to their creative sides and began creating short films. Later on it was the music that won them over. Yoram and Ron had both read Robert M. Pirsig’s philosophical novel “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.” While trying to differentiate between the material and mental aspects of academic institutions, Pirsig referred to them as “The Churches of Reason”. It was then that the two decided that that would be the name of their band – “Church of Reason” (Knesiyat Hasekhel).

In 1990 the band members left the southern city of Sderot and moved to the culturally throbbing center of Israel – the city of Tel Aviv. They roomed together in a small apartment in the south of the city and lived off random jobs, such as window cleaning and dish washing, while at the same time working to develop their musical style and to compose songs.

This collective effort and life bore fruit in their debut album (from October 1992), “Devarim Belachash” (“Whispered Words”). The album was mostly characterized by an electronic, somber sound. Though ethnic elements were woven into the album’s music and some of the lyrics, deriving from Moroccan tunes, the album was also influenced by such artists as Jim Morrison and James Morrissey. The prominent songs in the album were: “I believe” (“Ani Ma’amin”) and “The song from Kindergarten” (“Hashir Mehagan”). The album grabbed the attention of the media which appreciated the band’s unique sound and nicknamed the band: “The Fabulous Four from Sderot.” The album also marked the launching of the band’s career.

Unexpectedly, and with a loyalty to their values, the band members chose to come out with their second album which was conceptual and unique. In 1994 the album “Take Songs” (“Kach Shirim”) was released. This is a short 34 minute album, composed of songs by well-known Israeli poets which were put to music and performed for the first time. The album was printed in a limited edition even though in the course of time it has come to be regarded as a “diamond in the rough”; many consider it to be a masterpiece. It was accompanied by a booklet decorated with unique photographs and graphic designs, which also contributed to the album’s charm and uniqueness. Today, it is almost impossible to get hold of the album “Kach Shirim” and it is considered a rare memorabilia.

The year 1999 saw the release of the band’s third album, “Knesiyat Hasekhel” (“Church ofReason”). The album was a great commercial and artistic success and as a result, the band became even more well-known. The album yielded a large number of radio hits, such as “We would make love” (“Hayinu Osin Ahava”) and “Maya has a gun” (“Le Maya yesh ekdach”). People rushed to hear them and the band’s live performances enjoyed large audiences. The band’s songs were heard more and more on local radio stations and gained further exposure. It was in that year’s billboard chart that the band won the “Israeli Band of the year” title.

Success didn’t slow the band members down and shortly after (in February 2001) their fourth album “Run Child” (“Rutz Yeled”) was released. The album was recorded live by the band in a recording studio and is responsible for one of their greatest hits of all times, the song “Say it’s good” (“Tagidi She Tov”).

In the next three years the band continued to base its status as a creative and charismatic force. The band toured the country frequently from the smallest to the largest locations. Its extensive popularity led the band members to decide to produce their fifth album on their own. Thus their fifth album was created (2004), “Hands Up” (“Yadaim Lemala”). The album included the hits “How does it feel” (“Ech ze margish”) and “Eternal Spring” (“Ha’Aviv Hanizkhi”).

In March 2007 following 15 fruitful years of working together, they released their greatest hits album, “Autobiography” (“Autobiographia”). The album included 26 tracks, from all times, in new adaptations inspired by world music and accompanied by a Western/Ethnic orchestra including Western instruments such as strings, harp, brass woodwinds and bagpipes and Oriental/Arab instruments including the Ud, Nay, Zurna and more. The collection included hits such as “Hands Up” (“Yadayim Lemata”) and “Let me Drink” (“Tnu Li Lishtot”). The album was produced by Ami Reiss, a new band mate (playing the keyboards).

The band’s album of its greatest hits was a huge success. After its release the band went on its largest tour of the country, accompanied by a Western/Oriental orchestra of 40 musicians and performing in the largest theaters in Israel.

In 2008 as part of the national radio station, Galey Zahal’s “Soon We Will Become a Song” project, the band recorded the song “Nothing will hurt me” (“Shum Davar Lo Yifga Bi”). The project’s aim was to have artists compose songs based on lyrics written by fallen soldiers. The song was composed by the band’s soloist, Yoram Hazan, to words by Erez Shtark who died in the Israeli Helicopter Disaster. Thus, the parallel between Israel’s story as a country and the band’s intellectual and sensitive creativity continued. The heartrending song describes the late soldier’s separation from his loved ones and touches the hearts of its listeners. The song soon became one of the band’s most recognized tracks and undoubtedly bears the classical traits of its creation.

In October 2010 the band released its seventh album, “Lines of People” (“Shurut Shel Anashim”). The album was entirely recorded in London in the Britannia Row Studio which was established by the legendary Pink Floyd band. The album included the hits “What are you dreaming about?” (“Al Ma At Kholemet?”) and “Happiness” (“Osher”). The album was musically produced by three producers including the band’s drummer, Daniel Ziblat. In this album the band returned to the original electronic and somber sound from its first album.

The year 2010 also saw the band’s first time performance outside of Israel – in San Francisco. There the band exemplified flexible synergy capabilities when they teamed up with the local orchestra, “Magik Magik Orchestra” which included 15 musicians (12 string and 3 brass instruments) in order to play a park performance together.

In June 2012 the band went through another metamorphosis when it chose to collaborate with an orchestra yet again, this time with one whose style was as unique and ethnic as the band’s own musical style. “Knesiyat Haseckhel” proved its versatility once more and its ability to collaborate styles when they teamed up with the Middle Eastern Andalusian orchestra of Asheklon, conducted and musically managed by Tom Cohen. In the last few years, that orchestra has become home to music from around the world, performing both classical Andalusian music as well as Jewish hymns, ethnic and Mediterranean music, all arranged and performed in a classical style. The orchestra consists of 25 musicians and is comprised of classical western instruments: violin, viola, cello, contrabass and oboe as well as authentic classical Eastern instruments: the ud, kamanga, kanon, flamenco guitar, the nai flute, darbuka, bandir and tar.

Through this collaboration, the band returned to its Oriental roots based in the city of  Sderot. This unique synergy notes the band’s 20 years of activity and is expressed in their huge mutual performances. These performances gained many accolades and great reviews (both from the media as well as from the fans) and reflect the merging of rock and roll sounds and the authentic Oriental sounds that characterize the orchestra. As befits the successful collaboration, the band has decided to record an album together with the orchestra. This new album “So Far From Home” has recently been released (July 2013) and is the brand new chapter in the victorious road of “Knesiyat Haseckhel”