Ami Yares, a musician and teacher, will be featured, with Sagol 59, in a Dec. 12 concert at the St. Paul JCC
By MORDECAI SPECKTOR
On Ami Yares’ Facebook page, you can see the New Jersey-born itinerant musican posing for a picture with Israel “Izzy” Young, the former proprietor of the Folklore Center, a renowned hub of folk music in Greenwich Village, in the ’60s.
The elder music impresario, who’s 87, moved his folk music center to Stockholm, Sweden, many years ago, according to Yares, who was invited to teach and perform last month by Limmud Stockholm, a branch of the global Jewish learning program.
During a recent phone chat from Philadelphia, Yares, 35, explained that he arranged to play at Young’s Folklore Centrum. Yares had met Young seven years earlier, and got in touch when he learned that he would be visiting Stockholm.
Apropos a reporter’s mention of Bob Dylan, the bard of Hibbing, Yares recalled his reunion with Izzy Young and commented, “It was so wonderful. It was the closest I’ll ever get to feeling the music of the ’60s from someone who was actually there, and not someone that’s imitating it… So, to be able to play him my music and the music he was listening to then was a really incredible feeling to have.”
He added, “I’m 50 years late — but better late than never.”
If you happen to be in Stockholm, you can find Folklore Centrum in the fascinating Södermalm neighborhood.
And if you’re in the Twin Cities, you can see and hear Yares and Khen Rotem (a.k.a. Sagol 59, an Israeli rapper), Dec. 12 at the St. Paul JCC. The show will be the duo’s “Hebrew Grateful Dead Concert,” with the familiar Dead tunes translated into Hebrew. The melodies remain the same.
Yares and Sagol 59 also have recorded the Dead songs on a CD titled The Promised Land: The Grateful Dead/Jerry Garcia Hebrew Project. For those who can’t wait to get a signed CD after the St. Paul JCC show, you can download a digital version of the album at: bit.ly/hebrew-dead.
Yares also will spend a week in the Twin Cities, conducting workshops at Jewish schools and synagogues, visiting residents at Sholom’s Ackerberg Family Campus in St. Louis Park, and playing music at the Jewish Community Relations Council’s annual Hanuka party. Also, with sponsorship from the Jewish Federation of Greater St. Paul, Yares will conduct a Dec. 13 music workshop with students from Temple of Aaron, Mount Zion, Beth Jacob and the Talmud Torah of St. Paul’s Newman School.
Joshua Fineblum, Temple of Aaron cantor and educator, has been involved in organizing Yares’ itinerary here and the St. Paul JCC concert. Fineblum and Yares are friends from their teen years in Cherry Hill, N.J.
“I’m a teaching artist and musician,” Yares told the AJW. “I do a lot of work with under-served youth, running workshops about using music to promote empowerment and self-actualization, as well as creativity.”
In addition to those activities, Yares said he performs “a bunch of solo concerts,” with a repertoire of American folk music, original songs, and music in Hebrew and Arabic. And over recent years, he also has played as a duo, with his brother, Gavri Tov; the act, which tours around New England, is billed as The Brothers Yares.
In other big news, Yares got engaged last month.
It should be mentioned that an important part of Yares’ musical development stems from the nine years he spent living in Israel. He moved back to the States about a year ago.
In Israel, he played with a group called The Shuk. The group he formed with a friend was doing “multicultural education about Jewish identity through music. It was a really wonderful project.”
Yares mentioned that, through the auspices of the U.S. Embassy in Israel, he created a project called Focus Music, “and we were teaching American folk music to Jewish and Arab students, trying to see what kind of values could be extrapolated, and how they could understand their culture and society better, and how they could understand American culture better. It was fun, because it was honest — it didn’t sugarcoat things in America and it didn’t sugarcoat things in Israel.”
Yares also was involved with Heartbeat, an Israeli and Palestinian youth music project, which created music through dialogue sessions.
“That’s an extremely intense program, as you can imagine, because we encourage everyone to come as they are and be as open as possible,” he said about the initiative, which took place mainly in Haifa and Jerusalem.
During his sojourn in the Jewish state, Yares learned Hebrew and also studied Arabic music, on a gap year program. He attended a Masa arts program in Arad, in the Negev Desert; and studied oud, the Middle Eastern lute, with Bedouin musicians, and “going to Jaffa once a week to study with Yair Dalal,” the renowned Israeli oud master.
Getting back to the Dead in Hebrew, the stuff of the Dec. 12 concert, Yares said that he and Sagol 59 got permission from Grateful Dead to do the Hebrew translations.
“He does an incredible job with the translation,” Yares said of his Israeli partner. “He changes American locations [in the songs] to Israeli locations, so they have the same nuances. My favorite is, he takes “Mission in the Rain,” the old Jerry Garcia song, and he changes it to “Nachlaot b’Geshim,” Nachlaot is this magical neighborhood in Jerusalem, kind of like the Mission was in San Francisco.”
Regarding the Hebrew Grateful Dead project, Yares says, “I can’t wait to help people learn Hebrew better through it. There’s an incredible educational possibility with it, and aside from that, it’s great music and just so much fun to do.”
Ami Yares and Khen Rotem (Sagol 59) will perform Grateful Dead songs in Hebrew 7:45 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 12 at the St. Paul JCC, 1375 St. Paul Ave. Tickets are $5.00 at the door, or online at: templeofaaron.org. (American Jewish World, 12.4.15)
Since 1912 the AJW has served as an important news resource for the Jewish community. The Jewish World unites the main Jewish communities in St. Paul and Minneapolis, as well as those in Duluth, Rochester and smaller cities, and bridges the divides between the various Jewish religious streams.