The Festival of Jewish Arts and Music (FOJAM) is thrilled to announce its full program as it prepares to take over the Melbourne Recital Centre for what’s being described as the venue’s most ambitious event yet – one day, four stages, 30 performances, and over 140 international and homegrown artists celebrating contemporary Jewish culture.
Among the international headliners are Israeli beatmaker and producer Noga Erez, and American singer-songwriter Chris Cohen, formerly of the band Deerhoof. Both are Australian exclusives. Zackary Drucker, a multimedia artist and LGBT activist, will also speak about her work as a producer on the ground-breaking TV series Transparent, and the intersections of queer and Jewish identities in one of the festival’s panel discussions.
The day begins with ‘Why We Stand’, a performance by poet, musician, educator and First Nations community activist Neil Morris (aka DRMNGNOW), celebrating Yorta Yorta man William Cooper and his heroic stand against the treatment of the Jewish people when he led a protest to the German embassy in Melbourne in 1938. In the Festival’s headline performance, Transformer - A Tribute to Lou Reed, indie-pop artist Gabriella Cohen and Kate ‘Babyshakes’ Dillon (Full Flower Moon Band) serve as musical directors to artists including Chris Cohen, Alex Gow (Oh Mercy), Emily Lubitz (Tinpan Orange), Bella Venuti (IV League), Spike Fuck and ARIA-winning post-punk legend Deborah Conway, who will perform the entirety of Reed’s iconic album Transformer.
Deborah Conway, along with partner Willy Zygier, will also curate and perform in the Festival favourite Song of Songs, a tribute to Jewish songwriters and composers including Leonard Cohen, Paul Simon and Carole King. This year’s all star lineup includes Paul Kelly, Vika Bull, Kate Ceberano, Clare Bowditch, Harry James Angus, Lisa Mitchell, Alma Zygier, iOTA, Benny Walker, James Henry, Alice Skye and Jacek Komen.
Other musical highlights include Gabriella Cohen and her full band; the 22-piece avant-garde Yiddish funk and klezmer ensemble YID!; Chris Abrahams, the pianist in legendary group The Necks, who joins forces with Robbie Avenaim and Oren Ambarchi to form AAA, a project that explores the extreme sonic outer limits of their instruments; Australian contemporary classical, film and television composer George Dreyfus; Russian-Israeli avant-garde artist Mary Ocher; Approachable Members Of Your Local Community - a seven-piece band of charismatic, nebbish boys delivering neo-soul melodies; rising soul sensation Emilia; Tamara and the Dreams; multi-award winning composer Josh Abrahams and singer Galit Klas; transgender Perth-based bass clarinet player Shoshana Rosenberg; and Alma Zygier. The Festival Club will also feature Yuval Ashkar, Matt Stonehouse, and celebrated New York based jazz pianist Tal Cohen, along with improvisational five-piece Claps, led by saxophonist Greg Sher and pianist Joel Trigg(The Rookies). Other DJ Sets in the foyer include Instant Peterson (formerly cohost of Strange Holiday with Andras Fox) and Mary Ocher.
he program includes a series of fascinating talks, including a keynote speech by stalwart British journalist and performer Vivien Goldman (aka “the Punk Professor”) – ‘The Jewish Roots of Counter Culture’ – and ‘Spun Stories’, which invites writers Elise Hearst, Nevo Zisin, Emily Lubitz, Nicola Redhouse, Lee Koffman and Magic Steven to join a storytelling slam in the spirit of the original Knitting Factory on New York’s Lower East Side. Panel discussions include ‘Art, Identity and Nationhood‘ with Zackary Drucker, Asis D’Orange and Israel Aloni, moderated by Podcaster and Musician Keren Leizerovitz (Astrology Roast), and ‘Songwriters Speak’, with Chris Cohen, Vivien Goldman and Noga Erez, moderated by Bram Presser (Yidcore).
Rounding out the diverse program is Gideon Obarzanek’s (recently announced as Co Artistic Director of the new Melbourne Festival) Circle Dance, based on Israeli folk dance; Israeli choreographer Israel Aloni’s solo dance work My Body, My Nation, which shakes things up and carries a full nudity warning; and Asis D’Orange, a household name in Tel Aviv’s underground drag scene for their subversive performances, who presents The Carrot. Playing with the borders of both genre and gender, Asis’ passions cover fashion, feminism and veganism, which converge in dark and glamorous ways.