If you can play the guitar, sing a little, or play some other instrument, you might just be a street musician. But it is not just street music, not mere busking its the music of life. It’s ‘Sidewalk Bunch’. Three years ago in Tel Aviv which is the second most populous city in Israel I saw these local lads. They had come together making beautiful music with a bunch of instruments rarely seen but way too refined than their traditional counterparts. It began with a vague idea of Yoav Elkayam to initiate a music project that would be a one-off that will perform mostly on the streets. He had a pile of thoughts about the music he wanted to play and also about whom to play it with.
No sooner than this happened, he met Nimrod in a public garden in the off port city and began scratching some rough , some soothing s rhythms on paper. It was the magic of these rough tunes that turned into compositions that people started to gather around them looking forward to the music, many of them first timers. They started with first names, and then embarked on this journey with musical notes as companions.
All of the Sidewalkers have had different musical inclinations and they have played at different musical venues and fests. The motive being a good time for people, in return for their time and money.
Photo: Nitzan Oren
“Playing out on the street is fascinating , both the performers and the crowd enjoys it. People are usually going somewhere; they don’t ask nor pay for this, and most of them don’t expect to encounter music on their way. Maybe I am trying to make it sound more romantic than it actually is , but it’s a great pleasure playing music and creating this whole scene. Where the people are in full control. They are the ones who decide – everything , from the time they will “spend” , to how far they stand from us and the money they can give or not “, said Yoav Elkayam.
Photo: Dor Pintel
Needless to say, the music of the sidewalkers is footloose as defines and coxes one’s steps to dance. Its not the typical dance music of the 1900s, and it seems they don’t really want it to do it as well.
The instruments they play fits well with the environment , in terms ofacoustics and layers for the music. It consists of Ilan (Banjo guitar), Udi (Sousaphone) and Joav (washboard) who create the rhythm section , by stomping hard on the “I must clap to that 2 & 4 beats” while Gal (soprano) and Nimrod (trombone) play the themes and go on to the beautiful and energetic solos.
The aura that surrounds the corners and benches where Sidewalk Bunch gathers, never fails to create an environment of successful experimentation, where one is free to try new things .Maybe shout out a solo, sing along the song, without clinging to the original tune, for starters. One can do what ever one wants. Drink a beer, talk to a girl. It is a treat and indeed a real gift – and the best part is nobody’s quite sure who’s giving what..
The sidewalkers greet and congratulate themselves for playing together for the past three years. The right dynamics within the group helped. The music is free, full of verve and signature zeal. They play exclusively on the streets, only at the times and days that they feel like.
“I think we all come alive with full energy and expectations for a session. We love playing together, listening to each other, and we get to do that only as the “Sidewalk Bunch”. I think the stress free environment we managed to create as a group comes out in our sound and on our faces when we play”, added Yoav.
The Sidewalk Bunch project came to their life to fill up an “unused” space. On both the fronts – time and also the innate sense of being a musician. Moreover, this was also one step closer in pioneering this unexplored field of music , in the streets of Israel.
If in your life, you get to move across the bright and beautiful Israeli streets of Tel Aviv, and you hear some sounds from a bench or a roadside , don’t doubt your instinct, and enjoy the pleasure of listening to ‘Pure Musical Energy’ of the ‘Sidewalk Bunch’.
Written by: Sahil Sharma
Photo credits: In respective photo captions