Moshav comes from a moshav, but not just any moshav. Moshav Mevo Modi’im, where the group’s principal members Duvid Swirsky and Yehuda Solomon grew up, was an agricultural cooperative settled by “American hippies,” Swirsky says.
Attracted to the music of Shlomo Carlebach, Swirsky says, “They had a dream to move to Israel and start their own community. It was a musical place. Shlomo had a house there. There was tons of music around.”
With that kind of background, he adds, it was only natural that a group that grew up there would have a talent for making Jewish music and turning it into a career.
“Our parents were hippies, and there were very few electrical appliances in our house,” Swirsky says. “No phones. We didn’t even have a refrigerator.” But one electrical device in the house was a record player that opened his generation up to worlds beyond the moshav.
“We grew up with their records – folk, rock and jazz and classical records. And there was the local music, Israel music, and across from the moshav, there was an Arab village, and we could hear the muezzin give the call to prayer.”
Mix those elements together and then add the music of their own generation – “We all got into grunge,” he says, expressing Moshav’s love for the explosive early 1990s sound of Seattle groups such as Nirvana and Pearl Jam – and you get an idea of the elements that Moshav brings to the table and combines with its members’ own musical creativity.
The original members of the group, which formed in 1995, all grew up together in the moshav, but the lineup has changed through the years. When Moshav started getting off-the-moshav gigs in Jerusalem, visiting North American students would check them out, Swirsky says. Their word-of-mouth brought invitations to play at the visitors’ college campuses. Eventually, this led to a slot on the Edgar Bronfman-financed Wake Up Tour. “The next thing we knew we were in a van driving across Canada and America with a crew of college students,” Swirsky recalls.
The group, which moved to Los Angeles in 2000, has called the States its base since then. Swirsky (vocals and guitar) and Solomon (vocals and percussion), the only original members left, are augmented by fellow Israeli Tamir Bar Zeli (drums) and Americans Geoffrey Parry (guitar) and Matt Cheadle (bass).
When this phone interview with Swirsky takes place, he is excited that the band is working on a music video shoot in Los Angeles with Matisyahu. That’s a promo video for “World on Fire,” the tune that leads off the band’s just-released album, “New Sun Rising.” It’s a high-energy collection of English-language rock underpinned by an impressive array of world-music grooves. And in true sons-of-the-hippie-pioneers fashion, the lyrics have a utopian shine. “The whole world’s on fire, flames are getting higher,” the band sings on the tune that features Matisyahu. “We’ll carry each other. Light a flame and start all over.”
Moshav is coming to Phoenix on Nov. 17 for Desert Gathering Music Fest (see details box). When Todd Herzog, the organizer of the fest, approached the band with the idea of holding a high-profile outdoor Jewish rock festival in the Valley, Swirsky says, “It sounded right up our alley, something cutting-edge, Jewish and cool.”
For more on Moshav, visit moshavband.com. Next issue: Jewish News will present an article on Saul Kaye and Elana Jagoda, who are also on the Desert Gathering bill.
What: “Desert Gathering Jewish Music Fest”
When: 4-9 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 17
Where: Steele Indian School Park, 300 E. Indian School Road, Phoenix
Cost: Free general admission; $94.14 VIP seats, available at desertgatheringaz.com