In-D-Negev festival promotes and strengthens the best of Israeli independent art and music
By Sarah Carnvek
Over the desert dunes a 90-minute drive south of Tel Aviv, some 5,000 music fans gather annually to celebrate Israel’s independent art and alternative scene.
In-D-Negev — a play on the words "indie" and "in the Negev" — is a three-day festival that serves up desert scenery alongside great beats.
"It’s a platform for alternative music and alternative lifestyles in Israel. It’s camping in the desert, living off the land and hearing music nonstop without any frills or neon advertisements," says David Brinn, the managing editor and culture writer for The Jerusalem Post.
There are many musical events throughout the year all over Israel. But for the past six years In-D-Negev has brought something different to the lineup.
"The aim is to combine things that are a bit well known with those that are less known; those bands that are active now with those we feel have the chance to go on stage and uplift people," Assaf Kazado, one of the founders of the festival, told Ha’aretz. "From the point of view of style, we try to make it as varied as possible. Unfortunately, we’re forced to turn down a large part of those who apply because there simply isn’t enough room for everyone."
"In-D-Negev takes alternative music out of the back alleys and crowded underground venues of the city, to play before an audience of thousands, and marks the end of summer with the biggest and best party ever," writes Ayelet Dekel in the Midnight East culture e-zine.
Tel Aviv and Jerusalem are widely recognized as international culture centers for art, architecture and bustling nightlife. The mainstream entertainment is important, no doubt, but creativity is bubbling in the alternative field as well.
Six years ago, three young Israelis set up In-D-Negev because they wanted to hear their music in full volume. Not unlike Perry Farrell, the alternative rock pioneer with Jane’s Addiction and founder of the long-running festival Lollapalooza, these organizers decided their Israeli peers deserved an event dedicated to the cream of the indie and alternative world.
So they called out to friends to come set up a campsite in an open area called Mitzpeh Gvulot next to Kibbutz Gvulot, home to one of its co-founders. Mitzpeh Gvulot was established in 1943 as an experiment in desert agriculture. Now, In-D-Negev is making the musical desert bloom. Friends brought friends and it spiraled into one of the country’s best-loved events.
"From a small gathering of a few music enthusiasts to about 5,000 participants today (audience and musicians) In-D-Negev has been leading a real musical revolution in Israel, working to promote and strengthen the best of Israeli independent art and music," the organizers said in a statement.
Perfect world for three days
The atmosphere at In-D-Negev is one of its strongest calling cards. It’s a festival that caters to everyone – families, religious, secular, hippies, mainstream, couples and singles.
"In-D-Negev is not only about the music; we know that it’s the spices that make the musical stew so delicious," say the organizers.
It’s a creative oasis of people in a temporary perfect world where everyone comes to just be who they are. People laugh together, share food and enjoy music as one.
Festival-goers camp out in a makeshift tent city. The two main stages draw the crowds but music can be heard from the tent site as well.
The tent city grounds also include a children’s area, blogging area, Shabbat area and movie area presenting the best of independent filmmaking.
Even the eclectic music roster promotes harmony. This year’s event (Oct. 18-20, 2012) included the likes of indie folk singer Sun Tailor, blues-jazz-hip-hop group Lucille, Oy Division pumping out revolutionized klezmer, metal band Cain & Abel, jazz super-group Yemen Blues and polka band HaBiluim, among many others.