Unique Akko Jam event introduces northern city to niche 80’s Russian-Language rock
Any fans of the hugely influential Soviet 80's post punk band Kino and its charismatic lead singer Viktor Tsoi who happened to wander the streets of the old city of Akko last month were in for quite a surprise.
The house band of the Akko Jam, comprised of members of the local Dror Israel educator's kibbutz and other residents of Akko, created a truly spectacular and unconventional musical event. You don’t often see Soviet rock/punk classics with Hebrew translations, especially not in a club packed with people (with dozens of people on the waiting list).
The Jam’s goal is to create and bring music and culture to this city on Israel’s periphery, from which young adults often flee to Israel’s center, with its more vibrant nightlife. The Jam also nurtures local artists and musicians, providing a greenhouse and stage for their creativity. Recently, the Jam’s team decided to embark on a project of a series of events appealing to different population groups in the diverse city, with the goal of bringing these various cultures together under one roof, all while having a great time.
"We wanted to create an event that would make the huge Russian-speaking population of Akko feel a connection to the Jam, and to invite the whole city to connect to their culture. These lyrics (Viktor Tsoi's) inspired a generation of young people in the USSR. That longing for change, for a more just society – it's fascinating to see how the Israeli crowd connects with these words," says Yam Urbach, a member of Dror's Kibbutz Eshbal and coordinator of the club’s music events.
Yam added, "The process of producing this evening was in itself fascinating. Learning to play songs from a different language and culture helped the native Israelis from the band understand the Russian-born members. And singing some of these songs in Hebrew was a radical experience for the mostly Russian-speaking crowd (and for Sasha and Vika from the band)."
A mixed city of Jews and Arabs, Akko is made of a diverse mosaic of ethnicities and religions. The majority of the Jewish population comes from the former USSR, many of whom are fresh arrivals who made Aliyah in the last 5 years from Russia and the Ukraine.
And the city has been through a particularly rough year. Last May, violent inter-community riots took the life of Avi Har-Even and badly injured three other citizens in attempted lynchings, and the historic building housing the Jam itself was also set afire, damaging equipment, but thankfully no people were hurt.
But as the flames faded and things got back to a tense routine with a façade of normality, it appears that most people still want to meet, create and live together. The Dror Israel Educators’ Kibbutz in Akko and its Jam project are taking on this challenge, and seeking common ground in places we don’t always expect.