This week, the Orange City Arts Council welcomes Israeli ensemble Baladino. The band’s last stop on its five-week tour is Orange City, and the weeklong stay will culminate with a concert at 7:30 p.m. on Friday at Northwestern College’s Christ Chapel.
The ensemble is based out of Tel Aviv and has only been performing together for two years. The band was the brainchild of Yonnie Dror and Thomas Moked — two of Israel’s premier musicians and multi-instrumentalists. Moked can play an array of string instruments, and Dror plays more than 20 woodwind instruments. The duo sought to establish a framework on which it could build a unique blend of musical styles.
The pieces all came together in the form of the other three band members, who boast impressive resumes, as well. Singer Yael Badash incorporates the influence of her Ladino heritage. Ladino Jews were expelled from Spain and moved south throughout the rest of the Mediterranean region. They brought their language and culture with them. Badash’s Ladino heritage combined with smooth vocals adds a powerful element to Baladino’s sound. Additionally, bassist Daniel Sapir and renowned percussionist Yshai Afterman create the energetic and driving pulse that gives life to Baladino’s music.
In a press release from the band’s website, Moked said the music was a portal through which they could connect all the different cultures surrounding them. The band members all share diverse heritages, which influences the music they play.
“This is where we were born; the history is part of us. I was born in Jerusalem. Living just a 15 minute walk from the Old City, I got (to) experience all of it,” Dror said.
Baladino incorporates its history and biography by playing many traditional melodies with inspiration drawn from the diverse culture of the Jewish people. Some members play instruments that date back several hundred years while at the same time incorporating electronic elements; this gives the music traditional influences and character while also providing a progressive and cutting-edge energy. The combination makes for a feast for the senses. The nature of Israel itself contributes to the eclectic style that Baladino embraces.
“On the one hand you are used to hearing those old instruments, but at the same time Israel is also a modern country,” Badash said. “So you get a lot of rock and pop influence.”
The music and lyrics of Baladino are poetic. As the band plays, the music works its way through centuries of history and culture and navigates through generations and styles to reach a destination that is somewhere between old and new — somewhere few have been before. The band’s music possesses a vitality that recharges tried and true traditional classics — turning them into something entirely different.
Baladino is the second international group to complete a week-long stop in Orange City as part of a two-year partnership with the Arts Midwest organization. Orange City was the only community selected in Iowa and was one of nine other cities across the country selected to be a part of the two-year tour of international bands.
Arts Midwest Senior Program Director Ken Carlson said the idea is to bring culture and music from other places in the world to communities throughout the Midwest.
“We target smaller and midsize communities because people in those communities often have less of an opportunity to experience music and culture from other countries,” Carlson said.
Small rural communities throughout the Midwest are often overlooked as destinations for arts and culture — especially communities without a college or university.
“We think this work is valuable to help people better understand and appreciate cultures and people from other countries,” Carlson said.
Undoubtedly, it is a rare privilege for Orange City to have the opportunity to host not only Baladino but also two more international bands in the future. Baladino’s performance is not something to be missed. Tickets to the concert can be purchased at the door Friday evening. Cost is $10 for general admission, $7 for students and $4 for NW students.