Israeli pop sensations, L.A. Jewish dance group to perform at SBC Park

Teapacks — the band some say is responsible for creating a new genre of Israeli pop music and others call the “best Israeli band, by far” — will headline the “Israel in the Ballpark” festival.

“The brainchild behind the band is the singer/songwriter Kobi Oz who, honestly, deserves to be considered one of the best songwriters in the world no matter what language he is writing in,” raves Massachusetts-based music critic and writer Aaron Schatz.

And according to Daniel Ben-Tal of The Jerusalem Post, Teapacks, which has been around for about 15 years already, is responsible for creating a new genre of Israeli pop music. “What started as a parody on rock spiced with social protest and a mishmash of Moroccan and dance melodies developed into one of the most interesting sounds of the ’90s,” Ben-Tal wrote in 2003.

Oz, the group’s frontman and songwriter, is of Tunisian descent, and is from Sderot, a development town in the Negev.

In a 1999 interview with Ha’aretz, Oz said the mentality of those who live in a development town is having “the sense that the world is against you, that you can’t get out of here, that people aren’t proud of themselves.”

“We talk from the street, the periphery,” Oz told The Jerusalem Post in 2003. “We represent the voice of the common people. We speak their language, and put into words their worries and fears — meaning the social gap and security situation.”

Oz compares Teapacks’ sound to his contemporaries, the Israeli group Sheva, which has, thus far, been more successful in the European and American markets.

“The combination of Middle Eastern and Western influences is producing what will be the world music of tomorrow,” he said. “Hebrew is such a rich, beautiful language. I believe that if the music is good enough, the whole world will eventually like it.”

Caron Tabb, director of “Israel in the Ballpark,” said it was an easy choice.

“Teapacks has been on our radar for awhile now,” she said. “Their blend of music is both Ashkenazi and Sephardi, and their music is young, uplifting and fun. Everyone can dance to it.”

In addition, she said, “it’s very symbolic because of who they are.” Referring to the fact that they are from development towns, she said, “They’re very like Israel in a way. Every year we look for something that has the right kind of music and is meaningful.”

Also appearing at the festival will be the Keshet Chaim Dance Company. Founded in Los Angeles in 1983, the name means “Rainbow of Life” in Hebrew. The troupe’s American and Israeli dancers’ repertoire includes a diversity of styles and ethnicities. Like Israeli culture itself, the choreography is inspired by everything from Moroccan to Yemenite to Chassidic music and dances.

According to the group’s Web site, Keshet Chaim has sought to “express the global spirit of Judaism and Israeli culture throughout the world, and to combat prejudice and anti-Semitism through entertainment and education.”

According to a 2002 article in the Jewish Bulletin, Keshet Chaim often commissions new works from American and Israeli choreographers and composers.

Artistic Director Eytan Avisar and his company bring together generations of Jewish thought and emotion through a mix of music, movement and costume.

“Keshet Chaim is more than a troupe of performing dancers,” Genie Benson, a dancer in the troupe and its executive director, told the Bulletin in 2002. “We’re a cultural institution. We’ve worked with the Jewish Federation, the Israeli consulate, the Skirball Cultural Center and the University of Judaism. We provide many services for the community.”

There is usually also an interactive component to a Keshet Chaim performance. As Benson said, “We once did a hora at a church and had 2,000 people in the aisles.”

A church with people dancing in the aisles could also refer to Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco, whose Ensemble will also be performing.

The Glide Ensemble will do what it does best, bringing its celebratory spirit in the form of songs about hope, peace and a shared love of Zion, combining elements of jazz, blues, spirituals and gospel.

Clapping, swaying, and blasting out the spirit of empowerment, the 140-member multi-ethnic choir embodies Glide’s message of diversity, acceptance and unconditional love.

Israel in the Ballpark