Two young Israeli superstars have released a music video that includes five different languages, a chicken dance and a range of outfits, from cowboys to Arabs to mariachi dancers. Unsurprisingly, many are confused — and some are angry about it.
Eden Ben Zaken and Omer Adam, two of Israel’s most popular pop stars, released a peppy duet this week titled “Kuku Riku” that quickly went viral. “Kuku Riku” is the Hebrew version of the sound that a rooster makes — “cockadoodle doo” in English.
Despite the fact that the lyrics are not that complicated — mostly trite phrases about love and dancing — there’s a lot going on in the video.
The stars sing in English, Spanish, Italian, Arabic and Hebrew and wear outfits from some of those various cultures. Ben Zaken also gives a nod to Israel’s 2018 Eurovision winner Netta Barzilai, whose chicken clucking rendition of her song “Toy” is popular both in Israel and around the world.
“Yalla come on boy, I’m not a toy, so catch me yalla bye,” Zaken sings. (Yalla is Arabic for “let’s go” and has become part of Israeli vernacular.)
There are also several dancers in huge rooster costumes, for no apparent reason.
But the outfits didn’t leave a positive impression. In an op-ed in Haaretz, Arab-Israeli LGBT activist Khader Abu Seif accused the artists of cultural approbation for dressing up as Arabs. He compares it to blackface, and noted that it just serves to highlight the inequality of Arabs in Israel.
“When Adam and Ben Zaken, who have no real interest in Arab culture and music, dress up like Arabs, it’s a deep cultural problem. They claimed that as Eastern (Mizrachi) singers, it is also their culture and they are allowed to dress as they want.… Before you are Arabs, you are Jews in Israel. Until Jews in Israel learn to accept the Arabs, there’s no point in them being dressed as Arabs,” he wrote.
Ben Zaken is half Moroccan.
They are not the first Israeli pop singers to dress up like Arabs. Superstar Noa Kirel, who earlier this month announced that she had inked a multi-million dollar deal with Atlantic Records, just last year appeared in multiple forms of Arabic garb in her music video for “Pouch.”
Ben Zaken, 26, came in second place in the first season of Israel’s version of “X Factor” in 2014. She has released three albums, two of which have gone platinum in Israel.
Omer Adam, also 26, participated on the seventh season of Israel’s “Kochav Nolad,” or “A Star Is Born” (similar to “American Idol”), in 2009, but was disqualified because he was 15 at the time of registration, when the minimum age is 16. He has released six albums and is known for his ballads.