Tel Aviv, Israel Indie Folk Collective Miqedem Releases Third Studio LP “Eshkona” (I Will Rest)
Band Mixes Ancient Hebrew Lyrics with Middle-Eastern and North African Music Styles
Tel Aviv, Israel indie folk collective Miqedem has released its stunning third studio LP ‘Eshkona’ (meaning “I will rest”), which is the band’s most collaborative and instrumentally diverse album to date and includes guest appearances from many of the band’s friends in the Israeli world-music scene.
Miqedem (the ancient Hebrew word for “of old” or alternately, “from the east”) is a band whose music is best described as Israeli indie folk, with heavy influences from Middle-Eastern and North African music styles, often utilizing microtonal scales, irregular time signatures, and regional instruments.
Hailing from Tel Aviv, Israel, Miqedem’s music reflects a recent resurgence of interest in regional music within the Israeli music scene, a trend found in artists such as Riff Cohen, Yemen Blues, A-Wa, and many others.
Miqedem’s most unique contribution is their exclusive reliance on ancient Hebrew Scripture in their lyrics, drawing most heavily on the poetry of the Psalms.
Miqedem first came to international attention in 2019 with the viral success of their version of Psalm 23, currently standing at 3.7 million views, with their entire YouTube catalog garnering over 17 million views.
Formed in 2015, the band has toured extensively across North America and Europe, and has released two full-length studio albums, with their third, “Eshkona” (I Will Rest) out this week.
The members of the band come from a mixture of Jewish and Christian backgrounds, but the band maintains the philosophy that people from all religious and non-religious backgrounds can appreciate the beauty of some of humanity’s most ancient, and most beloved poetic works.
Miqedem includes three primary songwriters and lead vocalists:
Shai Sol is the band’s female vocalist, and plays guitar and percussion live. Born in Ashdod, Israel, and raised by her Moroccan-background mother, Shai is a prolific songwriter and solo artist in her own right, having released one full-length solo album, and is due to release her second album this year. Shai’s soulful, yet authentically regional vocal style has become one of Miqedem’s most recognizable features.
Yaron Cherniak is one of the band’s two male vocalists, and is the band’s multi-instrumentalist, with expertise in multiple instruments from around the region, such as the Tar (Iran), Saz/Baglama (Turkey), Lyra (Crete), Oud (vrious Arabic-speaking countries) and more. Born in Kiryat Gat to parents from Moldova and Turkmenistan, Yaron holds a master’s degree in ethnomusicology from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and composes some of Miqedem’s most ethnic-leaning songs.
Jamie Hilsden is the second of the band’s two male vocalists, and serves as the band’s guitarist and primary music producer. Raised in Jerusalem by Canadian parents, Jamie got his start in music playing in punk bands, releasing 5 studio albums and touring extensively as the frontman for Israeli rock/punk band Man Alive, and serving as touring guitarist with Fat Wreck Chords band, Useless I.D. While Jamie’s guitar playing is heavily influenced by Saharan desert rock, his songwriting and production influences lie more in Beatles/Steely Dan/Radiohead territory, providing Miqedem with some of its more western-influenced textures.
The band also includes bassist Vadym Sokolyk, who immigrated to Israel with his family from Western Ukraine in 2015, joining the band soon after his arrival in the country. Vadym gained his bachelor’s degree in music from the Kyiv National University of Culture and Arts and got his professional start with Ukrainian folk-rock band Voanerges.
About the new album
Initial pre-production took place from January to March 2021, at the height of the pandemic and Israel’s tight movement restrictions. It was during this time that the three songwriters of the band moved into a friend’s attic in Tel Aviv’s Neve Tzedek neighborhood, where they set up a makeshift recording studio and began fleshing out ideas and recording demo tracks by themselves.
Due to the fact that not all of the band was living in Israel at the time, production was halted in March ’21, but in early ’22, when the band was able to re-unite in Israel on a permanent basis, production resumed. This time the band enlisted the help of producer/engineer Shahar Kaufman, whose studio, Onyx Studio, is located in the idyllic Upper Galilee region of Israel, in the small town of Rosh Pina.
In a statement from the band, Shai Sol wrote, We knew we wanted to work with Shahar. For one, I had just finished spending several weeks in Rosh Pina, and I had the pleasure of working with Shahar – and we totally hit it off. I knew that he’d understand exactly what Miqedem was trying to do, and his experience in recording ethnic instruments and producing world-music artists was just what we needed. Plus, his studio is in one of the most beautiful places in Israel. When you work there, you wake up every morning with a view of snowy Mt. Hermon. And the studio even has a stream running through its front yard. It was the kind of change we needed after spending almost three months in a Tel Aviv attic during lockdown!”
The album’s title (‘Eshkona’, meaning “I will rest”) takes its name from the fourth track, “Ever Kayona (Wings of a Dove)”, that says, “Oh that I had the wings of a dove, I would fly away and be at rest”, a sentiment reflected throughout the album, both lyrically and musically.
In a further statement, Jamie Hilsden added, “Our previous albums have a lot of pretty up-tempo songs, but when we listened back to the record we noticed that we wrote a much more restful album than in the past, and I think that’s not a coincidence. It was written during such an awful and stressful – and uncertain – period of time. So I’m not surprised that we were writing such calm music. We were probably trying to soothe ourselves! Same goes to the lyrics we were drawn to. There are a lot of images of rest on the album.”
The album’s artwork was drawn and designed by Tel Aviv illustrator, Noa Goffer, and references the many images related to plant life found on the record.
Regarding the artwork, Yaron Cherniak states, “We got to Noa Goffer through the recommendation of our mutual friend Sharona Cantor, who we enlisted as our art director. We had seen Noa’s work around before, but as soon as we all sat down to choose an artist, we all felt that Noa was right for this record. She has such a unique way of depicting nature, plant-life and the animal kingdom. We knew that if we gave her the record, and she heard all the imagery we ended up using on it, she’d know just what to do.”
The album was mixed by Dan Zeitune, and mastered by Aran Lavi.
4 Ever Kayona
5 Ki Leolam
6 Ma Tit’halel
7 Ashrei Ha’ish
11 Nava Tehila
12 Tov Lehodot
13 Im Eloheicha