Artist Spotlight: KADAWA

By Meitar Almog

In a world where daily life revolves around a screen and a finger, KADAWA gives their audience an “offline” experience worth lifting their heads for. Born in Israel and based in New York City, the collective-trio of guitarist Tal Yahalom, double bassist Almog Sharvit, and drummer Ben Silashi performs original music by all three members, alongside their own interpretations of pieces by David Bowie, Bjork and, Ornette Coleman, among others. Drawing inspiration from jazz, rock, cinema, and literature in order to create song-like instrumental compositions driven by mood, sound, and improvisation, KADAWA’s music inhabits many different dimensions of a wide musical spectrum.
The band released its debut album on October 13th.

What or who inspired you to want to be an artist? 

Almog: Since childhood, I have been fascinated by the ability to create something from scratch, be it a painting, song, animation, or sculpture. Being exposed to and experimenting with creative expressions at an early age, gave me freedom and allowed me to create my own small universe, which was helpful since I grew up in a tiny village. The shapes and forms of my “creations” changed over the years, and when I started playing the bass, it drew me into the music world – that’s was when the Jazz fever struck. Jazz, more so than any other musical genre, embodies the way I want to live my life, since in order to play it, one has to work hard, face challenges, understand its history, possess a strong will, and be completely honest, if they want to get better. But when it comes to the actual music making, you are supposed to forget everything and be present in the moment. It is those ideas that I want to integrate into my life. The challenge was and still is to study your craft on a deeper level in hopes of one day to be able to share something valuable with the world.

By Noel Woodford

Tal: Becoming an artist wasn’t a conscious decision for me, but rather something that just happened and developed on its own. I was naturally drawn to music and specifically to jazz because it’s a world that never ends, and contains so many possibilities for personal and collective expression. There is always more to learn, and within that process you figure out a lot about yourself. You start making decisions, you realize what it is that you really want to do/say, and what’s the best way to share it with other people, whether they’re your colleagues or your audience.

Improvisation has always been a huge part of it, and the concept of creating something spontaneous with other people is an incredible way to communicate. It combines so many elements of the human experience – listening, reacting, presenting your own ideas while leaving space for others, facing the unexpected, stretching your limitations, accepting mistakes, and making the best out of them. It’s not easy to constantly face these things, but the result is definitely worth it, and hopefully has the ability to affect and touch people.

Ben: I think that for me, there wasn’t a specific, glorious ‘I’m going to be an artist!” kind of moment. I started playing the drums as a kid, and the more I played, the more I was drawn into it. My father is a musician, too, and as a kid I would come along with him to his gigs and meet all the other musicians. Once, a drummer my father played with gave me a pair of sticks, and my father always says that was the moment. But to me it seemed natural to choose music, since I was surrounded by it since I can remember. Nowadays I am mostly inspired by how powerful music is as a language or a tool for communication. Even if a person doesn’t understand the language, music still speaks to the listener and communicates with them, whether they know it or not. We don’t have to speak the same language to communicate through music, and that is truly an inspiration to keep on playing.

What was your creative journey that has brought you to where you are in your career today?

We all realized at a rather early phase that we want to be part of a collective, and develop our musical ideas with a group of people who will be interested and committed to working together long term – a thing that is somewhat missing in today’s jazz scene. We have a very open musical and personal dialogue, and the process we have developed helped each of us strengthen our own individual voice both within the band and out of it.

Each of us has different influences, concepts, and aesthetics, and we all bring in original compositions, but we work hard to make it all blend together in a balanced way which enables each individual to do his own thing. 
We talk about every aspect of the music, the performance, and our presentation, and make it a priority to find the best and most appealing and creative ways to present it to our audience.

What do you need as an artist today?

Every artist today could use more institutions, foundations, venues, presenters, etc., who will support art for the sake of art and what it brings to the table, and not only for the sake of financial gain. Artists are so busy trying to support their own work, and often have to act as their own managers, booking agents and promoters, which barely leaves any time or energy to create, explore, and focus on the work itself.

It could also be helpful if people tried to step outside their comfort zone more often, and for larger periods of time.  Being exposed to new things is the only way to broaden our perspective, yet still some audiences only enjoy listening to music they already know, or that sounds like something familiar and easy to categorize. Checking out different things only plays to our advantage – we can learn something from it whether we like it or not, so better just give it a shot.

By Gal Shaya

What creative project are you working on now?

We’re working on composing, rehearsing, and arranging new material for upcoming shows, tours, and eventually a second album. Our repertoire consists mostly of original compositions, but recently we’ve been adding more and more pieces by artists from various genres, such as David Bowie, Ornette Coleman, and Bjork. It’s a huge challenge, and a very interesting process to find ways of adapting their work to our trio’s format, aesthetic, and approach. Finding the right balance between clearly presenting the elements of the original song, or breaking them apart to give more room for interpretation and interplay has definitely taught us a lot.

Where do you see yourself and your career in 10 years? 

We want to continue to grow musically and artistically, both as a group and as individuals; push the band to new musical directions, and create more albums and interesting projects. It’s also really important to us to build a diverse, creative, and supportive community of artists with whom we can collaborate, which is something that’s already starting to take shape here in NYC.

It would be great to keep performing around the world, experiencing different cultures, meeting interesting people, learning new things, and sharing our music and vision with new audiences. We hope to inspire the younger generation, and to have a meaningful and positive impact on their artistic development, similar to the way the older generation shaped and influenced our work.

What does it mean to you to be an Israeli artist?

Here in NYC it means being part of a lineage of Israeli jazz musicians who’ve built a strong, creative presence in the local and international scenes. It feels great to belong to such a large community of high-level musicians and artists who are brave and serious about their craft. Israel has a reputation for producing generations of incredible musicians, and people give you a lot of credit just for being Israeli.

By Gal Shaya

What does it mean to you to have an organization like the America-Israel Cultural Foundation supporting Israeli culture in the past 78 years?

We’re very fortunate to have the support of such an active foundation which truly understands and appreciates the importance of art and culture. AICF has been a huge help throughout various phases of our careers, and it’s amazing to see that the organization keeps on developing and expanding its reach – providing performance opportunities, creating a community of artists around it, and building an online platform to advertise and present our work. It means the world to us.