Raw edge to new arts festival

Jazz pianist Tal Cohen will perform at the inaugural FOJAM in Melbourne in September.

The line-up of local and international artists performing at the inaugural Festival of Jewish Arts and Music (FOJAM) has been announced, writes Danny Gocs.


MORE than 140 local and international artists will feature in the cutting-edge inaugural Festival of Jewish Arts and Music (FOJAM) to be held at the Melbourne Recital Centre on September 8.

The program, by artistic director Lior Albeck-Ripka and festival producer Jesse Lubitz, is predominantly music-based, but will cover dance, theatre, film and installations.

“We are bringing together critically acclaimed and emerging artists working across music, dance, drag, comedy, theatre and moving image,” said Albeck-Ripka.

FOJAM is replacing Shir Madness Melbourne, which was run by singer-songwriter Deborah Conway and partner Willy Zygier. The duo are continuing their involvement in the festival by curating and performing in the popular Song of Songs program featuring well-known Australian singers paying tribute to Jewish songwriters and composers.

This year’s Song of Songs lineup includes Paul Kelly, Kate Ceberano, Clare Bowditch, Harry James Angus, Lisa Mitchell, iOTA and Alma Zygier.

FOJAM’s headline acts include Israeli beatmaker and producer Noga Erez, American singer-songwriter Chris Cohen, Melbourne dancer-choreographer Gideon Obarzanek, local singer Galit Klas with award-winning composer Josh Abrahams, the 22-piece Yiddish big band YID! and the return of punk band Yidcore led by Bram Presser.

Also performing in the 12-hour festival are veteran film and TV composer George Dreyfus, Russian-Israeli avant-garde artist Mary Ocher, and popular group Approachable Members of Your Local Community.

The festival is paying homage to Jewish musician Lou Reed, famous for his 1972 hit song Walk on the Wild Side, and one of the events, Transformer, will see indie-pop artist Gabriella Cohen and Kate Dillon serve as musical directors as a variety of artists perform Reed’s iconic album.

The Festival Club will feature Yuval Ashkar, Matt Stonehouse, and celebrated New York-based jazz pianist Tal Cohen, along with improvisational five-piece Claps, led by saxophonist Greg Sher and pianist Joel Trigg.

FOJAM includes a series of talks featuring British journalist and performer Vivien Goldman (aka the Punk Professor), Elise Hearst, Nevo Zisin, Nathan Besser, Lee Koffman and Magic Steven.

Panel discussions include “Art, Identity and Nationhood” with Zackary Drucker, Asis D’Orange and Israel Aloni, moderated by podcaster and musician Keren Leizerovitz, and “Songwriters Speak” with Chris Cohen, Noga Erez and Vivien Goldman, moderated by Bram Presser.

The Festival of Jewish Arts and Music (FOJAM) is at the Melbourne Recital Centre on September 8 from 11am to 11pm. Bookings: fojam.com