Culture, Israel

System Ali: An Israeli Band You Can Believe in — and Your Booty, Too

This is a guest post by Aryeh Bernstein. Aryeh comes from Chicago, lives in Jerusalem, and works for NY’s Mechon Hadar; in 2011, under the moniker The Branding Iron, he independently released his debut hip-hop album, “A Roomful of Ottomans” with DJ OFn TISh (aka Ori Salzberg). 

System Ali

Oh, word, you like hip-hop, punk, and funk?
Oh, word, you’re looking for fresh Jewish and Arab voices about Israeli/Palestinian life?
Oh, word, you believe that music can be a tool of resistance?
Oh, word, you like hip-hop collectives?  Live bands?  Crossing gender barriers?  Ethnic barriers?  Language barriers?
Oh, word, your sweet spot is when the music that makes you dance is also the music that makes you believe?
Word, then you need to check out System Ali.
System Ali breaks it down like this:
Jaffa-based Hip-hop/Punk/Funk band with 10 members:  women & men, Jews & Arabs.  They rap and sing in Hebrew, Arabic, Russian, & English.  They are bursting with humor, anger, irreverence, social commentary, political satire, smart lyrics, edginess, and the music is bangin’.  And probably the first hip-hop band ever with an accordion in the line-up.  Their remarkable diversity is not just in their ethnic identities, but also in the personalities of the crew.  Each member is a unique character, filling his or her own space on the canvass with different energy, like a movie cast.  Imagine the Wu-Tang Clan if they also played instruments, skewered exploitative Israeli-Palestinian power structures, and were co-ed.
I love this band aesthetically and I believe in them, to whatever extent I can believe that art matters in building cultures of solidarity, empathy, truth, and celebration, and tearing down systems of discrimination, cynicism, deception, and alienation. System Ali is it and it’s now.
A year ago, Ha’aretz music critic Ben Shalev penned this review, expressing his stunned enthusiasm at having discovered System Ali, praising their energy, character, and message.  He closed by expressing disappointment that they did not yet have an album and asserting that “they need to come out with one”.
Well, they’re almost at the finished line on that long-awaited debut album, which I have been eagerly awaiting for quite some time.  Music for the people needs help from the people to make it to the people.  System Ali’s music does not serve the interests pursued by pop record corporations.   The band puts its time into building community centers to mentor young, budding Arab and Jewish musicians, not into kissing up to rich record labels.  So they have opened this campaign to crowdsource the last NIS 30,000 (~$7,500) to finish their album.
Jewschoolers — please support System Ali as they take the Middle East back to school musically and culturally. The investment will return to you and then some.  Check out their music and their pledge here and buy in.
System Ali — bring the noise.

4 thoughts on “System Ali: An Israeli Band You Can Believe in — and Your Booty, Too

  1. What a great way of funding musicians, especially in this file-sharing world. By using a largely donation-based instead of a sales-based model a band can survive, maybe thrive, and it doesn’t even matter what they sound like.
    ‘System Ali’s music does not serve the interests pursued by pop record corporations’. That’s for sure.
    But how are you going to get around the BDS cultural boycott?

  2. I listened, and like the concept but musically I’m not impressed. Maybe they need better production… which perhaps underscores the point… What is bubbling up on the Israeli music scene below the radar?

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