Interview with Israeli Noam Dayan, a musician who dedicates his life to Blues and keeps it alive in Israel

"I feel that the Blues was more of an art in the past days. I don’t know if because they lived what they was playing and singing about, or the way distorted guitar and fast playing impresses people these days."

Noam Dayan: The New Blues Land

Noam Dayan is a guitar player and a singer who dedicates his life to Blues music and has been performing on stages in Chicago and in Israel. These days, the band continue to perform in Israel as one of it's leading groups of authentic Blues. He has been playing professionally both electric and acoustic Blues, and keeps it’s tradition alive in Israel. At the age of 18, Noam was introduced to the Blues and started exploring this world, studying and learning from whatever records he could find around the country. During the next few years he played both electric and acoustic Blues with several bands before moving to Chicago in 1997.

There he had the chance to expand his musical feeling and after a while he played the Blues clubs in and out of the windy city. After coming back to his homeland, he established the Noam Dayan Blues Band, playing soulful blend of traditional Blues, Gospel, Soul and Jazz. The music draws it's influence from the likes of B.B. King, Ray Charles, T-Bone Walker & Jimmy McGriff among other artists who's tunes the band covers beside original tunes. The band is playing on stages across Israel and considered to be one of the leading groups of authentic Blues in the country, striving to “preach” it's spirit to Israeli audiences.

The music recreates the original sound of the old Blues recordings and especially the warmth and spirit that brought up by the musicians. On stage, the band delivers the power and intensity of the Blues alongside the soul and the warmth of it.

Debut album from Noam Dayan “A Whole New Land” showcases an intimate and acoustic side of his music. Original compositions alongside favorite covers reflect the deep influence of the Delta country and Chicago Blues traditions on Dayan's music. Alongside performing, Noam also teaches Blues guitar and does educational projects concerning the Blues.

Interview by Michael Limnios

How do you describe Noam Dayan sound and progress, what characterize your music philosophy?

Well, I think that everyone got his own ears and hear slightly different than others, but generally my music is rooted in the Delta and Chicago sounds, as well as the big city type of Blues. Progress is something you can see when you look back to the past and so I feel that I’ve changed and grew over the years and wish to continue growing. As far as music philosophy, well, to me music is here to express who we are. Sometimes what we won’t be able to let out differently, that’s were the music take place.

What do you learn about yourself from the blues and what does the blues mean to you?

The Blues to me is pure sounds that do something directly to my heart. That’s how it started. Along the years it began to have more meanings for me, somehow like a way of seeing things. I mean like to see your fears, dreams, disappointments or wishes and everything else, and say: hey, that’s alright!

Which is the most interesting period in your life? Which was the best and worst moment of your career?

My time in Chicago was very interesting and meaningful for me. Also this year, after my first record came out. That was some of my best moments as well. Worst moment, easy to say – at times when I thought I’ll never find people to play Blues with, I felt alone and was bit of desperate. Also a period of time in Chicago when all started to get on the right track for me, and suddenly I didn’t knew what I wanted to do anymore.

Why did you think that the Blues music continues to generate such a devoted following in Israel?

That’s because Israel has been exposed to more Blues in the recent years – Radio programs, Blues musicians from abroad, upcoming Blues society, it generate more people expressing them self’s through Blues music. Ray Charles once said that both Jewish and afro-Americans share the same past and historical feeling. So it might be deeper than just an exposure…

                                                                                                           Photo by Hanan Grinberg

Do you remember anything funny stories from your trip in US and your experience in local clubs and jams?

Yes, plenty of funny moments.. One evening I was sittin’ in with the great Chico Banks rip at the Kingston mines club. It was about 3:00 am, and we were Jamming together messing with some A. King licks. The big climax came and I was ready to squeeze the strings after Chico asking the band for a brake, and then I broke a string right on the moment.. we were laughing so hard, it was hard to continue playing.. but then, he went on with the solo, he had a big sound and was ready to tear down the place, asking the band for a brake, and broke the same string at the same moment as I.. At that point all the people in the house were on the floor…  Sure was a funny moment.

Which memory from James Wheeler, Barrelhouse Chuck, and KM Williams makes you smile?

One night James Wheeler played Georgia on my mind and that was so sweet.. You know, he usually played straight Blues, so remembering that brings a smile to my face.

Barrelhouse Chuck invited me over to his place one day and it was beautiful to see his record collection and so many great photos of Blues people from Chicago. It is always funny to remember KM Williams, sitting in the artist room with me and Dani Dorchin, with whom I opened the show, and he looks at dani’s Shoes and goes: “that ain’t a shoe to play the Blues... If you wanna play them Blues you have to wear a shiny leather shoes!”

What’s the best jam you ever played in? What are some of the most memorable gigs you've had?

Starting my way in the windy city, I went to every Jam I could, some was good and some was less, but I always enjoyed the Thursday night’s Jam at Rosa’s lounge.

One of the most memorable gigs I had was the first time I sang to an audience. That was in Katmandu, Nepal. And it was Johnson’s ‘Kind Hearted Woman’.

Other than that I’ll never forget playing and sharing the stage with many great musicians like, Billy Branch, Lurrie Bell, Matthew Skoller, Carlos Johnson, James Wheeler, Barrelhouse Chuck and many more. In a few days I will be opening the show for John Lee Hooker Jr. here in Israel and I’m looking forward for this.

About a year ago I played in a hospital, for sick people, in their own rooms. That will always be memorable for me.

Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you? What is the best advice ever given you?

Meeting my friend, the great Guy King. It was like a good blessing to get to know him as a person and as a musician. He taught me a lot, and helped me in Chicago. I think it’s a shame that not too many people heard of him or his Music.

Well, as for the advice, he told me not to drink from an open bottle. You know, we all heard that before, but I found out the hard way what a good advice it could be.

Are there any memories from recording and show time which you’d like to share with us?

Recording my debut album ‘A Whole New Land’ last year was an interesting and exciting experience for me. I went in a small room in Haifa University, which was the studio of the music department. Very minimalist, couple of instruments, some mic’s, a recording tool and I had one guy with me; he took care of the recording. Didn’t plan nothing, just sat there for hours and play tunes I always liked and performed.

This room has almost spectral view of the Haifa gulf because the university is located high on a mountain. I remember thinkin’ to my self, well.. Indeed this is one of the highest places me and my guitar went to – recording an album..

What are the differences and similarities between: an American and no American blues musician?

The American Blues musician has an American passport. Well, I feel like we are all different people, playing differently, thinkin’ differently, and seeing the Blues differently. So these days the borders are very blurry. A teenager guitar player in Israel or Greece can watch Lightnin’ Hopkins video any moment he like, and not only that, but he sure can find videos on how to play Lightnin’ Hopkins style. This fact made the musical world very small.

At the same time, music has a spirit. That spirit has to do with the people who created it and delivered it naturally and intuitively. So I think that musically speaking, American Blues musician, especially old, will naturally sound more authentic to some people. Same like Kazantzidis with Greek music.

Make an account of the case of Israeli blues scene and what characterize the local sound?

The Israeli Blues scene got bigger in the last couple of years. More people play, more bands, more national artist come here to perform, and more people are devoted to bring em’, and as I mentioned before, the Israel Blues society was born. All those things are wonderful.  The local sound is more on the Rock-Blues side. Few musicians tend to go after the old country Blues sound. It’s nice to see people playing their kind of Blues, Many kinds.

Which is the most interesting period in local blues scene and why? Who is the “godfather” of Israeli Blues?

As I told you, now days the local Blues scene is at its peak.  Maybe it’s interesting to look back and see some other times since the seventies, and see the foundations for the evolving Blues scene. Some of the musicians who laid these foundations are Avner Strauss, Ronnie Peterson, Danny Litany, Ted Cooper, Yaron Ben-Ami and Eli Marcus. But I’m sure you can find better people to answer this question. 

What are your hopes and fears for the future of Blues?

I do not have hopes and fears. I know that the Blues will continue forever some way or another, and that the music of the old Blues folks is timeless.

You are also known as solo artist, electric band and duo. From the musical point of view what are the differences?

Those are different colors that come out of the Blues, reflecting different traditions, places and times of the music. Country Blues is different then Electric Blues, one can just listen to Fred McDowell or Skip James and right afterwards B.B. or Otis Rush in order to see the differences. But from a musical point of view, to me it’s simply the same feeling coming out differently- by myself with a slide, or bending a string with the band behind me.

What are the lines that connect the legacy of Leadbelly with Muddy and continue to Buddy Guy and beyond?

Well, I guess this line is the language of the Blues. Each one of them had his own dialect, but they all came from the same place, both musically and geographically, and going back even more, this place is where you and me came from as well. Only that their contribution to the world was beautiful music that effected so many people.

I believe this line was always here, and will always be here, great thing about it, it splits to many other lines such as you mentioned, but I guess that one day someone will ask the same question only Buddy Guy will be the first to mention...

What do you miss the most nowadays from the Blues of past?

I feel that the Blues was more of an art in the past days. I don’t know if because they lived what they was playing and singing about, or the way distorted guitar and fast playing impresses people these days.  But Culture change and the music changes with it. It’s great they invented the records though...

Which incident of your life you‘d like to be captured and illustrated in a painting?

I admit I never thought about it.. But funny enough, one of my guitar students who is a painter, told me once that maybe he’ll make a portrait of me sitting with the guitar upside down on my knees... As one of my momentary teaching episodes.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go for a whole day..?

Let’s see.. If I would have the chance, I would like to go back to Europe and see Rachmaninoff composing one of his pieces, then flying to the states to catch Erroll Garner play, and then relaxing from the day in Mississippi, have a drink of whiskey with Charlie Patton.

Noam Dayan - official website

                                                                                                                    Photo by Yuval Erel

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