By Patrick Aleph
I was thrilled when my friend Russell from the Atlanta Jewish Music Festival told me about an Israeli hip hop/reggae group he was helping called Axum (named after the Ethiopian city which folklore says holds the Ark of the Covenant).
The duo features two MCs, Tedros (of Ethiopian descent) and Judah, whose family is from Yemen. And their music is just as diverse. The dancehall goes techno filtered through a hip hop pop aesthetic is electric.
America has been good to Axum. A tour with Soulico (JDub Records), and a residency in Georgia sponsored by Emory University’s Hillel. Atlanta has given them the opportunity to collaborate with Slade da Monsta and Mr. Fish, hip hop artists Jarrod and Rusky, reggae/dub artists Dubconscious, and rockers Nick Edelstein and Darin Seldes. They’ve also spent several nights at the Apache Cafe, performing with Dubconscious and their local band, attending open mic nights and hanging out.
When I asked the group about their connection to Judaism and Israel, their reply was, “[We] live an Israeli experience, not a Jewish one in particular. Like many Israeli’s…religion is not a point of emphasis. [The] main tie to Judaism is the language, not the content.”
What you will hear is the bigger message of Axum: a peaceful, “One World” view through the eyes of the global hip hop community. The power of music to unite people, all people, under one banner.
Axum did have an opportunity to jump into America’s Jewish space. Emory Hillel hosted the band at their Passover seder. Congregation Bet Haverim, a Reconstructionist synagogue in Decatur, Georgia, asked the duo to perform at a Shabbat service. The guys were uncomfortable as they approached the stage to perform a few sacred songs with CBH’s lay cantor and choir, but enjoyed seeing the “new forms of worship” that congregations like this have.
There’s no rest for Axum. The group performs the evening they land and have shows in the following weeks in Tel Aviv. They are currently working on new material for their second album produced by the Soulico family.
Check out Axum at www.myspace.com/axumisrael