Winnipeg Jewish Review  
Site Search:
Home  |  Archives  |  Contact Us
Features Local Israel Next Generation Arts/Op-Eds Editorial/Letters Links Obituary/In Memoriam

Keith Levit

Keith Levit

Keith Levit

Keith Levit


By Rhonda Spivak, June 23, 2010

The Israeli group, HaGroovatron brought its festive, energetic style to Winnipeg at this year’s JNF Gala honouring Larry and Tova Vickar on June 1, 2010.  Lead singer Dror Ahava Romem turned the Hebrew words Lilah Tov (good night) into “Larry and Tova”—wishing the audience a “Larry Tova,” and a “Lilah Tov.”

At another point in the concert, Romem began ad-libbing words to a song to again incorporate the honourees into the lyrics, singing, “Larry came to Manitoba from Saskatchewan. Larry had money but he didn’t have Tova.”

As was evident from the concert, HaGroovatron has put a new twist on the Israeli songbook. It has been re-energizing traditional Israeli music by creating its own rock, funk, reggae, country or jazz versions. Its approach seemed successful as it had the large enthusiastic audience at the JNF Negev Gala clapping and participating to its unique groove.

At the end of the concert, Romem had the multi-ethnic audience singing together “All we are saying is give peace a chance,” ending the successful evening on a hopeful note, emphasizing a spirit of   tolerance, co-operation and brotherhood. This was in keeping with the theme of the project for which money was being raised at the Negev Gala, the restoration of the Alexander River, which will benefit both Israelis and Palestinians living on either side of it.

According to its website, HaGroovatron was created in 1996 by musician Ron Klein on Kibbutz Mizra in the Yizrael (Jezreel) Valley. It started as a teenager band in a school conservatory, where musicians came and went. In 1998, when most of the members went into the army, the school itself was finished, but HaGroovatron continued independently, with an ever-changing mix of soldiers, former soldiers and high schoolers as members.

In 2002, when Romem was added to the band, he originated the “idea of taking Shirei Eretz Yisrael [old Israeli classics] and giving them a new twist,” he told the Winnipeg Jewish Review after the concert. 
This was evident at the JNF Gala when the group performed Naomi Shemer’s “Lu Yehi.” As Romem said, “Naomi Shemer wrote this hit as her version of the Beatle’s Let it be.  We did our version of Lu Yehi by putting it to a reggae jazz style.”

Romem, who is from Yochneum in the Galil added, ‘“I am an eclectic post modern Israeli. Led Zeppelin and Naomi Shemer and folk music were all on the same shelves in my home…Jazz is an influence for our keyboard player.  But for me, jazz is a concept…”

HaGroovatron’s website relates how the group began by arranging “Ovdim Aleinu Avoda Ivrit,” a song by the classic Israeli comedy troupe HaGashash HaHiver (HaGashgashim), and “Halleluya.” They then searched for other repertoire from the old shirei Israel songs.  They wanted to remain true to the spirit of the music, but at the same time exercised creative freedom to put their own imprint on the songs. According to the group’s MySpace page, their influences range from Naomi Shemer to Hendrix, funk, jazz ... “you name it.”

HaGroovatron’s performance in Winnipeg was not their first time in Canada. “We were in Vancouver performing for Yom Ha’atzmaut earlier this past spring,” said Romem, who turned 40 on Yom Ha’atzmaut.

As Romem told the Vancouver Jewish Independent at that time, “Choosing the songs, I think, is the most important act in the creation …we try to filter the songs that ‘want’ to be played in this era. We search for old songs that the new clothing will fit them right. “

According to the band’s website, new “Hebrew” HaGroovatron premièred this type of music at Animal Farm, in Kiryat Haroshet in Tivon, near Haifa. The stage was decorated with haystacks and old-style lanterns, and after starting the concert with English songs, Romem led the musicians into the Israeli oldies.

Romem himself has a lot of stage presence and easily moved through a playlist of classics such as “Sfirat Mlay” (Yossi Bannay and Naomi Shemer), “Tzarot Tovot” (Shimrit Or and Shalom Hanoch), “Ha’Bahurot Ha’Hen” (Yosi Gamso for Russian melody).  Another particularly memorable number was “the special ‘Pitom Kam Adam,’ during which Romem movingly read out the lyrics of Israel’s Declaration of Independence.

After the concert, the sociable Romem could be found signing copies of the group’s first CD which was on sale. Romem said that it took a year and a half to produce the self-titled CD, which was released in the fall of 2007, and also came with a DVD of clips from performances, a 20-minute documentary about the band and karaoke tracks for listeners to sing.

In the past year, the group has been working on “original writing”, and one of its new creations ‘Kama Tov’ was performed.

In addition to Romem, the talented band consists of Eyal Heller (guitars), Itamar Gross (keyboards), Dekel Dvir (drums), Guy Tuval (bass), Ofer Peled (saxophone and flute), Arthur Krasnobayev Gershenzon (trumpet) and Oded Meir (trombone) who does most of the brass arrangements for the band. The musicians play in other bands and accompany other popular performers.

While in Winnipeg, HaGroovatron gave well received performances to students at the Gray Academy of Jewish Education and Brock Corydon School.

<<Previous Article       Next Article >>
Subscribe to the Winnipeg Jewish Review
  • Royal Bank
  • Fillmore Riley
  • Jewish Federation of Winnipeg
  • JNF Manitoba / Saskatchewan
  • JCFS
  • JCFS Winnipeg
  • Orthodox Union
  • Accurate Lawn & Garden
  • Sobey's
  • Coughlin Insurance
  • Munroe Pharmacy
  • Safeway Tuxedo
  • Daniel Friedman and Rob Dalgleish
  • Lipkin Family
  • Booke + Partners
  • Red River Coop
  • Gislason Targownik
  • Janice Morley-Lecomte
  • James Teitsma
  • Obby Khan
  • Jon Reyes
  • James Bezan
  • Markus Chambers
  • Ross Eadie
  • Ted Falk
  • Artista Homes
  • Fetching Style
  • Chisick Family
  • Ronald B. Zimmerman
  • Bob and Shirley Freedman
  • Shinewald Family
  • MLT Aikins
  • MLT Aikins
  • Myers LLP
  • Charach Family
  • Munroe Dental Centre
  • MCW Consultants Ltd.
  • Preventative Health First
  • Lanny Silver
  • Josef Ryan
  • Taverna Rodos
  • Holiday Inn Polo Park
  • Bruce Shefrin Interior Design
  • PFK Lawyers
  • Commercial Pool
  • Simmonds and Associates
  • CdnVISA Immigration Consultants
  • Laufman Reprographics
  • Dr. Brent Schachter and Sora Ludwig
  • Clear Care Periodontal
  • Shindico
  • Doheny Securities Limited
  • Lazar Family
  • Superlite
  • Chochy's
  • Nick's Inn
  • Bridges for Peace
  • Global Philanthropic
  • Abe and Toni Berenhaut
  • Peerless Garments
  • Cavalier Candies
  • Roseman Corp
  • Shoppers Drug Mart
  • kristinas-greek
  • Broadway Law Group
  • West Kildonan Auto Service
  • The Center for Near East Policy Research Ltd.
  • Sarel Canada
  • Santa Lucia Pizza
  • Roofco Winnipeg Roofing
  • Center for Near East Policy Research
  • Nachum Bedein
Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.