Irit Dekel mixes Tel Aviv with Nina Simone @ Band on the Wall
By Bea Gilbert
Earnestness and sincerity might best describe Irit Dekel she graces the stage of Manchester’s Band on the Wall. While her character might be easy to define, it’s hard to put into words the type of music she makes. Although jazz may be the obvious choice, owing to Dekel’s soft tone and lilt of voice, there are clear Middle Eastern and Latin influences that lend curious and engaging dimensions that transcend the boundaries of the genre she’s most often aligned with. Coming from Tel Aviv, these influences are unsurprising but also by no means defining, and there are a vast array of others that can be felt across her performance.
Entering noiselessly, her bare feet set precedence for the softness and honesty carried in her voice. The singing is self-assured and loaded with calm intensity – aurally at odds with a wide-eyed, slightly nervous energy and somewhat jittery movement. Where this might sound detrimental to the atmosphere, it is of little consequence since Dekel herself by no means takes the reigns as the front woman. Rather, perfect synchrony and striking quality of musicianship pull together across an eclectically composed tour band, to create a stage where eyes and attention might swivel to any player with equal measure. Acoustic guitar, accordion and percussion cooperate to lend variety and distinction to the vocal swells, creating sound which is gracefully fluid and unique.
It is by no means the kind of music to make you leap from your chair, but Dekel offers a diverse and relatively energetic performance. A slow song laced with sadness recounted her time in conscription, nestled amongst the more regularly occurring jazzy, animated and bright tracks. Avoiding a multitude of agonising, languishing songs about love is an achievement in itself for a singer who can be predominantly associated with jazz. But for Dekel, it is clear she takes little interest in writing lazy lyrics for the sake of churning out songs. Instead, most are introduced with a nod to various influences. She tells of living in London years ago, whilst working in a bar and learning English. She would religiously arrive home and listen to Nina Simone – an artist she cites as a hero who has irrefutably influenced aspects of her style. The admiration and gratefulness to artists such as Simone is palpable, for it is during songs of this character that her voice is the most captivating.
Her take on R.E.M.’s ‘Shiny Happy People’ was less endearing. Whether this was truly through lack of being natural to her musical style, a somehow uncomfortable positioning in the set list, or a strangeness in the dark and intimate setting was hard to discern. Certainly, the set was an enjoyable and relaxing experience, and Dekel can be expected to become ever more relevant.
Irit’s new album HELLO is available for streaming on the 9th March.