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KOBI FARHI INTERVIEW – And again we fail to see that all is one…

What is usually a passion (interviewing people close to me in the musical world) turned into something very difficult this time, given the circumstances.

Orphaned Land have been on the scene for more than 30 years and the message they have always brought with their music is of peace and equality between Jews, Muslims and Christians, as well as departing from some of their government’s actions on several occasions. The attack by Hamas (Islamist Palestinian terrorist force) on the 7th of  October was something horrible, especially due to the brutality of the killings; women raped and then killed, very young boys slaughtered, children tied up and set on fire, disfigured corpses, elderly people killed and so on… (description and videos of the attack can be found resumed in this article by TheGuardian: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/oct/09/how-the-hamas-attack-on-the-supernova-festival-in-israel-unfolded) Is it war you tell me? No, this goes way beyond that.

Like everything else, especially since Covid, where we have seen that many people have started to show off their “degrees” in virology, law, geopolitics, etc. taken directly from Facebook by issuing essentially parroted sentences, the facts were passed onto the Social Network table, where the band was attacked with so much undeserved hatred, for the pure fact of being Israeli.

Keyboard haters are the most dangerous species, as Umberto Eco (Italian writer and philosopher) said: “Social medias give the floor to legions of imbeciles”, people without any real idea of what they judge and in my opinion, with so much internal frustration that they find nothing better to do than attack someone they don’t know.

For all these discussions, prepare yourself for a fairly long interview, which this time will also address complicated issues, but which in any case will also return to talking about music, perhaps the only thing that gives a little hope to our lives, when everything is black.

Hi Kobi, today about 10 years after the first interview ever I did with you, the words “how are you” which are normally so simple, seem very complicated to me.

Tell me how are you.

We are fine in a way, but our hearts are very broken since October 7th, there is this bad feeling that is going with you everywhere you go. It’s not just the massacre that Hamas did in the south of Israel (and among the victims there is also a fan of OL that was slaughtered), it was also the way they did it, like killing wasn’t enough, they have burnt them and more horrible things I don’t want to repeat. Very bad for our spirits and our mental situation. I think all the people of Israel couldn’t listen to music for two months; we couldn’t do anything normally for a long time. We did two shows in Tel Aviv, where all the people where crying the whole time. There were songs that we didn’t play, because we are one of these bands with particular songs at this point the fans don’t want to hear. The situation was so strange and broken that for example fans requested us: “Please don’t play Brother”, which is a very strange thing to ask to Orphaned Land, or “Please don’t play All Is One” which can show you how much the hopes and belief of people is broken after what happened. I usually have my kefiah scarf on my microphone which is the Arab scarf; the band told me to not put it on the microphone. We also have the post-trauma of being Jews and the Holocaust and this is all coming triggered back to our minds because of what happened and it’s still happening, people still wants to wipe-out the Jews and we are bad because of that. The war is bad and of course also on the other side, what is happening is breaking my heart. Asking how we are is a really long answer.

What is the situation among your people?

We are trying to be as normal as possible but it’s a very hard era for us, for every Israeli. I think it’s hard to be a Jewish now, everywhere, Jews are afraid.

Yes I’ve seen stupid declarations calling Jews Nazi, this is completely mad!

I think that the way people describe things is a very disproportional behaviour. Israel is not the best, the people of Gaza are suffering and there is a conflict and many Palestinians are dying (I’m not blind to that). But this is not a genocide because during a genocide the population is going down. For example the population of Jewish in Europe during the World War II has gone down. So this is a very bad war, too many Palestinians are dying, but this is not a genocide. Not to disrespect the ones who are dying, I’m just saying that people are disproportional. Israel did not invent the war and this is not even the biggest conflict in the Middle East.If you take the civil war in Syria, half of million people died; this is not even a genocide but so many people died, 50.000 kids died. This is not even comparable to what is happening here but none in the media or in the streets treated the civil war in Syria like they’re treating this war. Is this because Israelis are involved? The Syrian kids and the Palestinian kids are kids, they are the same. I can’t understand, I share tears for Palestinian kids dying. I just think of them hearing the sound of the bomb, it’s so scary. When I hear it I jump! So I’m not blind from this suffering but there are things that you just see with Jews; they put a swastika to the Israeli flag. They haven’t done it with Russia for example. Many countries went to war, like USA, France, England… none ever put a sign on a shop like “no entry for English” or “no entry for Italians”…They’re doing it with us. Different European countries in history killed so many people or even the Turkish, what have they done with Armenians? I don’t see signs “no entry for Turkish”. In 2005 we were on Lake Como with the band (we were on tour with Paradise Lost) and I’ve remained very impressed by the place; “Look here, look there, amazing, this actor is living over there,..blablabla…” and then we have reached a wall with graffiti and we saw: “Morte a Israele” (Death to Israel). We asked to ourselves: “Why?” This is not a common thing to see. Why some people have very deep in their souls this problem with anti-Semitism or killing Jesus or whatever? The feeling of being Israeli is always to be treated in a different way, sometimes you even feel afraid of your nationality, of your background: there is no meaning for this. You’ve never experienced it, never went to a country and saw “Death to Italians”, it’s a very bad sensation.

Yes, I think it’s the same of what’s happening to black people. Not fair.

Yes, very similar. Btw, it’s very strange but also very important to be a musician in these days, we saw it on the concerts that we did how important it was to sing to hug the people, to be with them. I understood more than the 33 years of career how important music is during these shows.

I saw in a lot of your posts, many haters; I put this into context: before this last attack, when you were used to post messages of peace between Jews, Palestinians and Muslims, you received a lot of criticism and more. Since October 7th, however, you rightly protested against this horrible attack and talk about what Hamas caused and people blamed you for the opposite reason. It’s not something that surprises me, since during Covid we’ve experienced how people always try to bring hate. Do you want to repeat/say here what your thoughts are?

Yes, this is the strangest thing that happened to us: when we wrote on the social medias that we stand with Israeli people (we didn’t write we stand with Israeli government), we just wrote we stand with our people, our friends, relatives, etc. We even wrote we do not stand against Palestinians, just against Hamas. If I was in Gaza, I would stand with people of Gaza. This was enough for thousands of fans to leave us, to trash us. Social medias are very toxic, people allow themselves to spread things they won’t say in your face. For them, we became the supporters of the death of children, the genocide, the Zionism (that for me it means to be Israeli). It also depends on how people define things. It was just impossible, many fans left and we said “bye, bye”. If you don’t want to listen to our music it’s ok, your kids will. At one point we said: if we posted on our Facebook “free Palestine” the tour in January (now postponed) would happen naturally! It’s good money for the band, we just had to post that or “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”. I have nothing against Palestine, but I’m not against my people. Our heart is clean and it doesn’t mean we support war, nor the death of Palestinian. So we lose the tour, we lose the money, but we are not selling our souls. I’m ok with this actually.

Yes, I think that people who don’t know war should judge so fast. All of what you’ve been singing for years seems forgotten. Your message of peace, of equality, now they have forgotten.

Look, in the Arab world there is still the culture where if your sister dates someone, having sex and without being married with him, she will be murdered. You know by whom? By her brother, her father,… this happens even in Israel among the Arabs, many women are being assassinated by their husbands, in other cases they’re forced to marry who raped them because now they’re not virgin anymore. I’m not taking this information that is very bad and throw it against every Arab I meet, telling them: “Why don’t you go against your Arab culture, your Arab nation, your identity?”. I don’t put signs on shops. But standing with my people I’m being judged.

Israel is the only country in the Middle East that is not closed mind. You don’t have compulsive hijab, you’re not against gays or other religions,…

Yes, we allow the people to be who they’re: gays, lesbians, Muslims, Christians, Jews, Atheists. Israel is the only place where it’s possible. We have Arab judges, Arab doctors, nurses and even Arab soldiers in the army. People really see 5% of the picture and then they judge. It’s completely wrong. We have been blamed even about the Covid!

Haha no! We as Italian have been blamed for the Covid. Because we have been the first ones after China.

Ah really?

Yes, so we have experienced what it means to be pointed by all the world just because it happened here before.

Yes, it’s a bad situation. We have cancelled the tour also because we don’t know how the security is in Europe, in the clubs, the terrorism, I still remember what happen in Bataclan. I hope it will be better in September.

We are not here to just talk about war and negative things. On December 13th there was the usual Hanukkah show in Tel Aviv (sold out as always) and I think this time it was a very important concert, also including many kids on stage. Tell us how it went.

The first show was sold out and the second very full. It was very hard to do the show; before this, we posted something on Facebook, asking to people if it was good. They begged us to do the show. We didn’t realized how much we needed it. The set-list was very special, also if we couldn’t play anything which included Arab, because we must respect the request of our people. For example a father of a kid fighting in Gaza (also Israeli soldiers die), fan since 30 years, said: “Please, don’t sing anything in Arabic. I’m a lefty, I don’t support war and look what they have done to us?” We simply wanted to light their hearts and the show was wow, people were crying. I went on stage and asked to hug each other. It was a sort of mindfulness meditation new age experience!

Haha!

I did these things that I never do because we are in war, because we are in a massacre, because there is a massacre also on the other side. This was like a very different and special moment. I also had to hold myself to not cry on stage. The feeling in Israel is very depressed right now. Kids were great at the show. It was so good to have a sort of a “normal” show.

At the beginning of the month, “A Heaven You May Create” was released, a live CD for the 30th anniversary of the band, played by an orchestra of 60 musicians (filmed in 2021 in the midst of Covid).

How were the songs chosen? Do you want to tell us something more about this album?

Yes during the Covid era we didn’t know if the concert would happen but then we have been lucky, in a gap with no restrictions and at the end it was full, with 2.500 people! We didn’t film it for a DVD because we couldn’t commit with a DVD company in the beginning, not knowing if it was going to happen. We did a live stream of the show and it was so good that at the end that we decided to do this DVD (unfortunately not in 4k quality), but it gives a lot of story and impressions of what happened. It was good to re-arrange classically all these songs, like giving them a new life, like Sapari for example. We took the songs that the crowd loves the most. The bravest thing was to open the show with both of the songs “Mabool” and “The Storm Still Rages Inside” which is a 16 minutes long starting with growlings, but very nice to do, because it starts with the classical arrangements also in the album. A great experience, a very exhausting work and turned to be the biggest show we did in Israel, it was like in a Hall of Fame in Tel Aviv! Great feeling and unforgettable evening!

Yes from that live you made me discover the Israeli band Scardust, that I saw on tour with Blind Guardian, Noa is such a good singer!

Yes, Noa is with us since 5 years, she replaces Shlomit and she is also conducting the choir of Hellscore and they recorded the last album, very ambitious girl!

How does it feel with more than 30 years of musical career behind you?

Very nice, I think that Metal music and Classic music communicate very well, Metal people like the pathos of Classic music, many of them like Paganini and I personally love Giuseppe Verdi and this gives you a lot of strength, so yes, I want to do it again!

Do you foresee a new studio album soon? If so, can you already tell me if the style will be more what we saw on the latest work (Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs) or something different?

I think that it will take us maybe a year or two. For us the music is the smallest problem; the biggest problem is the topic, what to talk about? The feeling that I had in the latest years is the feeling of desperation, so maybe the upcoming one will be more pessimistic? You know, in a year and a half I’ll be 50! When the time is passing by and you see that nothing has changed, you become a bit depressed. Our albums were not so optimistic btw, even if you take “All Is One”, the message is very optimistic but inside of the songs “Let The Truce Be Known” is a tragedy, “Children” is a tragedy, “Fail” is about the fail of politicians… so I think we are going to be dark and desperate in the next album.

About Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs, with all the allegories that were thrown in, I’d say many scenes can be describing very well the actual situation, what would you pick?

The last album is already some kind of depression. The philosopher Plato predicted the human behaviour 2.500 years ago and the human beings still behave that way: they live in the cave and every time someone wants to take them out of the cave, they kill him! It could be Jesus Christ, Gandhi, Martin Luther King or Prime Minister of Israel Yitzhak Rabin, which was this close to make peace with Palestine and he was assassinated, or the first Arabian to do peace with Israel, Sadat, was assassinated. Che Guevara, which is a hero for South America, was assassinated. Plato wrote the allegory for Socrate, that was also assassinated.  The pattern is going on, we don’t want to leave the cave. I started with the depression already with that album, it’s like an Opera, it always ends with a tragedy. Using the dystopia topics like “1984” from Orwell or “Brave New World” from Huxley, we even use motifs from a project called “The Venus Project”, by a guy called Jaque Fresco, he died at the age of 100; before he died we recorded his heart beats for example, that we put in the beginning of the song “Only the Dead Have Seen the End of War”! We also used the motifs from the Chilean singer Victor Jara, a singer which was assassinated by the regime in Chile. So many elements in that album! I think the next one will be more simple. Orwell and all these people where prophets of what happened and will happen.

Is there any new musical experimentation you’d like to do?

I think in my 50s, what I would like to do, a part from OL, is singing only with guitar and sing only with my low voice, like Leonard Cohen for example. I don’t know why, I’m getting older I think, haha!

Are you able to play guitar?

No.

Well, you have some time to get guitar lessons!

I see you are on the Patreon platform; in my interviews I’m collecting various feedback on the matter, because in my opinion not all bands use it properly. How are you finding yourself? What can we find there about you? Is this platform helpful given that at the moment, for obvious reasons, all tours have been postponed?

It’s a good platform, a free will one! You can decide if you want to join and with which amount. You don’t promise salvation or heaven to this people (religion does and takes money)… we put live stream show, special contents… people attend. It is helping ups of course, but not covering much of what we lost in the last period. I really love it actually.

Final message to leave to Verorock readers?

I want to tell to our Italian fans that we love them and we miss them and we hope to meet soon in a more normal world where people are celebrating life and existence. I’m always amazed to see how much technology and science are advance but people still do wars. I hope we can be in a world where everyone lives in peace and be who they are. This is very simple. I say to all the Italians that support this message hello and give them a big hug and wish to meet them very soon!

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