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For Israeli vocalist Noga Erez, American culture is global culture

Timo Kerber

Israeli singer Noga Erez thinks about the fallacy of authenticity, the advantages of creative limitations, the way personal stories can be perceived as political, and what it means to make music with your heart instead of your head.

She started out as a jazz singer, performing and recording her original songs with a piano trio. Those recordings are long gone, lost in a pile of defective hard drives. In any case, she decided that her original concept was too intellectual, and that it was time to make something more intuitive. Encouraged by her musical (and personal) partner Ori Rousso, she wanted to make something that wasn’t so uncool.

So she began producing tracks that straddle hip-hop, pop and electronic music — inspired by Björk, Kendrick Lamar and Flying Lotus. Her first record, Off The Radar, came out in 2017 and featured the song “Dance While You Shoot,” which was featured in an Apple commercial. The more organic live versions of the songs were meant as a kind of creative exercise during 2020, when touring came to a halt. But I really loved them, and as Erez explains it, so did a lot of her fans.

We talked in the summer of 2020 about her career, starting as a jazz singer-songwriter and then transitioning to what she describes as “the music in my heart.” We also touched on the curious relationship between Israel and the United States from the point of view of a contemporary Israeli pop act; what it means to be a political artist, and whether or not music itself can really make a difference politically today; what it means to be “the offspring of limitation”; and whether the phrase “I don’t pop with that” actually exists or not. Also, an extensive tutorial on how to pronounce her name.

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Leo Sidran is a Latin Grammy-winning multi-instrumentalist, producer, arranger and composer. Since 2014 he has hosted an influential podcast called The Third Story, featuring interviews with musicians, producers, songwriters and creators of all kinds.