Woman of the World
text: Robin Boer
Recently we got in touch with the music of the very skilled Israeli vocalist/composer/arranger Sivan Arbel. The two albums ‘Broken Lines’ (2016) and ‘Change Of Light’ (2019) feature music of a character we haven’t touched upon before. It’s more than ‘just’ music; it connects deeply with your emotions and the songs, which are mostly of an extensive length (between 5 and 11 minutes), really bring the listener an experience, rather than just a song. She appears to be very creative with different rhythms, time signatures, complex melodies, highly emotional singing (combining composed parts with freestyling and scattting) and has a killer band behind her, performing the stunning, self-penned arrangements.
Both albums gained very positive reviews and the second album was selected by Jazz2k as Best Vocal Disc of 2019. It was even listed by The 41st Annual Jazz Station Awards as ‘Top Vocal Jazz Album’ and it was included in Giancarlo Mei’s ‘Musical Choice for 2019.’ Brazilian pandeiro player Tulio Araújo, award winning pianist Guy Mintus, virtuoso band Ichimujin (Japan) and award winning Trumpet player Rachel Therrien are just a few of her international collaborations. Sivan visited many different countries in the world and lives in Brooklyn nowadays. The extensive travelling really impacted her development and inspiration. Since we wanted to know more about Sivan, we asked her a few questions and she was happy to answer them.
Tell us something about your beginnings / childhood:
I was born and raised in Israel, in a small village called Kfar Uryah. I grew up there with my parents and two younger brothers. During my childhood, I would always come home from school, turn on MTV and watch all the music videos that were broadcasted in the 90’s. That's why, believe it or not, I LOVED Britney Spears, The Backstreet Boys, The Spice Girls and more of those types of bands/performers, and my dream was to dance and sing like them. I had a neighbor who we used to be really good friends with, and we would put together shows for our families. So I guess performing was there from the beginning.
"I heard her scat and my jaw dropped"
How did your major musical influences came about and can you tell us a bit about them?
In high-school, I majored in Music (and Physics). One of my music teachers taught us the History of Black American Music. In that class he played us some old recordings of what we nowadays call Gospel. I immediately fell in love with the music and started digging into more artists such as Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles. But then came Ella Fitzgerald. I heard her scat and my jaw dropped. Since then I was eager to learn how to improvise and sing Jazz. Nowadays I continue exploring any type of music that inspires me.
How did your life journey bring you to New York where you live now? What do you experience as the two main differences between these places to live, both from a human and musician perspective?
Growing up in Israel is wonderful. It is a beautiful place, with amazing food, weather and all the musicians you meet and play with are incredible. It is also a very small country and the audience that appreciates the type of music I do is very limited. Before moving to Israel I lived and studied in Dublin, and got to meet and collaborate with many musicians from all over the world. I loved that experience so much! When I finished my studies I felt that I want to continue collaborating with musicians from different backgrounds, and that’s when I moved to NYC. Collaborating with people from all over the world doesn’t only mean that you get to explore new rhythms and sounds, but also different languages, food, cultures and traditions. Personally, I feel that the more I travel around the world, meeting and playing with people, the more the different forms to communicate within the music are developing.
You released two albums so far: 'Broken Lines' in 2016 and 'Change Of Light' in 2019.Can you tell us something about the process of making them, your band and how would you describe both the similarities and differences between the two?
I started writing music during my third year in music school in Israel. When I moved to Dublin I felt more courageous and open to writing music. By the time I got to New York I had a bunch of songs in my “drawer”. At the same time, all my dearest friends and my favorite musicians were studying in Berklee, Boston. So I figured that would be the best opportunity to create my first album - ‘Broken Lines’. I feel that as people and musicians, we always develop. ‘Change of Light’ is just another development and side of me - Sivan. That’s why I chose to call it ‘Change of Light’. Because it’s me showing you another side (light) of myself. As for arranging, I’ve always heard the sounds of horns. That’s why my band consists of seven people: voice, piano, bass, drums, trumpet, alto sax and tenor sax. This sound feels very natural to me and that’s why it is present in both albums.
Tell us something about your educational projects.
I love sharing my knowledge and music ideas to students. Whether it’s on tour or at my studio in NYC. I talk to my students about creativity within a song and within improvisation, sharing my process of songwriting, and embodying different rhythms to our playing. I’m also developing a new chorus that connects body awareness and playing for musicians. That’s all the information I can share at the moment, the rest will have to remain a mystery.
Are you planning a third album, and do you have future projects in planning you can share?
My recent project I released was a collaboration with a dancer called Nicolas Fiery. He choreographed a whole piece for one of the songs from ‘Change of Light’ called ‘Omri’. It’s a VERY beautiful piece (where you can see me dancing as well!) and you can check it out now on YouTube. I was always connected to dance, and COVID-19 was the perfect opportunity to go deeper in that. So in the past few months I’ve been working on different collaborations with dancers - I compose the music and they choreograph. That will be available on YouTube as well. The goal is to bring all those collaborations on stage! Third album? YES! in the making….
What do you consider the 'essence' of being an artist?
I feel that the core of any TRUE artist is the expression of the deepest, honest story, feeling, moment they choose to share with the world. In whatever art form they choose, which brings up another question - what is art? Of course, everyone has their different perspectives on that.
You can find more information, including links to her music content on her website
Watch her performances on YouTube
Sivan Arbel photo PR
Sivan Arbel photo PR