Israeli music is very diverse thanks to the very diverse makeup of the population plus a heavy "import" of foreign styles.
Rock of all the types is one of the major genres in popular music. And of course there's Jazz, Blues, Dance, Rap, Hiphop... If you look hard you can even get some Hebrew Country, even Hassidic Hebrew Country.
The other major genre is the local Oriental music. And any combination of Western and Oriental music (we were doing that long before it became popular world-wide).
The Israeli Oriental music is a mixture of many styles, including (but not limited to :-) Yemeni music, Turkish, Greek, Moroccan/Maghrebian, Ladino songs, San Remo, Spanish, Western pop influences (Blues, Rock..), also some Iraqi, Persian, Gypsy, Latino, Caucasian and... more. There was also a band that fused Oriental music with Ashkenazi (East and Central European Jewery) Hassidic music, and elements of Hassidic and other Ashkenazi styles can be traced in other songs.
There's also more classical Oriental music, particularly the Andalusian music. It was originally created, as the name suggests, in Spain under the Muslim rule and it's a fusion of Spanish and Muslim/Arabic elements. It then migrated to the Maghreb and became the Maghrebian Classical music. The Jews adopted it for their religious expression (such as religious songs) and now it's often identified with the Jews since it is preserved and developed mainly by Jews. The Israeli Andalusian Orchestra is world famous in this field and it's principal cantor, Emil Zrihan, is considered one of the best contra-tenors in the world. However, the majority of the instrument players in the Israeli Andalusian Orchestra are Russian!
We also have our own type of "Afrobeat" derived from Ethiopian music thanks to the arrival of Ethiopian Jews to Israel.
The early Israeli music was influenced by Russian music that was brought by Russian Jews. There were also attempts by some of these musicians to borrow elements from the local native music to create a new Israeli style. Hora, which is, I believe, a Jewish and particularly Israeli development of a Romanian style, was also a major influence.
Later on, the "imported" French Chanson also became a part of Israeli music through both translations and influence. Also several Greek songs were translated to Hebrew at that time (and many many more later on). We do love translating and adapting other peoples' songs, a substantial part of Israeli music is actually translated or adapted songs from many other countries. Indian (as in India) music was also popular for a while and so was Argentinian Tango.
Greek music became extremely popular thanks to a Greek pop musician, singer and songwriter by the name of Aris San, who fell in love with an Israeli woman and followed her to Israel. He didn't get the girl, but he fell in love with Israel and Israel fell in love with him. He was given an Israeli citizenship for his contribution to Israeli culture.
Israeli music really exploded in the 70s and 80s.
Till the mid 70s both Rock and Oriental music were suppressed by the powerful music establishment (the radio and music companies and other elements) and developed mainly as underground music, although there were always Oriental and Ladino (Sephardic Jewish) songs in the mainstream. There's a general animosity between Rock and Oriental music, but since many of the artists actually performed in the same fringe places there were also some mixtures.
In the first half of the 70s Rock started entering the mainstream. Oriental music would wait till the 80s.
In the 70s also Brazilian music became quite popular. One of the most prominent Israeli songwriters, Mati Caspi, was greatly influenced by Brazilian music. He was also influenced by Jazz, Rock and other styles, and by one of the most important Israeli song composers, the veteran Sasha (Alexander) Argov, who was himself a Russian Jew and his music was influenced mainly by Modern Classical music and Russian music.
The first *real* Rock band in mainstream music emerged in the 70s, Tamuz, with another prominent Israeli songwriter and singer, Shalom Hanoch. Also other Rock musicians and songwriters emerged than, like Itzhak Klepter (nicknamed Churchill) whose rock band got a bit of international recognition but they were to homesick to stay in the US, and on a more comical note, Danny Sanderson and Kaveret band.
Also a bit of Country was translated and created then or in the earlier 80s. The one singer I remember now who sang some Country is Danny Litani, who is generally more inclined to Blues and Rock and Israeli music (which, as you probably gathered by now, is a fusion of all sorts of styles with a local character that is originally Israeli). And "I'm going to Beit Sh'an" by Gary Ekstein.
Progressive and various alternative styles also emerged around the 70s and the early 80s - Shlomo Gronich, Shem-Tov Levi, Yoni Rechter, Arik Rudich who created electronical music, and others. Also Boaz Shar'abi who merged Progressive Rock with Oriental falvor, but later became more mainstream.
The first Israeli superstar also emerged in the 70s, Zvika Pik, who created mostly Disco with occasional semi-Classical elements. Till Zvika Pik the concept of stardom was foreign to Israeli culture and mentality.
Also in 78 Israel won the Eurovision Song Contest for the first time (with a Disco song). At the time it was a major European musical event, today it's more of a travesty. In 79 Israel won the second time. And a couple of years ago Israel won the third time with a song by Zvika Pik performed by a singer who goes by the name of Dana International, who created quite an excitement in Europe for being a transexual - the first transexual ever in the Eurovision Song Contest was actually circumcised :-). All our winners were of Yemei Jewery origins. Another Yemeni Israeli singer, Ofra Haza, came second by a very small margin in the 90s I think, but gained international fame.
In the early 80s finally Oriental music broke through with singer Zohar Argov, also of Yemeni Jewery origins.
At the time Oriental music was produced in almost amateur recording studios and distributed mainly on audio cassettes in the marketplaces and such. When the first Zohar Argov cassette was "released" it was like a gold rush, the production could hardly satisfy the demand, but the public was still mostly Oriental. One of the very few outlets for Oriental music in the mainstream music establishment was a yearly Oriental song contest on Israeli national TV. Zohar Argov performed there, won it and became a national superstar. But he became a drug addict and commited suicide (some think it was an accident) in a prison cell in 1987, aged 32, and became a myth (actually, he was already a myth before that).
In the 80s came along also a bit of Punk and New Wave. A Punk/New Wave band called The Click became very popular. Minimal Compact was successful also abroad. Machina was influenced by the British band Madness. And there were others.
In the 90s came a long House, Dance etc. (including even a Hassidic band called Oif Simches that created Dance songs with Jewish religious content). And later on Rap and Hip Hop. The most popular HipHop duo is Subliminal And The Shadow who perform Zionist HipHop, no less.
There are also quite a few Israelis who succeeded abroad - some Israelis played in the past or play now in several famous bands (I think Kiss and Culture Club, but memory fails a bit so I'm not sure), Rock musician Aviv Geffen in co-operation with Euro Rock musicians made it to the top of the Rock albums charts in several Euro countries, the singer Noa (whose real name is Ahinoam Nini) became quite famous, Zvika Pik found his place in the Eurovision niche, there's an Israeli musician in the Gypsy band Taraf de Haidouks, and the funniest most bizarre thing I've heard in a while - an Israli singer by the name of Ortal is going to represent no less than France in this year's Eurovision Song Contest.
Well, this is just the tip of the iceberg, just to give you an idea of what Israeli music is.
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