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POP MUSIC | Pop Eye

Perry Farrell Is Keeping the Faith With a New Festival

October 01, 2000|STEVE HOCHMAN

No, it won't be called Kabbalapalooza.

But Perry Farrell has found a way to combine his experience as co-founder of the Lollapalooza tours with his recent studies of Jewish history and mysticism.

The former Jane's Addiction and Porno for Pyros leader has teamed with the Israeli government to organize an ambitious festival next spring at Tel Arad, the ruins of an ancient city in the Judean desert, as a key event in the celebration of the Jubilee Year of Judaism.

Jubilee is a tradition said to go back to the time that the Jews first entered the promised land after the exodus from Egypt. It's a celebration of liberty and renewal held every 50 years. While there's debate about exactly what year marks the entry into Israel, rabbinical authorities have declared the just-started Jewish year of 5761 as a Jubilee.

Starting this week, the traditional week of contrition and forgiveness between Rosh Hashana (the Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), Farrell will be recruiting some of the biggest names in the music world for the Jubilee festival.

At the top of his call list are U2 and Radiohead, whose frontmen, Bono and Thom Yorke, have been, with Farrell, the top music activists in Jubilee 2000, a separate campaign to forgive the debts owed by developing nations. But Farrell will be contacting hundreds of artists, aiming for a three-day festival encompassing a wide spectrum of styles (from electronica to pop to classical) and cultures--including artists from Arab nations with which Israel has historically been in conflict.

"In the cycle of man, we have an occasion called the Jubilee and we are standing in that, a time to celebrate our liberation," says Farrell, who's finishing his first solo album, due from Virgin Records in the spring. "And I can't think of a better tool than music to celebrate liberation."

Farrell and his manager, Trudy Green, have already put together an executive committee for the event that includes such music-business shakers as producer-executive Rick Rubin, attorneys John Branca and Gary Stifleman, Maverick Records partner Guy Oseary, and Virgin Music Group Chairman Nancy Berry. Representing Israel are former President Shimon Peres and Leah Rabin, widow of assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

The plans grew out of a chance meeting between Farrell and Kobi Oshrat, director of cultural affairs for the consulate of Israel in Los Angeles. A mutual friend had recommended Farrell as a DJ for an event the consulate was hosting, and afterward Oshrat mentioned that he was involved in planning a Jubilee celebration. Farrell jumped at the chance to be involved, and Oshrat sent him to Israel to survey the site and meet with concert producer Gad Oron, who, among other things, had overseen the production and logistics of the pope's public appearances during his historic visit to Israel.

Oshrat is hoping to draw 50,000 to 100,000 people, many coming from Europe--where travel to music festivals is common--and even from the U.S. Travel packages will be offered incorporating the Jubilee festival with other experiences in Israel and the region. Oshrat also says that negotiations are underway to suspend border restrictions between Israel and Jordan and the territories controlled by the Palestinian Authority during the event to demonstrate the spirit of liberation and peace. Security issues are being given primary consideration, but he says they will not hamper the celebration.

"As a representative of the state of Israel, to bring good public relations is important," Oshrat says. "All you hear about is war and treaties that never happen. I want people to come under the wing of liberty."

DYNAMIC DUO: Hip-hop producer Timbaland knows that his fans won't have any interest in a current project of his. But he jumped at the chance to work with Beck on a new version of David Bowie's "Diamond Dogs" for the soundtrack to director Baz Luhrmann's elaborate musical fantasy "Moulin Rouge."

"I'm not doing this to cater to my people," he says, expressing frustration at what he says are the narrow tastes of most hip-hop fans and artists. "But I want people to say, 'He's universal.' I don't want my fans to like this song. They're not open-minded."

Timbaland himself didn't really like the song at first. He'd never heard Bowie's 1974 original, and was unimpressed when Beck sat down and picked it out on a piano. But once work got started, the teaming proved natural, and the song took shape reflecting both their sensibilities without sounding like anything either had done before. It went so well that they also collaborated on another track, "Our Music," for Aliyah's next album, which Timbaland is producing.

Meanwhile, Timbaland is also finishing a new album with his partner, Magoo, that is due in February. Beck says he has seven albums worth of material either done or ready to record, though he hasn't decided what his next release will be.

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