ITEA Member Profile
by Jason Smith
Israeli Tubist Yuval “Tuby” Zolotov & BOOM PAM
The tuba has undoubtedly taken on a variety of music roles in its history, and, with each conference, festival, etc., another innovative approach surfaces assuring that the tuba remains as a highly effective instrument for a variety of musical styles. Recently, I discovered, or was introduced, to a new, innovative group in which our instrument is as an integral component. In fact, so integral that I couldn’t imagine hearing this group any other way. Israel-based BOOM PAM is fresh and exciting, and their tubist Yuval “Tuby” Zolotov demonstrates his superb abilities on their first recording (visit their website for audio samples, www.boompam.org).
Fresh off their North American/New York City debut at the fourth annual globalFEST 2007, the group is currently on a month-long tour of Europe. The festival, which has sold out three years in a row, is emerging as one of America’s leading showcases for global music, “demonstrating the multiplicity of sounds and performance contexts that fall under the ‘world music’ label (as described on the event’s website, www.rockpaperscissors.biz).” The following is a press release provided by the group.
“This increasingly popular group, BOOM PAM, exuded energy in live performance, and, as described in their press release, “although the band plays mainly original music, everyone that hears it feels it sounds familiar as it goes straight to one’s guts. The music is a mixture of rock with international flavors, including Balkan, Greek, Kleizmer, Arab, Mediterranean and others.”
BOOM PAM released its debut CD under the German record label Essay Recordings and has just returned from a European tour, during which they played a successful showcase at the WOMEX 2006 (the World Music Expo which was held in Seville, Spain). Formed in 2003, BOOM PAM comprises 2 electric guitars, tuba, and drums. Members are guitarists Uzi Feinerman and Uri Brauner Kinrot, percussionist Dudu Kohave, and, as mentioned, tubist Yuval “Tuby” Zolotov.
The group’s name is taken from the title of a major hit song that was recorded by guitar-hero and singer Aris San, a Greek singer who immigrated to Israel during the late 1950s and fell in love both with the country and with a local woman. As described by the band, “he was the first to combine electric guitar playing with an ethnic attitude, which was only played with traditional instruments until then. This attitude, of bringing new music with modern playing but which is deeply rooted in the long-lasting folk music, has always been an inspiration for the band members and has made them title their band with this symbolic name.”
BOOM PAM recorded a cover version of this song with singer Berry Sakharof, one of Israel’s leading rock stars, singing in Greek. This has version has risen high on the European World Music Charts, making the top ten, and brought the group great coverage. As BOOM PAM is known for their highly energetic live performances, and can be found performing in a variety of settings—clubs and bars, concert halls, music festivals, weddings and other venues and occasions.
Their self-titled CD is now available for purchase through amazon.com. It was reviewed by Jon Sass in the previous New Materials Column of the Journal (Volume 34:2). You can also listen to selections from the CD, view performance videos, and find additional information regarding the group at either www.myspace.com/boompam or their official site, www.boompam.org .
Yuval warrants much attention as the non-traditional, or maybe non-expected, instrumental member in the band. After hearing this group, it’s very difficult to imagine the group without Yuval, whether he’s in a melodic or rhythmic/harmonic role. On www.afropop.org, reviewer Banning Eyre states,
“Yuval “Tuby” Zolotov puffs out tuba bass lines, providing both a sonic and visual anchor for the group’s fanciful outings, which alternately crank and drag, always with an air of nonchalant high drama. “
And, lastly, from Ned Raggett, reviewer for All Music Guide, gives the following thoughts,
“The killer ace in the hole for BOOM PAM is a slightly unexpected instrument— tuba, which can get a bad rap for its ungainly size and association with bad high- school marching bands. But Yuval ‘Tuby’ Zolotov rocks on that thing, providing the hyper-speed bass lines and warmth that drummer Dudu Kohav matches. Although it sounds like a circus, their music is so tight and precise it doesn’t leave a chance to get lost. It captures you immediately and makes you surrender to it without conditions.”
Despite Yuval’s very busy performance schedule with the group, we have been discussing the possibilities of an interview since last summer. I’m truly thankful that Yuval was able to take the time while on the road (it wouldn’t be any other way actually) to answer a few questions, not only pertaining to his work with BOOM PAM but also questions regarding his background and studies in Israel. Besides illustrating great musicianship, Yuval represents the obvious that the tuba is one of the most versatile instruments available, and there are absolutely no limits to its use.
Yuval, I’m sure you’ve grown accustomed to the “attention” you receive being tubist with such a group as BOOM PAM. How did the group initially hook up and decide upon the current instrumentation?
We first started to play as a trio of two electric guitars and tuba. The two guitar players and I went to the same high school in Israel. This is an arts school that teens from all over Israel attend. A few years after we graduated they shared an apartment in Tel Aviv and later decided to give me a call inviting me to come and jam a little. We then started to meet more often and to play small shows in Tel Aviv. I also kicked a bass drum on some of the songs while blowing the tuba, but after a year or so we decided to get a drummer and so the fourth member joined us.
Do you primarily perform acoustically with amplification, or have you/do you consider employing effects to alter the tuba’s sound (e.g. delay, octaver, distortion, EQ, etc.)?
The way I usually play is indeed acoustical with amplification, but I sometimes use effects during the live show, as I also used on the album. Most often I used a bass octaver, which can get cool and really massive sounds.
How has your role in BOOM PAM evolved, and, how has this affected your evolvement on the instrument?
The tuba part in BOOM PAM is sometimes a bass part and sometimes it’s the leading role. The arrangements for the songs are made by the four of us and is being changed from time to time. Through my playing with the group I have found it possible to play in other varying roles, which is very enjoyable. For example, I have played a few shows with a traditional band that play traditional music from Morocco. I have also recorded with several Israeli artists who wanted a tuba part in one of their songs after hearing me play a show with BP.
Is this the career that you sought, or was it by chance? Are there additional paths down the line?
I cannot really say this is what I was imagining at earlier stages in my musical training. Being educated as a classical musician and often performing in Israeli professional orchestras, I always felt that I wanted to explore the use of the tuba and find more roles and faces for this instrument then the ones usually shown and used.
At the moment, the main goal for the future is to grow with BOOM PAM and to continue to record and play to people’s enjoyment. I also hope to still be available and called to play with classical ensembles, which are always fun and gratifying.
Ever since I was in high school, I have performed as a guest musician with almost all the classical ensembles in Israel, going from the Israel Philharmonic to the small chamber orchestras. While I always enjoy this, I am also very thankful that I’m involved in other scenes and also play other kinds of music.
Can you discuss your studies? Who was your principal mentor and what attracted you to the instrument?
I started my studies at my hometown’s conservatory. I studied the euphonium for three years and then switched to the tuba. At the age of 14 I started to study with Ariel Sasson who really helped me in my first years in establishing the foundations of my playing. He just got back to Israel then after studying with several teachers, including Roger Bobo and the late Arnold Jacobs. Only later on, at the age of 19, did I start to take lessons with Shmuel Hershko, of the Israel Philharmonic. He was also my mentor during my studies for a B.A from the Music School of the Tel Aviv University (I also graduated there in Economics). Meeting and studying with Shmuel Hershko, this was very crucial to me, as he is an amazing tuba player, an incredible personality, and he is still a great inspiration for me.
Can you describe the tuba’s “position” in Israel? Meaning, is it a commonly studied instrument?
My answer may not be so surprising: I believe that there are not enough young musicians that pick the tuba as their principal horn. This is true in Israel as it also may be true in other countries. Well, on the other side I can also say that in Israel there are only four tuba positions in professional orchestras. There are only a very small number of musicians that can make a living from tuba playing in Israel.
It’s clear that you’re very busy with the band, now touring internationally as well very active in Israel. What are some differences among your varied audiences that you experience? For instance, how could you compare those you met in NYC at globalFEST versus venues on your current tour?
I’m happy to report that we continue to have great experiences and reactions from audiences everywhere we visit. Of course one could notice some cultural differences and different ways that people show their enjoyment and excitement. Specifically regarding NYC, the globalFEST was a little bit different because a major part of the crowd comprised music business professionals, which conveys a different energy and atmosphere during the show.
How would you describe the “music culture” in Israel? Are there varied styles that are popular? Are outside influences from other regions as prevalent as Israeli-grown musical styles?
Israel has quite a young musical culture, which in a way is like a sponge, soaking its influences from many different musical cultures and mixing them together. Being a country that is a nation of immigrants from different parts of the globe, one cannot avoid being influenced by many traditional musical forms and flavors.
Do you have specific influences for your work with BOOM PAM? Other artists, possible tubists, or other musicians that you find influence your approach towards the music of BOOM PAM?
I try to keep myself updated to what other tubists are doing. I am also influenced by electric bass players and other instrumentalists. Principally, I was influenced by my former teacher Shmuel Hershko, in the sense that he was, and still, inspiring me to believe that that are no limits or boarders that cannot be crossed with our great instrument.
I was also very fortunate to be introduced to the brass bands from the Balkans, namely Fanfare Ciocarlia and Boban Markowich’s Orchestra to name just two. This is really something that “nobody had told me about.” They have amazing and inspiring brass players, and I think every brass player should check them out.
Hopefully, the tuba-euphonium community will have a chance to hear you live at a possible conference or festival in the future (if not at other venues). As an ITEA member, in what ways could our organization improve its focus on international representation and various capacities for which our instrument is a component?
I really hope to have the chance to expose our band’s live show to as many tuba players as possible. The ITEC and this journal are great tools to focus on international tuba players that do different projects. The Internet is of course the best way to keep being updated with all the uses and capacities of the tuba.
For additional information on Yuval and BOOM PAM, visit www.myspace.com/boompam or www.boompam.org, where you can listen to examples from the CD, view performance videos, and find additional information regarding the group. Just recently, Yuval and BOOM PAM, are now being sponsored by the JA Musik Group and B & S. Please visit www.ja-musik.com for additional information.