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Various Artists: Soul Messages from Dimona

Various Artists: Soul Messages from Dimona

Label:Numero Group
Release Date:2008

By Sam Hopkins | Posted 6/18/2008

We once heard a little girl yell, "Speakin' of money, you owe me five shekels," on a Tel Aviv street corner. She was probably born in Israel, in the thousands-strong community of Black Hebrews that live mainly in the southern town of Dimona. Religious immigrants mostly from Chicago, the Black Hebrews have learned how to speak the revived biblical language of the Jewish state, but their South Side dialect remains in the desert heat.

Soul Messages From Dimona logs the musical idiom the vegan, Marcus Garvey-influenced group brought to the Holy Land. The bulk of this release on the Numero label takes the imprint's "Eccentric Soul" theme to its geographical extreme. In a desert town in the shadow of Israel's nuclear reactor, the Soul Messengers, a band that dominates the CD, laid down slinky guitars and intricate rhythms, matching the contemporary soul being created back in the Windy City by the likes of Curtis Mayfield.

Some of the musicians heard here had even enjoyed success in Chicago R&B before taking Old Testament names. The lyrics portray their unusual black nationalism, referring to Israel as the Holy Land, center of the world, and northeast Africa. There are echoes of Rastafarian soul we know so well through reggae, and the compilation's tone also evokes Muslim musicians such as Doug and Jean Carn of Oakland, Calif.'s Black Jazz label.

We hear "Na Na Na (Kiss Him Goodbye)" converted to a spiritual application, but the lone Hebrew track on Soul Messages, "Go to Proclaim," outshines the Anglophone covers.

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