Back home, the radio is on WNYC about 23 hours per day.  Here we’ve gotten into the habit of listening to the previous day’s All Things Considered at breakfast and the most recent Morning Edition at dinnertime from npr.org.

Driving around the past week, we’ve started listening to genuine Israeli radio, which is quirky to say the least.  A major pop station, which broadcasts at different frequencies around the countryis Galgalatz, a service, for some reason, of the Israeli Defense Forces and a Traffic Safety Agency.  We are now better caught-up on the current pop hits then we’ve been since Lionel Richie was topping the charts.  In addition to “Tik Tok“, “Airplanes,” “California Gurls,” and anything else with a female lead singer and a tacked-on bit by a rapper.  In addition, there are a bunch of Hebrew-language songs, presumably current hits, that are in heavy rotation.  Interspersed with this, we’ve heard Cat Stevens (twice!),  Paul McCartney & Wings Silly Love Songs, the Beatles, REM, U2, Regina Spektor, a cover of an Erasure song, and a bunch of Motown songs.  We’re always singing the station identifier “Gal Gal Gal Galatz!” much to Noah’s chagrin.  (He’s now old enough for chagrin.)

There are of course lots of Arabic stations that we can listen to for a few minutes and news programs that we can’t understand a bit, but we heard the strangest variety driving around Golan and the Galilee.  We heard some zany pop duets in Hebrew that I imagine came from some sort of 1950’s musical romantic comedies.  I wish we could identify what we were listening to.  Does anyone know a Hebrew song with cheerful male and female voices alternating and a backup choir that at one points sings “One! Two! Three! [now something in Hebrew] Four! Five! Six [Hebrew again].”  This was followed by a yiddish number.  The following day, we heard the New Christy MinstrelsGreen, Green” featuring the bizarrely raspy voice of Barry McGuire, who also sang “Eve of Destruction“, alternating with a chorus of cheerful young people and then, by the closely related Back Porch Majority, “This Old Riverboat.

A lot of strange things happened when record companies tried to cash in on the folk revival of the 1960’s. When I was getting into folk music I heard some recordings by the Kingston Trio, who played a safe kind of cleaned-up and accessible folk music that fit neatly into 60’s TV variety shows.  It’s actually pretty good: catchy and fun, like the MTA Song.  When I started listening to bluegrass, I came across a bunch of albums recorded by Flatt and Scruggs playing “folk songs” that their record label was clearly forcing them to play in order to capitalize on the popularity of folk music at that time.  The songs were clearly inappropriate for them: “Rainy Day Women # 12 & 35?” and they also abandoned their wonderful harmonies for Lester Flatt singing solo, and without any of his terrific falsetto. This was a travesty, but I understand what the record company thought they were doing.  In terms of sheer weirdness, it’s nothing compared to what we heard on the radio as we drove around West of Galilee.

After that came more Yiddish.

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