BluesWax Sittin' In With
Blues-Rock Trio From Jerusalem
SOBO (from left
Eli Fish, Sammy
Ganzman, and Daniel Kriman
It was while scouring the net for
Blues-related stories that I first learned, quite by accident,
of Blues For
Peace, although not noticing then, this particular band
from Jerusalem. Sponsored by said organization, SOBO
(formerly known as Southbound Train, but we will
get into that later) represented The Holy Land in Memphis
(Tennessee, not Egypt) at the International Blues Competition
this past January 2004. I had the pleasure of seeing them on
Beale Street at Blues City Café, performing their heavy brand
of Blues-Rock and of talk with them a few times.
Beardo for BluesWax: So Assaf
Ganzman [aka Sammy the bass man and lead vocalist], you were
actually born in New York, right?
Sammy Ganzman of SOBO: Yeah, I spent
my years leading up to high school there. Then I went to high
school and the army in Israel. When I got out I lived in
Nashville for three years then returned to Israel and have
been back for almost ten years now. I would say though, I got
into Blues when I was in Israel.
BW: You're starting to answer questions I
haven't even asked yet. I love that! I'd like to ask all of
you, what did you hear first, your biggest influences, when
did the Blues come down, who's your favorite Beatle, stuff
SG: I grew up listening to the
Stones, The Who, Dylan, it's all bluesy,
but always in the background and I didn't recognize it as
Blues. When I got to Israel I stumbled into a bar named Mike's
Place that played a lot of Blues music, got into it, and
started playing with Daniel [Kriman][electric
resonator slide with occasional wah and harp]. We discovered
Stevie Ray, which led us to Muddy Waters,
Howlin' Wolf, and other Bluesmen I hadn't heard before.
That was the beginning for me and I've been hooked since.
BW: That's a variation on stories I've
heard by most people getting exposed to English Blues
variations, only to dig deeper to find the source. Kind of a
SG: It's like when I heard "They're
Red Hot" by the Chili Peppers, then heard Robert
Johnson's version. There is so much Blues music out there
as the foundation of almost all popular music. Let's face it,
every Rock band out there is based on the Blues.
BW: Talking to Bill Wax [XM Radio] this
weekend we agreed that the actual word "Blues" has a negative
connotation in the current musical lexicon due entirely to the
public misconception of what Blues really is.
SG: You are so right, I tell people
at home that I play Blues and the usual response is: "Cool, I
BW: So, what is the Jerusalem Blues scene
really like? I know I'm not the only one interested in your
SG: I think we should have won an
award for bringing the Blues to a faraway place. You wanna
talk about keeping the Blues alive. When we first started
playing there was only Mike's Place, it is very similar to
Wild Bill's juke joint in Memphis, a very informal and low-key
place where we really educated our own audience. Over the year
as Mike's has gotten bigger so has the scene with us as a
liaison between aspiring Blues musicians, which has turned
into more Blues bands.
BW: You became a network...
SG: Also, over the years there are
more Jewish-Americans coming to Israel and they know what's
going on. They "get it" even though they like the Grateful
Dead, that's a lot closer to Blues than Middle Eastern
BW: What performers do you hold in
SG: I'd have to say Muddy Waters'
material is the best of the old Bluesmen and of the white
players it has to be Stevie Ray Vaughan...he was just so
special and different.
BW: Are there larger venues booking
SG: Not really, we almost opened for
B.B. [King] a few years back, but the ticket sales
didn't support an opener and they eventually moved to a
BW: Our perception of Israel is only what
we see on the news and is pretty depressing. Does religion
permeate everything...are you guys particularly religious? I
remember during your set on Saturday night you alluded to the
fact that, yeah it was the Holy Land, but we have beer and
Blues and clubs just like you.
SG: No we aren't religious; it just
seems like everyone should be when you view it from the
outside. Of course, every religion is represented from
Muhammad to Jesus and everyone in between are connected to
that area. I don't know if you understand the concept of
BW: Yeah, sure! I'm a cook.
SG: Well, you can get bacon
cheeseburgers there, OK?
BW: Bacon? In Israel?
SG: [Much Laughter] You can drink
and smoke, people live normal lives. Most of the country is
not religious. I know when you say Jerusalem in America all
they think of is religion and war. If that was what it
was like I wouldn't be living here, you know? [More
BW: What have you been doing since the
end of the competition?
SG: We went down to the Blues
Foundation and to The Rock and Roll Museum, but it was too
expensive so we just looked at it from the outside. It was $10
to get in so we figured we could get a Jack Daniels and lunch
for that much.
BW: Nuff said, so, Daniel Kriman [guitar,
harmonica, piano, trumpet, etc.]. You were born in Russia and
reluctantly followed your family who was already in Israel.
Tell me your Blues icons and how the band got the name
Daniel Kriman of SOBO: Bukka
White, Mississippi Fred McDowell, and all the guys
that do the train beat. That is what I am really into. The
name was originally Southbound Train, the song itself is
really about coming home and that rang true for us...Er, ha
ha, also our fans would tire of yelling our name because it
was so long and started chanting, "SOBO, SOBO, SOBO" at shows
so it stuck. That and we couldn't get the domain name [Giggle]
and SOBO was available.
BW: Yeah, I don't think anyone had that...
DK: Oh, there is Sobo glue and Sobo
BW: Oh man, that's funny. You're in
Israel for ten years now, but where did you first play
DK: For years I played in the
streets. There just wasn't anyone playing Blues then but
BW: I loved the juiced up resonator you
played with a slide the other night in Memphis.
DK: On the album I play acoustic and
it sounds much clearer. I just got that guitar a little while
ago and the sound wasn't that good....
BW: Are you kidding me? I thought the
band sounded huge! It was great.
DK: Really? Well, that is the whole
idea, three guys making a lot of noise...
BW: What harmonica were you playing in
the rack while also playing lead guitar licks?
DK: Ha ha, that's a good story for
you. It is like a Chinese-made toy harmonica that costs maybe
three bucks! No other ones work in the same way, not the
Hohners, it is just, how do you say...different, you know?
BW: I'll say! It was really ethereal
behind the heavy guitar riffs. I loved it. Way different, just
like your version of "Not Fade Away" that you guys said you
worked up in the hotel room the night before.
DK: I just want to have my own
sound. That is the idea. The minor key harp and major key
Blues is what is all about. I was afraid it would be too
different for the people here.
BW: I can only speak for myself, I really
go for the different stuff. It was special for me. Eli Fish
Grundman [drums], born in Brooklyn and now living in Israel.
How did you hook up with these guys?
Eli Fish of SOBO: I was a fan for a
while then joined the band about three years ago.
BW: Correct me if I'm wrong, I get the
impression SOBO is the shit in Jerusalem, right?
EF: [laughter] Yeah, we are. We
definitely are, and that's a modest way to say it. [laughter]
We are the shit, period.
I concur; for more on Blues musicians in
The Holy Land check out Blues For Peace.com
and future pages of BluesWax.
Beardo is a senior contributing editor
at BluesWax. Beardo may be contacted at
This Week in BluesWax:
Sittin' In With SOBO
- In the E-zine:
Join Beardo as he sits down with the Jerusalem-based Blues
band SOBO. After competing in the 2004 International Blues
Challenge in Memphis this power trio offered some interesting
insight into the Blues in Israel and the world. Check them
- On the News
Page: Vote for the 25th Annual W.C. Handy Awards!;
Australian Blues Award Winners; Eric Clapton and Robert
Johnson; and all the Blues news that's fit to
- On the Photo
Page: A photo collage of SOBO and the Melbourne
International Music and Blues Fest.
- On the Blues
Bytes page: New Australian contributor Dave O'Sullivan
gives us a look at the Melbourne International Music and Blues
Festival. Check out the great acts that played this great
festival Down Under.
- Under BluesWax
Picks: Beardo reviews Mike Morgan and the Crawl's CD
Live in Dallas; P. Kellach Waddle reviews the Holmes
Brothers' CD Simple Truths and Danny Brooks and the
Rockin' Revelators' CD Soulsville: Souled Out 'N'
Sanctified; plus reviews of Primitive Piano, the
Delgado Brothers' A Brother's Dream, and the J Street
Jumpers' Good For Stompin'.
Year Ago Today In BluesWax: T-Bone was Sittin' In With
Reneé Austin. Join T-Bone and Reneé as they chatted about
where she was going with her Blues before she was signed to
Blind Pig, had her debut album and received a Handy nomination
for Best New Artist.
- Don't forget to play the Blues
Trivia Game: Remember, everyone who plays is in the
drawing for the prize! This week's prize: the CD Three Car
Garage by Spoonful of Blues, courtesy of our friends at
Bluestown Records. Play today!