Meet Ophir “Kutiman” Kutiel

I had to wait to post this link because it crashed due to the overwhelming number of visits it (immediately) received. Kutiman and his camp didn’t get to properly launch the video, but now they’re keeping up with crazy demand, and here it is.


I interviewed Kutiman a few months back when he released his debut full-length on Melting Pot Music. Read to find out more about him, his background, and musical influences.


(Originally ran in Waxpoetics issue #29)

Rhythm has a funny way of crossing borders. After all, you wouldn’t expect the streets of Tel Aviv to pound funk and afro-beat rhythms well into the night. But the large Israeli city, situated on the Mediterranean coastline, has been bustling with drums Tony Allen would approve and grooves The Meters could’ve dug.

“The groove scene here is great and is positively growing each day,” says twenty-five-year-old musician, Ophir “Kutiman” Kutiel. “But I have nothing to compare it to. I’ve never lived anywhere else, or seen any other music scenes. I know we have some great musicians here, and at the same time, people are discovering music filled with flavor and rhythm,” he says proudly.

Kutiman, a young composer who plays guitar, keyboard, drums, and bass, has lived in Israel his entire life. He grew up in Zichron, a small village in Northern Israel and began playing piano at age six before switching to drums at age fourteen. His ambitions led him to Israel’s famed Rimon School Of Jazz And Contemporary Music. But Kutiman found formal education insipid. Instead, he was drawn to music outside the school’s curriculum. “Rimon for me was the beginning of my dream,” he explains. “As the son of two professors, I thought the only way to become a musician was to go to school. But now, I can say I didn’t learn much there. It was just the first step in my move to Tel Aviv. I’m so glad I did it.” As a result of new localities, Kutiman befriended local disc jockey, DJ Sabbo, who introduced him to music that, as he put it, “changed everything.”

“Fela [Kuti], Parliament, The Meters, King Crimson and, of course, James Brown changed my world,” says Kutiman, who now gushes when discussing artists like David Axelrod, Bobbi Humphrey, Bohannon, Curtis Mayfield, and Jimmy Smith. “I wasn’t familiar with even one name before I met Sabbo! Can you believe that? I can’t explain how these artists blew my mind away. When I was growing up I mainly listened to Israeli Radio, which mostly contained news reports,” he recounted, before fervently adding: “Oh yeah, and a lot of groove-less music!”

Nevertheless, Tel Aviv’s nightlife now resonates with thick bass, deep-in-the-pocket grooves, horn stabs, and grueling drums. Kutiman’s mounting rep has enhanced activity in the region, while like-minded artists like DJ Sabbo spread the work of influential past masters. “After listening to the music Sabbo showed me, I locked myself in my room and recorded my current project,” remembers Kutiman. “If I hadn’t heard these amazing artists, I think my music would simply be boring”.

Eclectic touches can be traced throughout Kutiman’s vibrant, drum-driven songs. He proudly displays his influences in his music, meshing disco, afro-beat, psychedelic rock, reggae, and funk into spirited recordings. His style developed faraway from trend-chasing locales like LA or New York, and has been praised—and proliferated—across the Internet. As Tel Aviv’s partygoers took notice, so did heads from diverse German label, Melting Pot Music. The resulting coverage furthered Kutiman’s cause of raising awareness about Tel Aviv’s recent activity. “The Internet has given our scene, and my music, some international exposure,” he says gratefully. “If Melting Pot hadn’t found me through Myspace [laughs], my music would still be sitting on my hard-drive today.”

Tel Aviv’s emerging groove scene reaffirms how the music of rhythmic pioneers can impact even the harshest of social and political climates. As curiosity for new music builds, as old outlooks change and new ones form, Kutiman sits contently in his Tel Aviv studio—composing music for him and his city.


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