Israel's Greatest Musicians Raise Their Voices For "Pioneers For a Cure"

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Musical fund-raising project for cancer treatment and research launches second phase of pioneer song recordings with forthcoming new website

But fortunately, all Israeli artists know how to make a great cup of coffee.

Pioneers For a Cure ( announced the second phase of its international Pioneer Song project in support of pioneering efforts to defeat cancer, with interpretations of songs from Israel's pioneer period by Israel's top contemporary recording artists.

The songs will be available for download on the relaunched Pioneers for a Cure website in July, and 100% of the revenue from the song downloads will go to benefit cancer organizations chosen by the artists.    The goal of Pioneers For a Cure is to raise money for cancer research and treatment. To date, more than 20 cancer organizations have thus far received proceeds from song downloads and donations, coming through the website from donors all over the world.

Israeli Stars Record Their Country's First Songs

While the first phase of Pioneers for a Cure focused on Jewish musicians based in New York recording newly rediscovered gems, the second phase features Israeli musicians living in Israel, singing well known music of their nation's pioneers and chosen by the musicians themselves.

"These were songs they heard as children," says the project's producer (and saxophonist and rabbi) Greg Wall. "Ilanit, an Israeli musical legend who was named the top female singer every year from 1971 to 1977, is now a grandmother. She recorded 'Numi, Numi' for her grandchildren. It's a lullaby that her grandmother sang to her. The full circle from generation to generation. That is what a country's pioneer songs can do."

Fifteen musicians recorded songs for the project. Some of the artists are only known in Israel, while others are well known abroad. Wall selected them based on those he already knew and on the recommendations of other musicians and producers.

Among them are one of Israel's most legendary entertainers, singers, actors, and directors: Yehoram Gaon, who has produced almost fifty albums, performed extensively in Israel and abroad and starred in television and movie productions, rising star Tsahi Halevi (aka Zaak), an actor and musician who has toured the world with international percussion group Mayumana and performed with Israel's biggest salsa band, Walakata, and Shai Gabso, who rose to fame as 2nd runner up on Kochav Nolad, the Israeli equivalent of American Idol.

Wall and the Pioneers for a Cure team recorded all the tracks over a 16-day period. "It was three weeks of no sleep," says Wall. "But fortunately, all Israeli artists know how to make a great cup of coffee."

"There was an instant camaraderie between everyone working on the project," says Wall. It was very easy to get close to these artists. They were delighted to participate--everyone had a cancer story. They all knew someone who was a victim of cancer."

Pioneers For a Cure has received tremendous support in Israel, with Israeli television and radio doing features on the project. The Israel Broadcasting Authority is planning specials around the Pioneers for a Cure sessions, and noted NPR correspondent John Kalish will be traveling to Israel to film a documentary on the project to coincide with the Pioneers For a Cure website relaunch.

Relaunched Site Stocked With Downloads From First Two Phases; American Pioneer Songs Next

The new site will have all fifteen tracks from the Israeli sessions available for download. In addition, it will offer the songs recorded for the Postcard Project, the first phase of Pioneers For a Cure, which featured New York-based Jewish artists recording pioneer songs specially commissioned by the Keren Kayemeth, the social service and cultural arm of the provincial government. These songs were originally printed on postcards and distributed throughout the world, some reaching such notable Jewish composers such as Aaron Copland, Kurt Weil and Darius Milhaud, who created new work based on the songs. So too the Pioneers For a Cure artists recorded their versions after receiving a digital postcard from producer Wall.

The relaunched Pioneers for a Cure website will be available in both English and Hebrew. The inclusion of Israeli artists necessitated the need for a bilingual site, and in the future other languages will be included as artists of all nations participate in Pioneers For a Cure.

The list of participating musicians has grown to over 55 artists, including Pharaoh's Daughter, Rebbe Soul, David Broza, and Frank London & Joshua Nelson. Pioneers For a Cure is offering a free download, "Am Yisrael Chai," ("The People of Israel Live"), at

The third phase of the project will focus the songs of American pioneers, recorded by American musicians such as the legendary Ben E. King, singer-songwriters Suzanne Vega and Tom Chapin, and jazz trumpeter Randy Brecker. Wall has already recorded Brecker performing a cover of "The Ballad of John Henry," which Wall says is certain to get airtime around the country.

Pioneering a Cure For Cancer - An Urgent Need

The seeds of the Pioneers for a Cure project were planted the day Wall, a noted, New York-based saxophonist, music producer (and rabbi), was approached by Pioneers For a Cure to produce this material. As we developed the project, we wanted to do the pioneer songs of many nations to symbolize the efforts that so many people around the world to create a future free from this disease."

The need to raise money for cancer research could not be more pressing. According to recent statistics, 1.5 million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer this year, joining the 10 million Americans who have experienced cancer in their lifetimes. This is the intent of Pioneers For a Cure: a unique, artist-driven initiative created to provide funding for cancer research and treatment through a growing group of individuals determined to make a difference in the lives of people with cancer, honor so many lost already, and revive as many pioneer songs as they can for a new generation.

Additional proceeds are generated through the sale of Pioneer Portrait stamps - U.S. postage stamps featuring portraits of the Pioneers For a Cure artists painted by Mira Sasson.

The over 25 organizations benefiting from Pioneers For a Cure's efforts include Hospice of the North Shore, chosen by Suzanne Vega, and St. Jude's, chosen by Ben E. King.

For more information on Pioneers For a Cure, to download songs or to make a donation to the
project and the organizations it benefits, visit the current version of the Pioneers For a Cure website at


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Richard Orbach
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