Oct 6, 2009
Ophir Kutiel (born 1982), professionally known as Kutiman, is a musician, composer, producer and animator from Israel. He is best known for creating the online music video project ThruYOU, as well as his self-titled album and collaboration with many other Israeli artists including Hadag Nahash.
Ophir Kutiel was born in Jerusalem and grew up in Zichron Yaacov. He studied piano since the age of six, and then drums and guitar at age 14. When Kutiel was 18, he moved to Tel Aviv to study Jazz at Rimon Music College.
While working at a local convenience store in Tel Aviv, Kutiel tuned into a college radio station that was playing music that was much different than the classical jazz he had been used to playing. Soon after, Sabbo, another Israeli artist and current music partner, introduced him to afrobeat and funk, including the sounds of James Brown and Fela Kuti. His obsession with Fela Kuti and the fact that his last name was similar led him to create the stage-name of Kutiman. He traveled to Jamaica to research reggae and afrobeat and work with Stephen and Damien Marley.
Kutiman was signed to Melting Pot Music, based in Cologne in 2006. Soon After, his first single, "No Groove Where I Come From" was released and soon after, he released a hit song with Karolina of Habanot Nechama, "Music is Ruling My World". His eponymous debut album - which received an 8.2 from Pitchfork and a 7/10 from PopMatters - was released in the fall of 2007. Under the Radar picked Kutiman as one of the "Artists to Watch in 2008" , along with Glasvegas and MGMT.
Kutiman has worked with many other Israeli artists and is currently working on arrangement and composition of Karolina's solo album. He has also created animated videos for his song, "Chaser" and Hadag Nahash's "Eze Kif".
know music I like when I hear it. I've never been able to enumerate a list of things I like or don't like in music, and I don't always necessarily know why I like something-- it just flips that switch we all have inside of us. Ultimately, I don't think it's important to know why we like the music we do, because the act of liking it is self-justifying. I'm saying all this in part because I couldn't immediately think of a way to describe what's so great about Kutiman. I know one thing, though: I like this.
Ophir Kutiel (the Kutiman moniker stems from his family name, but could as easily be read as admiration for Nigerian Afrobeat icon Fela Kuti) is a solo act from Tel Aviv, Israel, a one-man band who occasionally brings in his friends when he thinks they can improve the sound or he needs some horns (he needs them often). His music is something like Israel itself, a mishmash of things from all over the world, the old and the new side by side, a melting pot with a common overarching identity. He's schooled in the funk and fusion of the 1970s, Afrorock and Afrobeat, heavy psych from the 60s, hip-hop and modern R&B, a bit of reggae and dub, a couple decades of electronic music, and the general art of the groove.
This comes together in a fantastic, head-spinning debut album, a psyched-up groove monster that can't decide between vintage and modern and instead just has it both ways. It works in the same way a lot of releases on the Ubiquity label, like Shawn Lee's Ping Pong Orchestra or Will Holland's Quantic, work, by finding that switch that makes you forget about the why and just enjoy the what. It opens with a light appetizer in instrumental "Bango Fields", a basic funk track topped with a squiggle of ring-modulated analog synth that suggests Kutiel might be able to make a pretty good living as a hip-hop producer, but that barely prepares the listener for the album as a whole.
"No Reason For You", one of several tracks that features vocals by Elran Dekel, follows with a crushing Led Zeppelin beat, heavy Fela horn section, huge, sweeping chorus, and a towering, psychedelic hook that sounds like a cross between a choir and a string section but actually probably comes from a synthesizer. The synthesizer on "Once You're Near Me" is more playful, sort of an electro-exotica hook for Dekel to play off. He's a pretty versatile singer, giving a pointed, almost ominous performance on "No Reason", while his contribution to "Once You're Near Me" sounds like a lounge signer sucked into an echo chamber.
Kutiel's other principle vocal collaborator, Karolina, has a voice sort of like a melting trumpet-- you can tell she's listened to a least a few Billie Holiday records. She sounds especially great on the jazz-inflected "Trumpet Woman", wherein she imitates the titular instrument to great effect over a miles-thick bass line and chilled-out drumbeat. She gets a little more down and dirty on the spectacular funk workout "Music Is Ruling My World", given a kickass drum break and a big horn section to duke it out with. Even when the album moves away from funk workouts, it remains engrossing. "I Just Wanna Make Love to You" provides a chilly interlude at the album's midpoint, with muted trumpet and saxophone wandering through an R&B fog driven by a downtempo funk beat. The closest thing I can think to compare it to is DJ Shadow's "What Does Your Soul Look Like? (part 1)."
Somewhere in all that, there are a whole lot of reasons to like this record. It's an album that feels right all over the place-- in the car, at home late at night, on a large soundsystem at a party...Kutiman takes all his influences, gives them a swirl and emerges with a great debut that hits that elusive switch over and over.
— Joe Tangari, February 27, 2008
The debut record from Tel Aviv’s Ophir “Kutiman” Kutiel is the late ‘70s funk album nirvana crate-diggers spend their lives searching for. Unfortunately for them, it wasn’t recorded, mixed, and released until 2007. More shocking, Ophir himself hadn’t even heard of Fela Kuti and James Brown till about five years previous, when a DJ pal finally introduced him to his destiny via a small stash of classic vinyl. Gawd damn, if he isn’t making up for lost time.
With this proudly self-titled effort, Kutiman distils the finest freak afrobeat, psychedelic soul, and West African riddim with Patrick Cowley “Sea Hunt” disco synths into a full-length rubber chicken three shades funkier than the Quantic Soul Orchestra’s Tropidelico. What’s amazing is—with a little help from his friends here and there—the whole thing is just Kutiel jamming with himself on a PC. It’s unbelievable how authentic and fresh it is at face value, let alone the work of a multi-instrumentalist basement producer in the Holy Land, where the entire scene for this vein of music can fit in Ophir’s bedroom. Jazzanova, Gilles Peterson, and Diplo have already caught the Kutiman fever, and it’s only going to keep spreading. Keep on truckin’, soul brother.
Kutiman is the debut solo release of Ophir “Kutiman” Kutiel, an Israeli musician/producer who has become well-known in music circles as a multi-instrumentalist and boardman for any number of djs. Kutiman’s self-titled release is a cottage project --- think Moby, in his apartment, doing what he does --- which consists of live recordings, some solo and others with some of the musicians he has worked with before (MC Karolina and Sangit, among others). The result is a surprisingly varied and engaging work that not only satisfies on first take but also rewards repeated plays.
The primary references here would be Everything But The Girl with the (occasional) minimalism of Massive Attack. Kutiman, however, is a bit more playful, venturing into funk territory (No Groove Where I Come From, Chaser, Escape Route) and doing so quite well when he does. My personal favorites tend to be the tracks with Karolina ---Losing It, Trumpet Woman, and Music Is Ruling My World, with Losing It, in particular, incorporating a strong afro-beat styling over Karolina’s vocals. It’s really hard to pick a winner, however, particularly when you have a disc with so many strong tracks, in such a variance of styles. I Just Wanna Make Love To You --- not the Willie Dixon composition --- begins with a dreamy, repetitive and smoky melody, with Chaka Moon crooning the title over and over --- before abruptly turning into a rambunctious instrumental jam of guitars, horns, and keys that strains against the constrictions of the tempo before settling down again for a few seconds. Once You’re Near Me, featuring Elran Dekel, is, I swear, a take-off on Our Day Will Come, by Ruby & The Romantics, at least until mid-point, where Kutiman takes a left turn into funkland with a smoking hot trumpet solo over Dekel’s rap.
Kutiman, unlike a number of projects of this type, never gets bogged down in the gravitas of its own self-importance. Kutiel sounds as if he’s having fun without getting silly or stupid, and without wasting his considerable musical chops as well. Kutiman is that rare dance project that is stimulating, engaging, and entertaining from beginning to end.
01. Bango Fields
02. No Reason For You
03. Take A Minute
04. No Groove Where I Come From
05. Losing It
07. I Just Want To Make Love To You
09. Once Your Near Me
10. Escape Route
11. Trumpet Woman
12. Music Is Ruling My World
13. And Out