BAT YAM, ISRAEL // Israeli heavy metal is rocking Turkey despite deep discord between the Jewish state and its Muslim former ally as hundreds of fans turned out to hear a group called Orphaned Land play a concert in Istanbul.
The group played to Turkish fans and others who came from countries across the Arab world on Saturday. Because the Israeli musicians cannot enter many Arab states, they perform several times a year in Turkey.
Ankara has downgraded diplomatic relations with Israel and suspended defence trade following the Jewish state's confirmation last week that it would not apologise for its assault on a boat challenging its Gaza blockade in 2010 in which nine Turks were killed.
The band leader, Koby Farhi, interviewed in Bat Yam, south of Tel Aviv, on Wednesday, said music had the power to transcend political differences.
"I think that music has the power to enter your heart like a bulle. Usually we judge, usually we stereotype. I am Israeli, they were raised the whole time not to connect with me. I am the enemy, I'm the bad guy and music has the power to break it," he said.
The group initiated a brand of music it called "Jewish-Muslim metal" that is derived from heavy metal. Many of the band's songs include prayer lyrics from Jewish liturgy, the Quran and other religious texts.
Farhi said hundreds of groups play a similar type of music out of sight of the authorities, mainly in moderate Arab countries. Later this year Orphaned Land plans to tour Europe with metal bands from Algeria and Tunisia, he said.
The group is also considering holding a concert in Egypt after a Facebook poll showed 83 per cent of their fans said they should.
In Istanbul on Saturday, Orphaned Land's fans were not disappointed. Some came all the way from Iran and Lebanon, waving their national flags.
One Turkish fan said: "Music doesn't recognise closed doors. I believe all people here are supporting them and their performance is really good.
"It takes courage to do what they are doing, coming here and performing for us.