From the pristine coastline of Australia’s Byron Bay to the exotic villages of
Goa to the hustle and bustle of Tel Aviv’s Nahalat Binyamin, Carlie Fairburn’s
constant companions on her non-stop journey have been her guitar and her little
blue book containing the songs she writes along the way.
primary school teacher from Sydney began her wandering more than eight years
ago, searching for her voice that she was sure was waiting to be
And she found it – a delightful, sandpapery voice peppered
with frequent hoarse bouts of laughter.
It’s a voice that sounds even
more evocative and alive when wrapped around Fairburn’s striking original songs
that don’t seem to realize that folk and funk can’t coexist within the same
That musical brazenness, combined with a clearly evident star
quality, has enabled the 35-year-old neophyte to jump start a music career
despite the fact that she knows very little Hebrew, has never lived in Israel
before, and isn’t Jewish.
A year that began with Fairburn busking with
her distinctive voice and songs on Tel Aviv pedestrian malls and building a
word-of-mouth reputation as “the girl who sings at Nahalat Binyamin” has
resulted in a management deal with Asaf Avidan’s manager and brother Roie Avidan
and an EP produced by Uri Winokur, bassist of local funk favorites
How did a 35-year-old school teacher from Australiaturned
singer with a delicious voice end up in Israel? Thank the song “Ve’ech Shelo” by
Ariel Zilber, later popularized by Mosh Ben-Ari.
“I was in this little
café in Goa, where I was performing a couple years ago, and this group of
Israelis was singing,” said Fairburn, speaking in an irresistible Australian
accent from her home in Tel Aviv. “It totally captivated me, how they were all
singing together so intensely and spiritually. It doesn’t really happen in
Australia. I was captivated by the language, how the song sounded and how these
beautiful people were singing it. I asked one of them If he would teach it to me
so I could perform it. They wrote it out phonetically, and I could just not stop
practicing it,” she recalled.
“A little later, I did a concert in the
north of India with some Israeli and Indian musicians. We performed that song,
and someone recorded it, and it started getting passed around through all the
Israelis in India and started getting popular. So my initial connection to
Israel really started with ‘Ve’ech Shelo,’” she said.
But it wasn’t her
last connection. Fairburn had already been bouncing back and forth between her
day job as a teacher in Byron Bay and her regular busking excursions around the
world, with regular stops in India. It was in Goa eight years ago that she
experienced a revelation that enabled her to begin writing songs.
a really strong moment in a little café on top of a mountain. Something came
through me – it was maybe the first time I totally lost myself. I was crying,
and I knew I had to sing. It was around then that I wrote my first song. From
that moment on, I didn’t stop,” she recounted.
Fairburn returned to India
determined to follow her muse, but she ended up going back to teaching, a
pattern that repeated itself over the next few years.
“I’d go away for a
year sometimes and travel and come back filled with my music, having been
singing wherever I was for the whole time. And I’d come back and fall into
teaching again – because I love it and because it’s much easier to survive as a
teacher than an artist,” she said, followed by her husky laugh.
encounter with the Israelis in Goa two years ago, however, Fairburn returned to
Australia, feeling the initial tugs that would bring her to the Middle
“Something was telling me I needed to come Israel. I wanted to see
some of the beautiful people I had met, but it was something more than that,
something pulling me,” she said.
When she pulled up stakes the last time
from Australia, Fairburn included Israel on her journey and stayed here for two
months before heading back to India for six months. There, she recorded an EP
entitled “Feathers and Strings” with an Israeli musician/producer Shani Ben-
Canar. Instead of returning to Australia as planned, however, she beelined it
back to Tel Aviv, where she’s been living for more than a year.
never lived in a city before,” she said. “I’ve traveled in lots but never lived
in one. What’s Tel Aviv like? It’s full on,” said Fairburn. “This is one of the
only cities that I’ve been in that’s truly 24/7 alive.
There’s so much
energy here, so many different people.
I still sing on the street, and
the magic that happens to me still happens. The craziest stuff happens. I meet
new people, amazing musicians.”
Fairburn started playing on Nahalat
Binyamin and Sderot Rothschild and began making connections, gathering crowds
and collaborating with musicians eager to perform with her. Among them were
bassist Matan Dormbos and drummer Rani Birnbaum, who joined forces with Fairburn
in The Carlie Fairburn Band. That led to connecting with Coolooloosh’s Winokur
and with Avidan.
“Things just started growing and growing. I’ve never
worked with so many people on my music. I’ve never even had a manager or a band
before,” she said, adding that the process included building trust and learning
how to share her music with others.
“Rani and Matan are amazing. I come
with my songs and my guitar, and these two just transform it. The three of us
together become something else, something bigger and more beautiful, and the
essence of what my songs are really comes out more than what I could do with my
guitar,” she said.
“I think a little bit in the beginning, it was
learning how to trust. But Rani and Matan are extremely gentle in their approach
and very aware of my sensitivities.
They would never push me in a
direction I wouldn’t want my songs to go in.”
Fairburn also found a
kindred spirit in Winokur, who added some funky flourishes to the EP without
distorting her natural charms.
“Working with Ori was an amazing
experience. He would listen to a song, and he could hear the parts for
or for the cello. I just get the essence and the feeling that they would
for a song when I write, but I would never know what I want the strings
play,” she said.
But Fairburn clearly knows what strings to pluck on her
guitar and heartstrings to touch with her songs. With the EP due out
soon and a
slew of live shows on tap, including a showcase on October 4 at Tel
Theater with special guest Asaf Avidan’s cellist Hadas Kleinman, her
going into overdrive.
Still, she proudly admitted that she still busks on
Nahalat Binyamin because she loves it and enjoys meeting the people
Even though she studied in an ulpan for five months, her Hebrew skills
reserved for close friends only. Her current mode of advancing her
is to learn songs in Hebrew.
“It’s an amazing way to learn the language.
I fall in love with a song, I get the translation and learn many new
it,” she said.
The fact that she’s not Jewish hasn’t deterred Fairburn
from immersing herself in Israeli culture and feeling a sense of
she can’t quite explain.
“I have this strong connection – and I don’t
know why – that connects me to the people and the land. I don’t know, I
feel that I’m supposed to be here,” she said.
On her artist Web site,
Fairburn attempted to put her feelings about Israel into words: “Those
feet have planted, found roots in a county and a culture I have fallen
love with. And she has become the fuel and the fire of my writing. It is
write from a different space... a mad city, a non-stop pulsating city...
Aviv. Of arid desert adventures, Sinai bliss, wild horses, wild forces
untamed hearts. I write of life as it finds me here... and am inspired
discover greater depths within myself than I have ever had the courage
for. Yes, it seems that Israel and I are in love.”
The more people see
and hear Carlie Fairburn, the stronger that romance is likely to become
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