It isn’t odd to meet married couples that share each other’s passions. For
Michael and Shimrit Greilsammer, this passion is music. Michael, a violin
prodigy since the age of five and self-styled “reggae violinist,” and Shimrit, a
guitarist and singer-songwriter, have supported each other through years of
advancement in their musical careers – playing in bands, headlining concerts,
opening shows for international stars and now, together, they have produced an
The release of B’Paris (In Paris), signals a fundamental shift in
Michael and Shimrit’s relationship – the two now share billing as lead singers,
a departure from the backup role Shimrit has played until now, and from
Michael’s first album, Mitorer (Waking Up).
“Some songs are hers, some
songs are mine,” says 30- year-old Michael, who was born to French and Dutch
parents, in Jerusalem. “It’s always about finding the equilibrium and about
keeping individual creations.”
This balance shines through on their
album: Either Shimrit or Michael sings two thirds of the songs, and a third are
sung together. Even when singing solo, neither of them seems to really be alone.
Michael’s violin always joins in Shimrit’s songs, an extension of his
Sometimes when he is abroad for business, Shimrit sends Michael
songs and letters, which he then puts to music, and her words are easily heard
in some of Michael’s solo songs.
Singing in Hebrew, French and English,
Michael and Shimrit sample a vast array of musical influences – from rock to
reggae, folk to Irish. This last style owes mostly to their work in Black
Velvet, an Israeli-Irish band of which they were each members, although not at
the same time. Michael heard her sing a song in Gaelic for the group, and
several years later, while working on an Irish project featuring Israeli songs,
the two finally met.
“We met on a musical ground, and that’s why people
always ask me how is it to work with my wife,” Michael says.
always that way. We always talked about music and we always communicated through
Living, raising a family and working together may seem like a
tall order for even the most loving partners, but for the Greilsammers it’s just
“We can’t separate – we just don’t know how, we wouldn’t know
how,” Michael says.
This was evident throughout their November 26 show at
the Yellow Submarine in Jerusalem to celebrate the album’s release – whether in
more predictable moments, such as when Michael serenaded Shimrit throughout
“Ishti Hayekara” (My Dear Wife), or at more surprising times – when Shimrit
stopped the band completely for some more intimate time with her
“I want this next one just with Michael,” she says, strumming
the first few bars of “Im Yesh Cazeh Davar (If There is Such a Thing),” a
beautiful track off the new album.
Watching the two onstage, it feels at
times as if you’re looking into their living room, witnessing their life
together set to a song. This collaborative effort also includes the band (Uriel
Sverdin on drums, Ohad Eilam on bass, Tamir Gross on keyboard and Amit Sagai on
electric guitar), which has played a more prominent role in the production of
the new album and in touring.
According to Michael, this has opened up
new musical avenues based on the members’ own styles. The permanent and
more-involved addition of the band also helps keep the energy sky-high at
“That’s the big change,” says Michael. “Many times I did a
lot of work myself with the audience but now the effort is inside the
THE ENERGY of both musicians and audience at their Yellow
Submarine performance was, the Greilsammers would agree, also linked to their
personas as Jerusalem artists. They and their three-year-old son make their home
in this city.
And while they love living in the capital, they are happy
to see it growing culturally.
“Culture is rising in Jerusalem,” Michael
says. “Things are evolving.”
The couple was very active in Jerusalem at
the height of this past summer’s social justice movement, playing free shows for
protesters not only in Jerusalem, but for the tent cities and marches all across
the country. They were also part of a group of Jerusalem musicians featured in
mash-up artist Kutiman’s “Thru Jerusalem,” a music video featuring the sounds
and music of the city, commissioned by the Jerusalem Season of
The Greilsammers see themselves living in Jerusalem for a long
time to come.
“We are here also to change [the city] and not only to
absorb,” Michael says.
In the coming months the Greilsammers hope to
spread this high energy through two important shows – first, on December 21 at
the Tmuna Theater in Tel Aviv, and several days later at the Limmud Festival in
Warwick, England. The weeklong Jewish culture festival is the largest of its
kind in England, and the couple will perform together on the night of December
25. Once back in Israel, they plan to tour in Haifa and through the
These upcoming shows, as well as past performances all over the
country and in France, where Michael released his last album entirely in French,
will also serve to garner more attention for the duo.
After throwing a
song off their new album, “Tou Du Du,” into the ring for last year’s Eurovision
Song Contest, the Greilsammers have enjoyed wider exposure in Israel and more
radio airtime. They even discovered a fan base in the Caribbean, when a radio DJ
found Michael and Shimrit on MySpace.com, a social networking
“They saw someone who plays reggae who is white, with glasses
and with dreadlocks, so they said okay, let’s bring him,” Michael says. The band
performed two concerts in Barbados.
“They were really happy to see
someone from Israel, and in Bob Marley songs you have a lot of talk of
I’m someone who likes their culture, talking about tolerance and
peace.” (One of Michael’s signature concert songs is a fierce, violin-peppered
cover of Marley’s “Iron, Lion, Zion.”) For the Greilsammers, making their latest
album was a musical journey – starting with rehearsals, then picking the songs,
and finally recording with the band.
“I see our life and our career
together for a long time, maybe forever,” Michael says of he and Shimrit. With
the release of B’Paris
, the couple has taken a big step down the path to musical