At first glance, a juxtaposition of the names of Osnat Vishinsky and Shlomo Bar doesn’t exactly bring to mind a musical match made in heaven. Vishinsky has made a career out of doing comic routines based on highly convincing mimicry of a bewilderingly vast gallery of singers, while Bar is known for spearheading the Israeli east-west cultural cross-border musical sector, and indeed the global world music scene as frontman for Habreira Hativit (The Natural Choice) which is still filling auditoria up and down the country three-plus decades on.
Vishinsky and Bar will demonstrate just how well their respective musical mindsets gel when they perform their Bineshima Achat (In One Breath) show at Hechal Auditorium in Rishon LeZion on May 21 (9 p.m.) as part of this year’s Spring Festival.
The two first fused their vocal textures in an impromptu appearance. “It was by chance although, you know, things never happen just by chance,” muses Vishinsky. “I was on a panel on the subject of heroism, and Shlomo was involved in the musical side of the event. He began to sing [Habreira Hativit staple] ‘Shecharchoret’ and, on the spur of the moment, he gave me a microphone and I simply started singing with him.”
It was a snug sonic and emotional fit.
“There is something so modest about his bearing. And he when sings there is something humble and so connected about him. There is a sense of something large and strong,” says Vishinsky.
Despite the successful one-time on-stage synergy, that was that for a while.
“We went our separate ways but I was left with a lovely feeling of bonding with Shlomo’s spiritual and modest side, and that we share common ground,” recalls Vishinsky. Six months later she began to get the idea that she and Bar might actually be able to put together a worthy entertainment package. It all began from an emotive song Vishinsky wrote which gave its name to the forthcoming Spring Festival spot. The lyrics talk of two people sharing a spiritual journey, despite hailing from different worlds. Sounds like a pretty accurate appraisal of where Vishinsky and Bar come from, and it proved to be the catalyst for bigger and better things.
“Shlomo liked the song immediately and I began to bring him more and more material I’d written, and all sorts of ideas, and he liked it all,” says Vishinsky, noting that she never doubt that Bar’s enthusiasm was genuine, and there were no polite platitudes about his response.
“Shlomo is the most precise person I know. He will never veer from his own truth. I was delighted he went for it, and I was happy that my intuition about him, and about how we could work together, was spot-on.”
It was clearly a musical marriage that was meant to be.
“He loved the texts I sent him, and I asked him to write some music for [Psalm] Ashrei Ha’ish [Blessed Is the One] and he said the music just flowed out of him,” says Vishinsky. And there was more to conceptual and creative cross-fertilization to come, and Vishinsky began to feed off Moroccan-born Bar’s cultural baggage too.
“I came across an old Andalusian song, which we connect with Shlomo’s own story in the show. It is a beautiful song called ‘Lamma Bada.’” The song also provided a bridge to Vishinsky’s own ethnic backdrop. The comedian-singer’s Polish surname notwithstanding, her mother hails from a Yemenite family and her father has Iraqi roots.
“Lamma Bada connects with the Arabic music I heard as kid at home,” she says, adding that she grew up with a motley range of sounds and entertainment sentiment. “We also heard classical music at home, Israeli music, and sketches by [iconic comic trio] Hagashash Hahiver,” she laughs. The latter, presumably, help to send Vishinsky on her way to her eventual main comedic line of work. “So I grew up with Arabic music, which is also Shlomo’s music.”
The repertoire for Bineshima Achat flows in numerous directions, and also delves into Bar’s earliest musical recollections.
“Shlomo told me that when he around three years old, when he lived in Morocco, he came across a basement where people were playing music and singing, and he sat outside listening all day,” says Vishinsky.
Those sounds remained in now 70-year-old Bar’s memory banks, waiting for Vishinsky to come up with an offer he couldn’t refuse.
“He sang what he remembered of that melody to me, and I took it and incorporated it into ‘Lamma Bada.’” Vishinsky also made the work a little more user friendly for local audiences.
“I wrote one stanza in Hebrew, so that people wouldn’t feel completely detached from the textual content.”
There was no such divide to negotiate on the musical front.
“The tone of the new part was a perfect match for the sound of ‘Lamma Bada.’ It is also a very moving song, about unrequited love of a woman who sees a handsome man and says that only the god of beauty can possibly appreciate what her eyes see.”
Vishinsky and Bar will be ably supported by an experienced instrumental lineup that features longtime Bar colleague guitarist-vocalist-oud player Ilan Ben-Ami, electric violinist Nir Sarussi, keyboardist- vocalist Idan Haim David and seasoned multidisciplinary percussionist Avi Agababa.
Vishinsky spread her net far and wide in planning the Spring Festival show. The playlist also includes a Hebrew version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” “Shir Meshamer” penned by Natan Alterman, Habreira Hativit hit “Yeladim Zeh Simchah” (Children Are a Joy) and Leah Goldberg’s “Hechalil,” made popular by the Hadudaim duo.
“I think this is going to be great,” enthuses Vishinsky.
“We are thinking about recording the material, and we’ll see where all this takes us.”
For more information about the Spring Festival, which runs from May 15 to May 24: (03) 948-8666, (03) 948- 8688 and www.springfestival.co.il.