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(photo credit: AP)
Rishon Lezion Amphipark
Thousands of reggaeton fans gathered Thursday night at Rishon Lezion's Amphipark to shake it to the music of Sean Paul, one of Jamaica's top cultural exports and a fixture in recent years on global dance and hip-hop charts. The concert kicked off with Israeli artist Mosh Ben-Ari, who performed his own mix of soul, rock and reggae with hits from his 2006 album Masa U'Matan (Go Giving).
But it was Sean Paul this audience was really waiting for, and he finally arrived after an additional 45 minutes of a DJ's spinning. The audience pushed closer together to get a better look at the hip-hop and reggae superstar, whose mixed ancestry includes Portuguese-Jewish roots on his father's side, and whose full name remains Sean Paul Ryan Francis Henriques. The singer, who scored a massive worldwide hit with Beyonce Knowles with the 2003 single "Baby Boy," is the son of a Chinese-Jamaican mother and got his education at Jamaica's Hillel Academy. He's said in the past he's a descendant, through his Sephardic father, of the biblical King Solomon.
Mixing new music with older material in Rishon Lezion, Sean Paul shook his hips for 16,000 fans Thursday night, backed up by four dancers doing their best to keep up. With his on-stage entourage paying tribute to Israel's music fans at every opportunity, Sean Paul demonstrated he even speaks a little Hebrew, too - two words, at least, thanking his audience with a spirited "Toda raba!"
The performer made the most of his Israel visit both before and after his concert, visiting Jerusalem's Old City and Western Wall and skipping a stop at the Dead Sea only on the advice of his managers, who worried about the effect of last week's heat wave on Sean Paul's show. Following his performance, the singer told concert promoter Dudi Berkovich that he hopes to return to Israel at least twice more: once to visit the Dead Sea, and again to stage another concert.
Israeli fans appeared more than satisfied after the singer's first local show Thursday night, dispersing in high spirits and continuing to sing and dance as they left the Amiphipark.
Toda raba, indeed.