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What do Duran Duran, Moby, Mike Brandt, Ace of Base, and Diana Ross have in common with Israel's singer-songwriter Anat Damon? They have all showcased at the prestigious MIDEM world music market.
Damon, who recently released the new single "I've Got Something To Say," this month joined some 9,300 other music professionals from 92 countries at the international trade show in Cannes (Jan. 22-26). Of those participating in the event, only 70 bands and artists were invited to perform.
"I'm very proud of myself for having the guts to dream about it. Most of the reactions I've gotten are, 'Wow, how did you do it?' First of all, I wanted it. I am a dreamer and I tell every one about my dreams. And I guess if you talk about your dreams you have to show that you really try to do something," said Damon, during an interview with The Jerusalem Post prior to her jetting off to France.
Damon's mettle is what has helped her throughout her music career.
Her 2003 debut album, Falling, might have gone relatively unnoticed by the local music arena, but All Music Guide, the broadest music reference source on the planet, awarded it a laudable 4-star rating.
"[All Music critic] Richie Unterberger's review gave me relief," says Damon, over cappuccino at a Tel Aviv cafe. "I took the initiative to send him my album. All Music's mandate is that they must inform people of all new CDs they get, but they don't have to review them. So, luck was also involved here. It's also about luck that I was born with talent of writing music."
Prior to the powerful All Music review and before the launch of her Web site (www.anatdamon.com), Damon relied on the Internet to disseminate her sound. She sent her album to independent music Web sites like CD Baby and then searched forums to answer fans' questions.
"The Internet made my career," says Damon, who counts as her influences the Pixies, the Beatles, and Paul McCartney among others. People from North America to Europe, Asia ("I have fans in Indonesia") to Australia buy her album.
Damon has always loved music. At the age of four, she reports, she fell in love with the Beatles. But it was only at 29 that she started playing guitar and writing songs. She holds an MA in Organizational Psychology and until two years ago operated her own consulting business.
"My mother was braver than me," she says when asked about changing careers. "She started university at 40. For me it was natural that one can find her self at any age."
The 41-year-old Damon is not representative of contemporary rockers be it here in Israel or on the international scene. The mother of one says her maturity is both a plus and minus.
"I'm really happy I studied psychology and I loved my profession. But I'm afraid it might be too late [to launch a music career]. I wouldn't mind being 32 now. Not 22, not at all. I'm sure that I wouldn't succeed in anything unless I had the experience of life that I've had but I'm getting nightmares that maybe 41 is too much for the world to digest."
Though she reiterates that her new line of business will not kick start "overnight", MIDEM is renowned for launching careers. And though her daughter Shira (meaning "song" in Hebrew) is four-and-a-half and perhaps not the most convenient tour companion, Damon, says she's ready for the big time. "Yes, I'm ready. I think it's time," she says.
Her hi-tech husband, she says, backs her music forays.
And while local critics tend to slot Damon into the adult contemporary or indie rock niches, one spin of her CD and listeners will realize that it's impossible to compartmentalize her music.
As for her lyrics, they are clever and engaging. "My texts are so personal it could be any woman anywhere and not [necessarily a woman] from Israel," she said. In fact, despite her being a native Hebrew speaker, Damon says she has always written lyrics in English. "Technically it's easier to write in English, it affects the melody," she explains.
She first tampered with the local music scene when she initiated and managed the band Sanhedrin. She moved on to manage the group RockFour, whom she suggested should sing in English as she felt the world should know their music.
"Did someone ever say anything about ABBA singing in English instead of in Swedish?" she says referring to the growing list of Israeli singers who sing in English.
When MIDEM came calling, Damon - who had organized her own public relations and management during the last 12 years - finally loosened the reigns and hired Hillel Wachs to supervise her career. Although used to working independently - her record label, Anova, is also under her control - she also has a backup band.
In Cannes, Damon performed both with her band - Ron Yanai (bass and vocals), Shuki Perry (electric guitar) Einav Levitov (percussion, keyboards and vocals) and Keren Zehavi (drums and percussion) - and solo.
For local music lovers, it should be reassuring that Israel is home for Damon. For international followers, it is good to know that Damon's eyes are abroad when it comes to festivals and promoting her music. She has applied for the upcoming Roskilde open-air festival in Denmark and for Canada's biggest and most important music festival, North By Northeast.
"It's a calling," she sums up. "I feel I just need to make music."