Gadi Altman 521.
(photo credit: Muper Photos)
If there’s one long-deceased rocker who’s as revered for subsequent generations
as he was for his own, it has to be Bob Marley.The Jamaican reggae pioneer would
have been 66 this month if he hadn’t died in 1981 of cancer at the age of 36 –
young even by rock star standards.
The Jamaican government declared his
February 6 birthday a national holiday in 1991, and for the last few years local
fans have been unofficially marking the day with a birthday musical
This year’s rasta rhapsody takes place on February 17 at
the Barby Club in Tel Aviv and features Karolina, Mookie, Alma Zohar, Omer
Glickman from Hativa 6, Avital Tamir and Matan Cohen from Betsefer and many more
performing their Mediterranean-tinged takes on the beloved classics of Marley
and The Wailers.
Anchoring the lineup, as they have for the previous
half-decade, will be the Marley cover band Rasta Koah featuring Gadi Altman. The
veteran guitarist, who once played in The Flying Baby with Geva Alon and today
fronts the band Sugar, Peanuts and the Circus, arrived at the altar of Marley
“Of course, I was familiar with him before, but I was
always into more heavy rock and metal,” he said. “When The Flying Baby was in LA
in 2000, I saw that everyone there had posters of Marley on their office walls,
so I started paying attention. I traded with a friend of mine his Song of
Freedom collection by Marley for a guitar case. I was pretty shocked by the
vibe, how happy it was, but I also loved the drumming. There was something
intoxicating about it, and I just used to listen to it over and over again. That
got me started.”
When Altman returned to Israel a year later, one of his
first tasks was to form Rasta Koach as a Marley cover band. Ten years
later, most of the band consists of members he met at the annual Marley birthday
“His music really helps to bring people together. When I first
got into it, I didn’t know anybody from the Israeli reggae scene. Now they make
up a lot of my social circle. The parties are amazing; you meet new people, see
great singers and share the love,” he said.
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As the ringleader for the
musical tribute evening, Altman said he and the band work hard to keep the songs
faithful to the Marley originals while trying to cater to the varied styles of
the many guest performers.
“It’s a huge show, almost 30 songs, and
there’s so many different singers,” he said. “We only have a short amount of
time to maybe run through a song with the singer maybe twice in order to find
the right pocket and make him feel comfortable.
We don’t stray too far
from the original arrangement; I’m a pretty traditional guy when it comes to
cover versions. We like to keep it real rootsy and Bob-like.”
to Altman, Marley’s star has continued to rise 30 years after his death due to
the honesty of his music and the transparency of his image.
“The DNA of
his music is really simple. He had a couple of building blocks and just
shifted them around. It’s like he took some colors off the palette and said,
‘I’m going to create with only these five colors.’ It was very systematic but
very easy to get into as a listener,” he said.
“Despite being a star, he
was a simple guy and gave people a very direct way to connect with him. And the
whole focus on peace, love and freedom really struck a chord with people and
And that includes a rabid following in Israel, who will
likely be out in full force on Thursday night in Tel Aviv. Altman thinks he
“When I read his lyrics today, so many of his songs seem
to be written specifically about the trials and tribulations of the Israeli
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