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No single band or artist dominated the domestic musical spotlight during the Jewish year 5766. While singer/songwriters Keren Peles and Aya Corem both made huge debuts and saw multiple singles race up the music charts, they each left room onstage for a handful of others. It was a year full of highlights, the highest of which are recounted here.
Already a rock veteran at age 33, Aviv Geffen proved a radio fixture for much of the year with songs from With the Time, the album the musician released earlier this year. Geffen also got a good dose of media attention for his work behind the scenes on Ninet Tayeb's record-setting debut album, Barefoot, which sold more copies in a single day than any other Israeli album in history after its release earlier this month. Undoubtedly the most heavily hyped, widely discussed album of the year, Barefoot garnered rather mixed reviews, though most critics offered praise for Geffen's contributions.
Better off from a critical standpoint was Shay Gabso, who earned runner-up status behind Tayeb on TV singing contest A Star is Born but proved his musicianship with his sophomore album, Instead of Me, earlier this year. The 22-year-old wrote both music and the lyrics for his album.
Another Star is Born alum, Harel Ska'at, also garnered serious media attention with his self-titled album, which sold an impressive 20,000 copies in its first month. Ska'at, who had three singles in the Top 20 for a period this summer, was responsible for one of this year's most popular ringtones with romantic ballad "Ve'At" (And You).
Rapper Subliminal reclaimed his spot at the center of the local hip hop and rap scene with his album, Just When You Thought It Was Over. The master rapper collaborated with a diverse set of artists for the collection, including David D'Or, Grammy-winning Israeli violinist Miri Ben-Ari, Wyclef Jean (yes, Wyclef Jean!), The Shadow, Joe Budden (of the American Island Def-Jam music group), David Broza and Shai 360, to provide one of the year's best albums.
Hadag Nachash also had critics and fans on its side with the new hip-hop/funk release Be'ezrat Hajam (a play on a Hebrew expression that translates, unsatisfactorily, as "With the Help of the Jam"). The seven-member band offered up such catchy songs as "California" and "Here I Come."
Arkadi Duchin returned to his rock roots with his latest studio album, Adult Dreams. With just one gentle ballad on offer, most of the tracks are firmly rock and roll, though there's also a bit of electronic rock added into his mix.
Din Din Aviv, who once sang with the Idan Raichel Project, proved her mettle in 5766 as a solo singer. Months after the release of her latest project, My Secrets, Aviv still has several songs was released some months back.
Overplayed singles this past year included "Larutz Maher" (Run Fast) by 30; "Ten Li Hatima" (Give Me an Autograph) by Tea Packs; "Besof Shel Yom" (At the End of a Day") by Fortisakharoff; "Shir Be'iparon" (Song in Pencil) by Bet Habubot; "Shalosh Dakot Ve'esrim" (Three Minutes and 20) by Tali Fine; "Sukarya" (Candy) by Roni; "Kama Pe'amim" (How Many Times) by Shiri Maimon; "Gog" (Roof) by Girafot, and "Lo Yachol" (Unable) by Keleh 6, among others.
Two of the year's most powerful singles were "Tispor Et Hahevreh" (Count Your Friends), in which rapper Mook-e sings about road accidents, and "A Million Stars" by Amit Farkas, whose brother, 23-year-old pilot Tom Farkas, was killed in the Lebanon war.
Eddie Butler had a short-lived radio hit with his unsuccessful Eurovision entry, "Zeh Hazman" (This is the Time).
And it's of course impossible to forget the summer's biggest single, 19-year-old Idan Yaniv's Mizrahi-tinged "Hoshev Aleha" (Thinking of Her). Another Mizrahi artist, Kobi Peretz, earned notice by achieving gold status for last album, Everything I've Got, in just two weeks.
As in most years, several talented bands released something worthwhile but failed to break into the mainstream. Falling into the category this year were Gamagama, which offered solid original rock on its self-titled debut, and Toy Vivo Duo, which provided a magical musical journey on Laughing With Angels: Live Concert.
Dafna and the Cookies, who infused Israeli rock with an energetic, contemporary and warped beat on their self-titled debut, and Mayim Shketim, a collaborative project offering refreshingly airy, unpretentious melodies, might not have made it big in mainstream circles, but both groups triumphed on the indie scene. Katamine, another Israeli collaborative project, also didn't receive the attention it deserved for Forest of Bobo, a collection of slow tunes that are both appealing and attention-grabbing.
Nir Sandch released one of the least heard albums of the past year withKacha Mekarov, a shame given his music's high quality production and lyrics.
Hadara Levin Areddy's latest album, After the Storm, reinvigorated the local rock world, with Levin Areddy putting together a rock-meets-blues-meets-soul style over the course of 12 tender, soulful tracks. And Sheila Ferber proved grrrl rock remains alive and well in Israel with her album Matok Shachor, an album about pain and relationships set to an acoustic pop/rock sound.
On the comeback front, Nurit Galron proved she's still a singer to be reckoned with on her 17th album to date, What Heaven Rewards. Critics praised the album for its jazzy beats, attractive string arrangements and catchy tunes. Ronit Shahar made a quieter comeback with her album Beginning to Continue. The title track was a huge radio hit upon its release, but other popular singles proved harder to come by.
As for English-language music by Israeli musicians, the genre seems to be doing well. Geva Alon released his debut solo effort, Days of Hunger, an acoustically-driven folk/rock/country mix offering a genuine Americana atmosphere. Amit Erez, who re-creates English Seventies folk rock, released Black Light to great reviews, while Funk'n'stein the Band promoted the local English-language scene with a self-titled double-album brimming with funk, soul and R & B.