If you were here around 35 years ago, you may have noticed giantsized billboards advertising a brand of cigarettes called Broadway 80. The tobacco company’s poster, designed to appeal to our more romantic side, featured a windswept man with a mass of curly hair, the prerequisite whiskers and cowboy boots and, naturally, sitting by a bonfire somewhere “out in the wild.”
The face of Broadway 80 back then was pop singer Arik Sinai, who had a string of hits in the late 1970s to early 1980s, such as the “Shir Preida” (Separation Song) written by Shlomo Artzi; “Derech Hakurkar” (Sandstone Way); “Shuvi Shuvi Lapardess” (Come Back to the Orchard); and “Yeled Yarok” (Green Boy). In those days, it seemed that everything Sinai touched turned to gold. He looked like the epitome of Israeli masculinity, the definitive Sabra, with his checked shirts and unruly hair, with a tough-looking outer persona but with a voice that was surprisingly tender.
Sinai will reprise some of those successful pop numbers at this year’s Muzot Festival, which will take place for the 17th year at its regular berth of Shoham on October 8 to 10. Other big names at the event include Mosh Ben-Ari; rocker Alon Eder, who will host his parents, singer, actress and comedian Miki Kam and veteran rock guitarist Yehuda Eder; veteran pop stalwarts Nurit Galron and Shlomo Gronich; and singer-actress Dana Berger. who will appear with writeractress Sarah Blau. The onstage musical entertainment will be augmented by shows for the junior crowd and an interactive sculpture, as well as a slot for local talents.
When Sinai bounced onto the scene with what he calls his “country rock,” it was quite different from the pop, rock and Israeli songs of yesteryear that had been the staples of the local music scene from years.
“I tried to bring something new,” he says, adding that he was exposed to American roots music at a young age. “It made a big impact on me when I heard people like Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson. I really loved them and still do.”
Like many members of his generation, 68-year-old Sinai was brought up on largely Israeli folk music, which owed its musical feel, rhythms and textures to Russian and French artistic antecedents.
“I grew up on that, too. I liked it and played and sang all sorts of things,” he says.
Sinai says he caught the music bug at a young age.
“As far back as I can remember, music and I have been the best of friends,” he says with a chuckle. “Even if I had not decided to work in music. It is a part of my very being.”
What didn’t particularly appeal to the teenage Sinai was school. He much preferred to groove to the vibes of the big names from “over yonder” like Elvis Presley, The Rolling Stones and The Beatles.
“When I was stuck in a boring physics class at school, the teacher caught me scribbling in my exercise book and drawing the hairstyles of the pop and rock stars,” he laughs. “He took the exercise book and showed the class what I was doing instead of listening to him.”
That must have been a mite embarrassing.
“I didn’t care,” Sinai remarks. “I had no interest at all in physics and chemistry and that sort of things. I was into music.”
The youngster eventually set hand to guitar at the age of 16.
“I had an Argentinean friend who was a really good guitarist, and he gradually showed me things,” he recounts.
At some stage, Sinai sought the help of a bona fide music teacher, but he is largely self-taught. He never made it to the upper echelons of instrumental excellence, but he says he gets by.
“I am not a virtuoso, but I am able to accompany my singing on guitar,” he notes. “That’s enough for me. I never dreamt of being Jimi Hendrix or Jimmy Page”
Basically, the youngster just wanted to play and record country style songs in Hebrew. “I recorded my first song in 1976, and it hit the radio waves in 1977,” he recalls. That was “Shir Preida.”
“After that came out, I knew that whatever else happened, music was my way in life,” he says.
In fact, Sinai had been honing his craft for a couple of years before the debut release, playing in bands at all kinds of venues in his hometown of Haifa and at various events.
“I was basically the singer in different groups from the age of 16. We weren’t fantastic musicians, but it was a good internship,” he says.
Despite parental disapproval, the youngster stuck to his musical guns.
“My parents were very much against it,” says Sinai. “They wanted me to be a lawyer or something else serious. They didn’t believe in it. My mother called it ‘air business,’ but I told them that’s what I was going to do and nothing could change my mind.”
Sinai’s first self-titled album came out in 1980, and there have been 10 more in the interim, the latest being Holech U’ba (Coming and Going), which came out in 2011.
Anyone looking for a nostalgia trip should enjoy Arik Sinai’s show, which will take place on the last day of the festival at 7 p.m.
“We will play older and newer stuff from across the years,” says Sinai. “It is a program we have been performing for a while, and people seem to like it. It is very much indicative of what I have been doing over the years.”The Muzot Festival takes place October 8 to 10 in Shoham. For more information about the festival: (03) 972- 3001 and www.hamesh.co.il