Bridging the distance to Kingston

Ex-Shabak Samech guitarist Piloni welcomes his Jamaican cohort, for whom he recently produced an album, to Tel Aviv.

Anthony B 88 248 (photo credit: )
Anthony B 88 248
(photo credit: )
When reggae great Anthony B wanted to spice up the music on his latest album, he turned to what on the surface seems like an unlikely source of Rastafarian pride - an Israeli. But it turns out that the distance between Tel Aviv and Kingston, Jamaica isn't so great - at least not if you're Piloni, the veteran guitarist and producer for Israel's top hip-hop band Shabak Samech. For the past decade or so, Piloni (born Dani Stark) has divided his time between Israel and Jamaica, where he has produced dozens of albums for Jamaican artists like Jah Mason, Terry Ganzie, Prezident Brown, Kulcha Knox and Lisa Danja. "We all went to Jamaica for a couple months in the late 1990s to write songs for our third album. It was idyllic, and I became friendly with Jah Mix, the head of Kariang Records there. I ended up staying on after the rest of the band went back and started a local production company with Jah and began working with Jamaican artists," said Piloni. When Yavne's favorite sons Shabak Samech disbanded in 2002, Piloni and fellow bandmate Mook E started their own record label, Shabak Music, and the guitarist began spending more time in Jamaica. "In the past 10 years, I've lived there for about two and a half years. I usually get over there for extended periods about twice a year," he said. "We have good relationships with a lot of artists and we're in constant touch on the Internet, sharing files and working that way." Shabak Samech's regrouping in 2007 has done little to slow down Piloni's production schedule, and Anthony B is just the latest feather in his cap. A throwback to the traditional grassroots reggae of Bob Marley, Anthony B has released 13 albums over the past 14 years, and he has been steadfast in his mission to represent the poor and oppressed, using sharp lyrics to confront political injustices and bring the issues of the people to the forefront. He's appeared around the world since he first started touring in the late 1990s, performing with legends like Israel Vibration and Burning Spear. "The greatest thing about reggae music is that it's about concepts and ideas. You are speaking to people on issues they live and can relate to," he said in a posting on his Web site. Anthony B is a member of the Bobo Ashanti branch of the Rastafarian movement. "Bobo Dreads," as they are known, are recognizable by their flowing robes and colorful turbans. His show on August 11 at the Barby Club in Tel Aviv will include backing by the A-Mar Soundsystem, a crack reggae production team. But for his collaboration in the studio with Anthony B, Piloni chose to broaden the usual reggae palette of sound with some ideas of his own. "In Jamaica, when you produce a song, there are often 10 different artists on the same track. It's a function of recording the music and vocals, and then adding different layers and mixing the results," said Piloni. "Anthony was one of the nicest people I've met there. He's a real rasta man and went with the flow. When I produce, I don't try to do reggae, I'm bringing an Israeli element to it - a different instrumental sound. The artists love that exotic sound." According to Piloni, it was straight business in the studio, with little time for small talk or any other accoutrements of reggae culture. "The process wasn't so much a romance as it was a quickie. In and out," he said. "Sometimes, you have a lot of time and there's a different vibe and you can sit in a corner and talk and get to know each other. But with this album it wasn't like living together, it was more like a date." Be Anthony B's next date when he brings his reggae roadshow to Tel Aviv.