Slovakian pop star Miro Jaros shows off his Israeli connections on his newest album.
By DAVID BRINN
Tel Aviv graphic artist Mark Blumberg has been writing pop songs as a hobby ever since he was a child in Johannesburg. But when his lifelong dream of writing a hit song and hearing it on the radio was realized this summer, it had taken on a decidedly quirky twist - a Slovakian twist, that is.
Blumberg's song "Lessons in Love" (Cierne Pesmina) became the eighth most popular song on the Slovakian charts this summer, thanks to a recording by pop star Miro Jaros, a finalist in the 2005 Slovakian version of American Idol. How the 50-year-old Blumberg and the 30-something Jaros ended up collaborating on a song is testament to the fact that chance meetings can sometimes produce life-altering results.
"Back in 2003, I applied to a local employment agency looking for work to earn money to record a CD," explained Jaros, who was in Israel last week with the support of the culture department of the Israel Embassy in Slovakia. "One of the options they offered was to travel to Israel to work on Moshav Lachish taking care of their grapes."
Jaros jumped at the chance, and even though he lasted on the moshav only three months, he ended up spending over three years in Israel.
"I moved to Tel Aviv after that and worked in a bunch of things, cleaning houses, modeling, working for the Slovakian Embassy; I got a couple of small roles in movies, and I tried to meet people in the music industry in Israel," said Jaros.
In 2004, a mutual friend introduced Jaros and Blumberg, and the two struck up a conversation about music.
"He played me some of his songs and I noticed how incredibly talented he is," said Blumberg, who runs a small advertising studio.
"Mark and told me he was a songwriter. At the time, we didn't work together at all, but I knew he was around," added Jaros.
Then, one day in 2005, Jaros got a phone call from his mother in Slovakia telling him that an American Idol-type show was being launched, called Slovakia is Looking for a Superstar.
"I immediately left everything - work, friends, apartment - and returned to Slovakia, knowing that I was going to get on that show," said Jaros. "Since I can remember, I wanted to be a singer. I remember standing in front of my mirror pretending to be Michael Jackson."
JAROS MADE it to the show's finals, placing at number six and, as a result of his popularity, nabbing a recording contract. He decided to return to Israel to record his debut, Exoterika.
"I had learned to love mizrahi (oriental) music when I was here, and I wanted my album to have some of that feel to it, so it made sense to record it here. The album sold pretty well, but radio stations were reluctant to play the songs because they sounded too oriental," said Jaros.
When Jaros began to look for songs for his follow-up album, he remembered that his old friend Blumberg had written some songs.
"Mark played me 'Lessons in Love' and I fell in love with the melody. I knew I had to have it on the record and I wrote some new lyrics and changed the arrangement a little to make it more adaptable for Slovakia, and 'Cierne Pesmina' was born."
The song appeared on the album Tlakovo Niz, which was released in March and also included a Slovakian rendition of Israeli singer Idan Raichel's "Bo'i." Released as the fourth single on the album, "Cierne Pesmina" remained on the Slovakian charts for 15 weeks through June.
"When he told me it was on the radio charts, I was totally surprised. I was able to tune in on the Slovakian stations on the Internet, and I could hear my song," said Blumberg.
"The first time I heard it, it was an indescribable experience. It's been my life ambition to hear one of my songs on the radio. From then on, I followed the chart position 24/7, with all the emotions involved in watching it climb and fall off the charts."
Jaros and Blumberg reunited last week in Tel Aviv when the Slovakian singer arrived to record some promotional interviews with Raichel for the forthcoming single release of "Bo'i." "I had asked permission from Idan to record the song, and sent him the final result. He said he liked it a lot. We went to see him perform... he was amazing," said Jaros.
While Jaros and Blumberg don't have any concrete plans for future collaborations, knowing Jaros's strong ties with Israel and Blumberg's love of songwriting, it's only a matter of time.
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