Meir Ariel's musical offspring

guitar 88 (photo credit: )
guitar 88
(photo credit: )
The entertainment business is littered with the shattered dreams of starry-eyed stellar offspring. In this country, Shlomo Artzi's son Ben shone briefly in the pop firmament before fizzling out, while John Lennon's older son Julian has a long way to go before he even gets to close to making it as big as his late dad. Still, that doesn't seem to deter Shahar and Ehud Ariel from following in their legendary father Meir's footsteps, and they have just released their first album Mi Ya'ir Et Hayeladim (Who Will Wake the Children). On the day we chatted, the brothers were due to play at a CD launch in Tel Aviv's Barbi club which, in turn, was a sort of warm-up for their gig at this weks's Yamei Zemer Festival at the Holon Theater. On Saturday night, the Ariel siblings will perform material there from their new release, and some numbers penned by their celebrated dad. The brothers' mother, Tirtza, who managed her husband's career in his latter years and is the guiding light behind the annual Meir Ariel all-star tribute concerts, was the catalyst for the siblings' professional hook up. "She kept on telling us: 'You're both talented, you both write songs, why not work together,'" explains Ehud. "In the end it just sounded right to me, so we started writing and performing together and, eventually, Mi Ya'ir Et Hayeladim came about." In fact, for several years Shahar earned his crust exclusively from directing and writing films while it was the younger brother who trod the national gig circuit. Ehud was a regular at the New Age festivals, such as Beresheet and Shantipi, generally sporting a battered trilby atop a thick thatch of curly hair that more than a little conjured up images of his late father. Meir's voice and intonation also passed down the gene line to his younger son, and it was sometimes an eerie experience attending Ehud's shows. To paraphrase a well-known siblings story from Genesis, the voice was (almost) Meir's but the corporeal being was definitely Ehud's. While things may currently be looking good for the brothers, it can't be easy carrying the "son of" tag with you on stage. "It doesn't bother me at all," says Ehud, at 29 the younger of the two by seven years, who recently became religious. "I feel it is a great privilege to be the son of Meir Ariel." Shahar has a somewhat less PC take. "If anyone just looks at us as the sons of Meir Ariel, that's their problem," he declares. "We do our own thing." It's not as if the Ariels are exactly in denial of their famous parent. Both admit to learning a lot from the troubadour who died suddenly in 1999 at the age of 57. Besides his blues- and folk-inflected tunes, Ariel Sr. was known for his ability to mold the Hebrew language into practically any form he wished. Shahar and Ehud recall that with affection. "Yes, the language thing comes into my work a lot," says Shahar. "I get inspiration from Meir's songs, and play around with things. The written word is very important for us, as it was for Meir, but we believe our new CD has its own merits. Sometimes I feel Meir's presence very strongly when I'm working on something." There are plenty of other influences too. "Ehud will probably tell you he takes a lot from British rock, but I'm more into American rock, folk-rock and blues -- guys like Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix and the Grateful Dead." In fact, Ehud mentioned the first three as major sources of inspiration, plus local artists such as Shalom Hanokh and seventies super group Kaveret. For now, the younger Ariels are making their own way in the business taking in some paternal works that will, no doubt, provide some added value to their shows, although we can expect another posthumous offering from Meir in the not-too-distant future. With all declared reverence and appreciation of their father the Ariels are keen to carve out a niche for themselves in the local music industry. "I think we have something to say too," says Shahar. "The title track from the new CD talks about how we need to look at life and see things for what they are, not the stuff they show us on TV." Dad Meir would no doubt have approved. Shahar and Ehud Ariel will perform at the Holon Theater, as part of the Yamei Zemer Festival, on April 15 at 10 p.m.