Playing up the temple

Although his feet are firmly planted on solid ground, former Sheva percussionist Eldad Levy wants his new offering to make listeners' hearts soar with messianic desire.

Eldad24888 (photo credit: Eldad Eilat)
(photo credit: Eldad Eilat)
It's hardly a secret that artists generally consider their work as something of a spiritual odyssey. With Eldad Levy that ethos hits you squarely between the eyes, even if the final product took a while to arrive. This evening the 36-year-old santur player will showcase material from his latest release, Masa-La, at Jerusalem's Khan Theater. He will be in good company onstage, with his cohorts including the likes of celebrated kamanche (spike violin) player Mark Elyahu and fellow former Sheva band member bass guitarist Udi Ben-Canaan. In a world of all-powerful bottom lines and shrinking deadlines the idea of taking a full seven years to come up with the goods would be considered fanciful and downright bad business practice by most members of the industry, but, for Levy, there was no rush. The music and the spirit behind it were of the essence, not time. "Masa-La was a very complicated and deep project. We wanted to convey the melodies and harmonies, the intricacies, and reach our listeners' soul," Levy explains. "Fourteen musicians worked on this and we spent three years in the studio. I did three mixes and three masters. I wasn't willing to compromise on anything, and I'm very happy with the result." There is also an explicit ulterior motive to Levy's musical endeavor. "We don't just play pleasant sounding music," he says. "Our music is designed to evoke in the hearts of every listener the desire for the Third Temple. As soon as we all want that, the Temple will come into existence." Levy set out on his spiritual road over a decade ago. He was part of the then-burgeoning new-age scene which spawned a plethora of highly successful festivals, including the likes of Shantipi and Boombamela. He was also a member of the musical side of the extended new-agey family - also referred to as the "jama'a" - largely centered in the Galilee, at Moshav Amirim and the nearby hotel Amirei Hagalil. Those were heady times with many an evening, and night, spent around the campfire playing music together and generally chilling out. SHEVA, WITH Levy playing drums and percussion, became a major draw all over the country, and also performed across the United States, Europe and Australia. The band members eventually drifted apart and Levy became religious, although, he insists, he is far from the proselytizing type. "You could call me secular with a kippa," he laughs. His spiritual venture notwithstanding, Levy appears to have his feet planted very squarely on terra firma. "I recently got an e-mail from an 8-year-old kid who said he'd written a tune and then saw me play something just like it on TV. That was an uplifting experience and we all want to soar up to the Creator, but we all have kids who have to get up in the morning to go to school. Music has wonderful healing and spiritual qualities but we have to remember we are here in this world for a purpose." During his teen years Levy was drawn to the music of Pink Floyd, which, he says, was his only early source of musical of inspiration. "You can hear something of Pink Floyd on [Masa-La track] Ga'agua. But there are Jewish musical influences in there, too, and the tempo is Persian," he says. "I don't listen to music because I don't want it to get in the way of what I'm doing. There's music in the everyday things in life. I get my musical ideas from getting up in the morning, being with my kids and seeing what nature has to offer us. Anyway, we have so much music in Israel, far more than in the United States for example. I am of Bulgarian descent and married to a woman with Persian-Moroccan blood. I think that's plenty." Eldad Levy will perform with an 8-piece band at the Khan Theater on Rehov David Remez, Jerusalem, this evening at 9 p.m.