The return of the early rockers

Ephraim Shamir is more than happy to be part of the ‘retro’ trend that’s sweeping the country, even though he wasn’t actually here first time around

Ephraim Shamir 311 (photo credit: courtesy)
Ephraim Shamir 311
(photo credit: courtesy)
Considering Ephraim Shamir’s origins, it’s somewhat strange to find him as a lynchpin of a show based on material performed by legendary 1960s Israeli band the Gesher Hayarkon (Yarkon Bridge) Trio. While the original members of the threesome – Arik Einstein, Yehoram Gaon and Benny Amdursky – were reeling off hit after hit here, 59 year old Siberia-born Shamir – then called Pima Schmuckler – was taking his first teenaged steps in the world of rock and roll in Poland.
“I didn’t know anything about the trio, or about any Israeli musician as a kid,” says Shamir, who will play and sing in a tribute concert to the iconic super group on April 23, as part of this year’s Yemei Zemer Festival at Holon Theater.
“You couldn’t say it is a dream come true for me to be in this show because, back then, I had no idea who the Israeli cultural icons were.”
Still, Shamir made up for lost time after making aliyah, at the age of 17, with his parents, quickly getting into the hits of the day on the radio. A year later he joined the IDF, and served in the Nahal band.
“Back then the IDF bands were very important,” he recalls. “They were the thing, and I was together with a really good bunch.”
He certainly was. Not only had the IDF band seen the likes of Einstein, Gaon and later Shalom Hanoch star in its ranks, Shamir served with Danny Sanderson, Gidi Gov, Alon Olearchik and Meir Fenigstein.
Together with Shamir, the latter made up fifth sevenths of what was to become, in 1973, Israel’s seminal rock-pop outfit Kaveret.
Shamir brought a lot of added value to the IDF band and Kaveret. While he was soaking up, and performing, much of the best the West had to offer in the way of Sixties pop and rock and roll, most of his Israeli-born contemporaries were listening to far more gentle or military-oriented Israeli pop and folk, and some romantic French chansons and Russian ballads thrown in for good measure.
In a western sense, Shamir imbibed far more cosmopolitan musical fare, and made aliyah to something of a cultural wilderness.
“I grew up on British rock and roll, and some Slavic, French and Russian music. Poland was more open to western culture and music than the rest of the Eastern Bloc countries,” notes Shamir, adding that he wasn’t the only in his milieu who brought some refreshing extraneous vibes and sounds with him.
“Danny Sanderson and Olearchik also grew up on that.” Sanderson spent his teenage years in the States while, like Shamir, Olearchik grew up in Poland.
EVEN THOUGH he wasn’t here to enjoy the Gesher Hayarkon Trio’s music, at the time, Shamir says he is delighted to play his part in the show on Saturday evening. He is also pleased with the “retro” wave that has been sweeping the country for some years now.
“I think the retro thing is great. Anything that’s a pretext to get together and sing is OK with me.” So, there’s nothing harm in harping back to “the good old days”? “No, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. It’s perfectly natural to be nostalgic.
Israelis, in particular, have this tendency to look back to a time when things are perceived to have been better. That’s fine, as long as we don’t lose our sense of proportion and reality.”
On Saturday Shamir will join forces with a multigenerational slew of rockers and poppers. He will play guitar on all the numbers, and will feature as solo vocalist on “Kekhulah Kechalom” (Blue As a Dream) from the trio’s second record, Tochnit Hadashah (New Program) released in 1966. He will also share vocals, with Aya Koren and Olearchik, on “Eyzeh Yom Yaffeh” (What A Beautiful Day), from the trio’s 1965 first release Ahava Rishona (First Love), and with Dana Berger, Yisrael Gurion – who replaced Gaon in the trio in 1965 – and Hemi Rudner on “Siman She’atta Tzar’ir” (You’re Young) from the first album.
Shamir says he has no problem singing with all kinds of musicians, and has traversed wide artistic expanses in his four decade-plus career to date.
“I am like a bee,” he observes. “Bees hop from flower to flower, and take pollen to make honey.”
The allegory is an apt one. Shamir, indeed, has one of the sweetest voices on the Israeli pop and rock scene.
Shamir is also delighted to perform at Holon Theater.
“Yemei Zemer is a great festival and Holon Municipality should be congratulated for making it happen each year,” he says.
“Other municipalities could do with taking a leaf out Holon’s book. Culture should be supported more here. Culture is what makes life here worth living.”
For more information about the Gesher Hayarkon Trio show and Yemei Zemer Festival call 03-5023001/2/3 or go to: