An Israeli rock tractor

The guitarist says he feels that his band also brought something fresh to local entertainment offerings.

Nekmat Hatraktor (photo credit: ELDAD REFAELI)
Nekmat Hatraktor
(photo credit: ELDAD REFAELI)
 Nikmat Hatractor (Tractor’s Revenge) is one of this country’s most enduring rock bands. The group, which started life in 1989, is marking its 30th anniversary with a concert at the Shuni Amphitheater tomorrow evening (doors open 9 p.m., show starts 9:30 p.m.) In addition to the current members – the lineup has ebbed and flowed a mite over the years – the roster for the evening includes original band members keyboardist Ilan Green and drummer Danny Makov, and veteran megastar rocker Berry Sakharof will also do a guest turn or two.
The latter is a natural choice for the celebratory occasion.
“Berry was our first musical producer,” explains guitarist Ophir Leibovitch, who has been around since the start, along with singer-bass guitarist Avi Balali. “We were just a bunch of young kids. It was our first experience of a recording studio, our first album. You don’t forget that. We really like Berry’s work, through all his various musical guises. For me, he has always been a symbol of a special, gifted and uncompromising artist.”
Nikmat Hatractor has also been through some ups and downs, and meandering byways and highways over the past three decades. Leibovitch says it was an exciting to enter the Israeli rock fray: “I think that we, together with all the groups of the ‘90s, through their music, renewed the connection with what was happening around the world on the music scene. That didn’t happen that much here in the ‘70s and ‘80s, and did happen in the late ‘60s and ‘70s, with [acts like] The Churchills, Tamuz, and even Arik Einstein and Shalom Hanoch.”
The guitarist says he feels that his band also brought something fresh to local entertainment offerings.
“The innovativeness of Nikmat Hatractor also lay in the fact that we worked in several artistic disciplines, like dance, theater and cinema. There was nothing like that, back then, in Israel.” Among its many creative pursuits, the band hooked up with one of the country’s leading dance troupes. Batsheva and Nikmat Hatractor, with Kir (Wall) and Anaphasa, undoubtedly generated a revolution in the Israeli dance world, which later had significant impact not only in Israel, but around the world.
The band had to weather some industry storms too. “I think that, when ‘Le’an Holchim Pittom Kulam’ (Where Is Everyone Suddenly Going?) [in 2003] came out, all Israeli music changed and the golden era of ‘90s rock in Israeli, particularly on the radio, ended.” Over the years, Leibovitch has also made a name for himself as one of the country’s leading soundtrack writers, and the other members have also dipped a toe or two in other creative climes. “Between ‘Le’an Holchim’ and ‘Nishar Rak Larutz’ [in 2011] each of us developed substantially in terms of our individual careers, engaged in solo projects, in dance, theater and cinema, and Balali and Green put out their own record.”
Balali and Leibovitch have traveled a long road together, and counting. “Avi and I have known each other since the age of 15,” says the guitarist. “We played together in all sorts of bands when we were in high school, and later in the army and at [legendary defunct Tel Aviv music venues] Liquid and the Dan Cinema.”
A few years later, after their personal and musical paths bifurcated, the high schools pals reunited and joined Green in forming Nikmat Hatractor. It took a little while for the music scene here to sit and take note. “For a year we recorded rough cuts and sent them to record companies. Of course they all got rejected until, to our great surprise, Nitzan Zeira, who had just formed Nana Disc – the first independent label here – responded.”
Sakharof, who was then living in Belgium with the rest of his Minimal Compact band, was duly contacted and he produced the group’s debut record. And the rest is – ongoing – history.
For tickets and more information: (03) 762-6666 and