Gusto’s come on

The musician will showcase his new album at Confederation House in Jerusalem

Gusto (photo credit: TAMIR MOSH)
(photo credit: TAMIR MOSH)
Gusto realized he was destined to sing for his supper when he was just about knee-high to a grasshopper. 
“We were at the synagogue, and everybody was singing piyutim (liturgical songs), when my father said, ‘Go on, it’s your turn.’ That’s when I thought I must have a decent voice.” Considering Gusto – which is his stage name, his real name is Avraham Peretz – was all of five years old at the time, that’s quite an epiphany and a feather in his infant cap. Some 42 years on, and Gusto has just released his fifth album, Affak, which he will showcase at Confederation House in Jerusalem on October 18 at 8:30 p.m. 
The new record has been quite some time coming, and Gusto has traveled a proverbial long and winding road to get where he is today. Despite the childhood kudos, it took him a while to ponder making music his life. 
“I made my first record when I was 17,” he recalls, “but it wasn’t up to much.” 
The next Gusto studio offering took place a full 17 years later, and plenty of life mileage, down the line. 
“I grew up, got married, had kids, worked in management,” says the singer. That’s all grist to his creative mill. 
“I realized that, if I was going to be a musician I had to do on my own terms. I won’t compromise on my music. Ever.”
That steely determination culminated in Gusto, who feeds off rich Moroccan Jewish roots, sharing stages and recording studios with a bunch of A-listers from the right end of the ethnic music spectrum. The roll call for Affak, which translates as something along lines of “Come On” or “Get Serious,” includes the likes of acclaimed 90-year-old globally venerated Algerian-born Jewish pianist Maurice El Mediouni, top-selling pop and ethnic music vocalist Miri Mesika and internationally renowned guitarist-singer David Broza. 
Gusto’s non-concessional approach eventually led him home. 
“I was brought up in a Moroccan family of seven kids. We weren’t exactly millionaires,” he notes with a wry smile, “but no one pushed me to do anything specific.”
For some years Gusto – an expression used in various Arabic and European languages to describe something pleasing – combined his daytime job with keeping his artistic juices flowing. Now he is a full-time singer, along with handling various taxing logistics that come with the musical territory. 
The title song of the new release offers some clues about Gusto’s mindset, and the way his life has panned out so far. 
“Come and sit with me and I’ll tell you I have nothing to cling to. I’ll pour my heart out onto you. I’ve nothing left to hold on to. What happened… and it really happened.”
The man has clearly paid his dues.
Affak contains 10 tracks, with all the lyrics penned by the band leader. The group includes percussionist-guitarist Shmulik Daniel, Gusto’s right hand man, who also serves as musical director and producer. It is a long-term, smooth professional liaison. 
“I come up with lines, and Shmulik takes care of the rest,” Gusto explains. “I don’t read music – I tried – so it is great to have my musical director on stage alongside me, and in the recording studio. We work together pretty well.”
Over the years Gusto has mixed with a bunch of top acts, including the Andalusian Orchestra and the East-West Orchestra, and managed to get the likes of local rock guitar god Yitzhak Klepter on board for a Moroccan-leaning reworking of Klepter’s best-known number Tzlil Mechuvan. Gusto’s line of musical attack wends its way through multi-layered musical terrain, fueled by Moroccan and Algerian material, with more than a touch of flamenco seasoning. It is, above all, Gusto’s spiritual and musical home base. 
“I did stints in a wedding band and I recorded albums which you describe as Mediterranean music, world music or ethnic music. But this [Affak] is really where I am, where I come from.” 
It was important for Gusto to sing in Arabic. 
“This is the language I grew up with. I was really heading in this direction before, only I did it in Hebrew. I have always been Gusto.” 
Cultural and musical homecoming notwithstanding, there was a serious minefield to be negotiated. 
“It wasn’t easy. I had to think and write in the same way, but I had to make sure that the images I was trying to portray in Arabic were understandable. There is also slang, and there are various expressions that you just don’t have in Hebrew.” 
That makes for a rich narrative that runs through the whole album. Gusto displays a powerful sense of metaphor in his lyrical efforts. On “Chaloo Lee” (“They Told Me”), he describes a sort of paradise in which the sun never sets, there is no hunger and no one gets sick. 
“There are,” the concluding line reads, “only happiness, melodies and tranquility.” 
Not a bad goal to aim for.
For tickets and more information: *6226, (02) 623-7000 and