Mashina’s Iggy Dayan beats to a different drum

There is far more to Dayan than meets the eye, and ears, than his sterling powerhouse work with the megastar rock band.

IGGY DAYAN: We never tire of the music. It always sounds fresh to us. (photo credit: SHLOMO MUZAFI)
IGGY DAYAN: We never tire of the music. It always sounds fresh to us.
(photo credit: SHLOMO MUZAFI)
 There is something more than a little contradictory to the way Iggy Dayan has been going about his business. Now 55, Dayan is probably best known as the drummer of durable Israeli rock outfit Mashina, which started life way back in 1983. The fivesome, which enjoyed huge success in its initial 12-year run, reformed in 2003 and is still very much a going concern, naturally pandemic strictures permitting. But there is far more to Dayan than meets the eye, and ears, than his sterling powerhouse work with the megastar rock band. 
That becomes patently clear after listening to his latest release, Tvuot Haruach (Wind Crops or Spirit Crops). Intriguingly the record is being put out in two installments. The first volume made an appearance a couple of weeks ago, with the second part due out on March 10, each with five tracks. Judging by the initial five-parter, the overriding mood varies between the elegiac to the subtly paean-oriented. 
Dayan leads a stellar roster of largely seasoned professionals who take in vast tracts of musical endeavor, from rock, through pop, folk and jazz, with Dayan on vocals and guitar. His vocal delivery borders on the fragile and he conveys some weighty emotional baggage in the process. 
After four decades on the scene, and accruing a wealth of street level experience, Dayan seems to be ready to let it all hang out. Plainly put, music fans who know the man exclusively from his work with Mashina will be surprised by what they get from Tvuot Haruach. 
Although acknowledging this is not a feral musical exercise, by any stretch of the imagination, the artist does not feel there should be any seismic shift in the public’s perception of him and what he puts out there. “Yes, this album is obviously me approaching the content from a different place, but I don’t think I have changed,” he posits. “Maybe I have matured and developed a little, but I think this is just taking a different perspective on the same world.” 
It certainly is. The opening track “Be’eneha” (“In Her Eyes”), for example, is a highly emotive number, and you get the sense that Dayan is intent on baring all. Consider the following lines – “A look. There will never be another you. Straight and winding, a Garden of Eden, and then diving into the frost in her eyes.” That’s a far cry from the youthful angst that pours out of “Night Train to Cairo” from Mashina’s self-titled 1985 record. The song opens with: “I’m so sad and sunny about the city. And Dizengoff seemed to me like a night train to Cairo. Among all the sounds looking for a sign. Sitting on the side of the road. Sitting next to time.” 
Three and half decades on one would expect some change of lyrical and musical tack from Dayan. Perhaps an awareness of the inexorable passage of time seeps through the words of “Etmolim” (“Yesterdays”), the second track on Tvuot Haruach. There is a decidedly nostalgic air to the song with Dayan reminiscing about blues sky days spent walking hand in hand. If there was any doubt about that the closing line reads: “Yesterdays passed by so fast.” The melancholic element is bolstered by Dayan’s vocals which border on the raspy ethereal. 
The pensive mood continues on into “Raam Mipa’am” (“Past Thunder”) as Dayan, presumably, ponders a past relationship as he recalls how he “closes the door there. There is no way back. The man eventually owns up. I don’t want to play games. I don’t show emotion just for the sake of it. It has to be authentic.” 
Dayan is also an advocate of the slow burner. It might be down to the stage of life he has attained, and a growing consciousness of where he is currently at, within himself, that lead to a more measured, gentle creative timeline. A couple of years or so ago he published a well-received novel, called Hava which, incredibly, he wrote on an old cellphone. He says there was a distinct advantage to the old school apparatus. “I could only see a few lines at a time. So I could just focus on that.”
He and his cohorts have been slowly cooking the Tvuot Haruach brew for some time now. “We have been playing, and working on, this material for about five years,” he notes, adding that the scores have stood the test of time, with flying colors. “We never tire of the music. It always sounds fresh to us. It has been an organic process, and I always hear new things coming out in the songs.”
THE MAN certainly has practiced ears. He started out on his musical path when he was barely into his teens, treading the boards for the first time at the tender age of 12. His first gigs generally entailed keeping time for older brother guitarist Naor and, by the time he hit 16, he was mixing it with some of the established stars of the pop and rock scene, such as guitarist-vocalist Danny Litani, singer Oshik Levy and iconic singer songwriter Mati Caspi, all now well into their 70s. 
Dayan’s other brother, Hod, is also a professional musician and he recalls making frequent visits, together with their father, to a nearby shopping mall and the brothers invariably returning home with a new LP to listen to. All three siblings had their ears trained on offshore endeavors rather than the local scene. “We were into British and American pop and rock,” says Dayan. He says, considering the media reach of the day here, that is not surprising. “You only saw Israeli artists on TV, or at various festivals. There was nothing else.”
But he did have works of some of the giants of the global – Western – commercial scene to fire his young imagination. “We’d listen to stuff by groups like [late 60s Dutch band] Shocking Blue and [late 50s-60s British instrumental pop band] The Shadows. I thought, I can try playing that. It sounded strange to me, to hear people singing in Hebrew. I have Iraqi-Persian roots, so there is nothing in my DNA that leads me to English language rock, but that’s what grabbed us.”
All of which made his slot with Mashina even more dramatic. “Mashina changed things for Hebrew rock,” the drummer states. Indeed, this was at a time when the Israeli rock scene really began taking off, and made it okay for bands to perform Hebrew material. 
Dayan says he and his pals in Mashina went through a rapid transformation themselves. “The songs we did, to begin with, in Hebrew first sounded kind of cute. Our audiences were entirely made up of 12-year-old girls. A year later we were doing songs which sounded like angry gibberish, without words. The people who came to our shows then were mostly drunken punks. It was quite challenging for all of us.”
It is safe to say that Tvuot Haruach does not appeal to the anarchic side of the music listening sector, and Dayan is fine with that. “People who might listen to the record expecting it to sound like Mashina will have to bridge the [genre] chasm. There is a definite dissonance there. But it’s up to them to manage that.” For Dayan it is principally a matter of being true to himself, and where he finds himself along the sequence of life, and expressing that through his music. “We had to find ways to do things, playing the guitar and the other instruments, singing and putting it all together. It was a tough process. Not everyone wants to do that. I hope these songs will touch people.”
For now, Dayan is looking forward to getting Tvuot Haruach out there, at live gigs, solo. And there are plans to issue the whole album on vinyl sometime. That, after all, is where it all started for him. 
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