A ‘Milestone’ performance

Mosh Ben-Ari’s ensemble show Simanei Derech in this year’s Piano Festival has a distinct Spanish flavor.

Mosh Ben-Ari 521 (photo credit: Ohad Romano)
Mosh Ben-Ari 521
(photo credit: Ohad Romano)
Over the last dozen years or so, Mosh Ben-Ari has been belting out decent amounts of decibels as he has pounded the local rock circuit, performing to wildly enthusiastic audiences. But now it looks like the 42-year-old dreadlocked singer-composer may be taking a brief hiatus from the upper reaches of the volume scale. On Wednesday, Ben-Ari will team up with a couple of artists from a very different part of the musical world at the Suzanne Dellal Center in Tel Aviv for his Simanei Derech (Milestones) slot in this year’s Piano Festival.
Actually, Ben-Ari’s Simanei Derech show tends toward the quiet side, anyway. The program features material from his seven solo albums, stripped down to their acoustic bare essentials. The imported contingent of Ben-Ari’s Piano Festival lineup includes Spanish flamenco singer Ana Sola and flamenco guitarist Petete Fernandez. The Israeli side of the stage includes pianist Roy Zuaretz, Gilad Dubrevski on percussion and Tomer Moked on various string instruments.
This is a new departure for Ben-Ari, which came about through serendipity.
“My producer Danny [Kark] was at a recording studio in Spain and played something from one of my CDs,” Ben-Ari explains. “Ana happened to be walking past the room, heard the music and asked who the performer was. One thing led to another, and here we are, about to do this show together. This is a very human bond, not a sort of mathematical connection of one plus one.”
The Piano Festival offered Ben-Ari and his new Spanish pals an opportunity to get it together on stage. “It just felt right to perform this material together,” he says. “They know my songs very well, and they even translated some of them into Spanish.”
Ben-Ari notes that he has had an affinity for Spanish sounds for some time, even though it does not come out too forcefully in his work. “I never really related to the classic side of flamenco music, but it has been in my work, more in terms of the feel,” he says.
For Ben-Ari, there has also been some important local enhancement. “My connection with Roy Zuaretz is one of the most amazing things that have happened to me. This is the first time we have worked together, and I’ve never had this quality of playing before. He meshes so well with the more intimate, quiet sound of my music rather than the in-your-face side. He brings such wonderful harmony skills and adds to the depth of my singing.”
Ben-Ari first came to note 15 years ago as a member of then seminal new age world music group Sheva, which was based at Amirei Hagalil near Safed. I first interviewed him there 12 years ago when he was about to release his debut album, Ad Elai. It was a somewhat shy young man I met back then who didn’t feel too comfortable in a one-on-one interview situation.
At the time, one of the other Sheva band members told me, “Mosh is going to be really big, you’ll see. He’s the most talented of us all.”
That prescient aside proved to be pretty accurate.
Over the last 12 years, Ben-Ari has built up a strong fan base, and his CDs have earned good sales levels and plenty of radio air time.
So, all these years down the line, is the Simanei Derech show a harbinger of quieter things to come from Ben-Ari? After all, no one’s getting any younger, and parenthood, marriage, divorce and remarrying can tend to soften one’s edges. Ben-Ari isn’t quite so sure.
“Yes, there has always been an acoustic side to what I do, but I still get my inspiration from rock music – bands like Led Zeppelin and people like Neil Young, the more abrasive side of him. I still love distortion and the sort of down-and-dirty side of the music.
That’s what really gets me going. I’d like to say I’m softening with time, but I can’t,” he laughs. “I don’t think I’m quite ready for that yet.”
As befits a show with a strong Spanish strain, there will be plenty of guitar endeavor in evidence. “I’ll play acoustic guitar and maybe electric guitar, too.
Tomer Moked will also play guitar and probably Spanish guitar. And, of course, there’s Petete. But Roy Zuaretz’s piano is the heart of all this. This synergy with Roy is really special. He will bring fantastic harmonies and all that romantic feel. What he can do on the piano in a second and a half, it takes four minutes to get that on guitar. There’s something from the heart that Roy puts into the piano that I have never encountered before,” he says.
After the Suzanne Dellal gig, Ben-Ari will take his troupe around the country, with shows at Zappa in Jerusalem (November 8), Zappa Herzliya (November 9) and the Gallery at Kfar Vitkin (November 10).
For tickets and more information about the Piano Festival: (03) 762-666 and *9080 and www.pianofestival.co.il