Maya Avraham will perform on March 7 at Rothstein Theatre, as part of the Chutzpah! Festival. (photo from Chutzpah!)
With two highly praised albums under her belt and a third one in the works, Maya Avraham has come a long way from Rishon LeZion and her days as a backup singer. All her experiences have made her the talented and entertaining artist she is today, as Chutzpah! Festival audiences will see for themselves on March 7.
Avraham told the Independent that she will be coming with two of her band members and two musicians who live in Los Angeles. “From there,” she said, “we’re flying out to Vancouver to perform at the Chutzpah! Festival.”
Avraham has been performing since she was a teenager.
“At 14, I was in a band called Kol Rishon [First Voice] in my hometown,” she said. “And, at the same time, I also sang in my school band. There, I realized how much I enjoy singing and performing. We performed at all festive events in Rishon LeZion.
“I began private singing lessons at age 16,” she continued. “Already, from a young age, the atmosphere at home was musical – we heard Egyptian music and Yemenite.
“At 16, I joined the Moroccan band Sahara, which performed at major family events throughout the country. With them, I was exposed to the Moroccan music that I still listen to and am influenced by today.”
In the Israel Defence Forces, Avraham was in the army’s music ensemble, where she was a singer and also responsible for the ensemble’s schedule. “Of course, we performed all around the country, and I gained more experience,” she said. “In this group was also where I met Moran Gamliel who, eventually, wrote and composed the song ‘Lama’ [‘Why’] with Adam Perry.”
“Lama” was Avraham’s first single.
“In addition to my involvement with the band Sahara, I was also a backup singer in different studios across the country and sang with various artists who recorded albums,” explained Avraham. “In my work as a studio singer who does vocals and harmonies, I gained a lot of professionalism and accuracy. At one point, I was singing backup vocals for the album of a singer named Amir Benayoun. Amir decided to write me songs and I sent them to Helicon, the company with which he was signed. As a result, the manager of Helicon chose to sign me and we started working on the first album. That was at age 23 and I was with Helicon for five years before I ended the contract.”
It was also at 23 that Avraham met fellow Israeli musician Idan Raichel.
“While searching for musical materials for my first album after I signed with Helicon,” she said, “I had the privilege of meeting with Idan Raichel about a song he wrote for his album that he wanted me to sing. So we met. After the success of the song, Idan approached me and wanted me to be part of his project. I agreed, and started the path to my own career by being part of a larger project, called the Idan Raichel Project, which was a success worldwide.
“Working with Idan was very enriching musically and professionally. I learned a lot from him and I was privileged to work with other talented people who were also part of the group. During the many performances in Israel and abroad, I got to know a lot of talented musicians and I was always learning, gaining knowledge and experience from, for example, singers like Martha Gómez and Shoshana Damari.
“I was part of the project for 12 years and the experiences were many,” she said. “Every performance we did or country we visited, we received a lot of respect and admiration, and I am certain it also shaped and strengthened my own personal career.
“The album Rak Ratzit Ahava [All You Wanted Was Love] came out when I was signed with Helicon and the album La Yom Haze Chikiti [This is the Day I’ve Waited For] came out recently, produced by Rafi [Refael] Krispin of Ze-Nihal.”
In a 2016 interview with French magazine TipTopTelAviv, Avraham said she was nine months pregnant when she met Raichel. Two months after her second daughter was born, she said, “Idan telephoned me and asked me to leave for the United States [for a tour], which was to begin a month later. I agreed and my husband stayed with the kids!”
Avraham and her husband have four kids now: Ruth, 12, Jonathan, 10, Tamar, 5, and Hadas, 3.
“Throughout the years with the project, when I toured abroad, I always had help along the way from my parents and my husband,” Avraham told the Independent. “They’re good kids, so it’s easier to trust that everything will be fine and the support from home is important, assuring me that everything is in order. Of course, you always have to come back with gifts.”
Avraham said she is happy and excited about coming to Vancouver. According to the Chutzpah! website, she and her band will be performing her own hits, songs she sang with the Idan Raichel Project and some of her favourite covers.
Maya Avraham Band performs March 7, 8 p.m., at Rothstein Theatre. For tickets ($29.47-$36.46), call 604-257-5145 or visit chutzpahfestival.com. Other music offerings include the Klezmatics 30th Anniversary Tour (Feb. 23), David Broza and Mira Awad (Feb. 28), Marbin with the band MNGWA opening (March 3), Shalom Hanoch with Moshe Levi (March 8), Lyla Canté (March 9) and Landon Braverman and Friends (April 2). The festival also features dance, theatre and comedy.