Shlomi Shaban will be joined by Ninet Tayeb (right) at Metro Vancouver’s celebration of Yom Ha’atzmaut on April 18 at the Chan Centre. (photo from Jewish Federation)
Two award-winning veteran musicians, not to mention good and longtime friends, will be headlining our community’s Yom Ha’atzmaut celebration on April 18 at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts. Tel Aviv’s Shlomi Shaban will be joined by Los Angeles-based Ninet Tayeb.
“I have performed once outside the country on Yom Ha’atzmaut,” Shaban told the Independent. “It was Israel’s 60th anniversary. It was in Stockholm, Sweden. A lot of musicians and myself traveled over there, like Beri Sacharov, Eran Tzur and many others. We had a great show over there. But, beside that, I can’t remember performing outside Israel on Yom Ha’atzmaut, mostly I’m here in Israel, performing across the country or just being with my family, it depends.
“I’ve never been to Canada before, so, naturally, I’m very, very excited,” he said. “I’ve heard a lot of really great things about Vancouver and I’m really looking forward to just hang there, travel around and explore the place, although we’re going to be there for too short [a time] I’m afraid, two days, but I hope to catch as much as I can.
“I remember my friends Jane Bordeaux performing there last year,” he added, “and they came back really excited about the crowd and the place.”
Shaban was born in Tel Aviv and has lived there his whole life, except for a few years, when he was in London, England, to study classical piano. “I’m in love with Tel Aviv,” he said.
Like Tel Aviv, music has always been a part of Shaban’s life.
“I started learning how to play the piano when I was 6 years old,” he said. “I started privately, like a lot of kids. Then I went to a conservatory, and studied there for 10 years. And then, in London … I received an artist’s diploma from the Royal College of Music. I’m very proud of that, though I haven’t looked at that diploma since I got it.
“I always wrote little songs, since I was 10, I think, and always considered that as kind of a hobby, or kind of an intermission – I was practising a lot of piano, five hours a day, six hours a day, and more and more, and I always saw that as kind of a comic relief from practising…. When I was 21, I started thinking, maybe I went the wrong direction, so to speak, and the little hobby that I considered to be a comic relief, might be my main interest, and tried to publish my songs. I was very lucky, I was signed by a major label, here in Israel, of course, and faded away from the classical world, and never went back.”
Shaban now has four albums under his belt, and has won several awards for his work.
“In terms of career highlights,” he said, “I would mention two. As I said, I left the classical world but, five years ago, or six years ago, I was approached by the Israel Philharmonic. They celebrated their 75th year, and they asked me to do a concert of my music, my songs, with the orchestra.
“It was a great closure for me because, when I was 17, I played with the orchestra as a classical pianist with Maestro Zubin Mehta. I was a kid, so, naturally, very excited and very nervous, and now I came back through the main door with my own songs. It was another exciting and, again, nerve-wracking in a way, event for me. I had to practise piano again because I played my own songs and a little classical music we mixed throughout the songs. That was definitely a highlight.
“Nowadays, I’m touring with Chava Alberstein,” he continued. “She’s Israel’s, let’s say, Edith Piaf. I don’t know. She’s Chava Alberstein – she has more than 60 albums. I recorded a song with her four years ago, and asked her to consider touring with me and being her pianist – just me and her, she sings and I play…. We planned to do four or five shows, and now the tour has evolved and it’s sold out, and we are adding more and more shows. I sing only one song during the show, the song that I wrote for her…. It’s a great, great pleasure for me and I learn so much and enjoy so much doing it. So, that’s another big highlight for me.”
Shaban has been inspired by many musicians.
“I’ve covered many artists, Israelis and non-Israelis,” he said. “Mostly, I tend to cover storytelling songs, people like Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen … I’m going to play a few songs by him in the show.
“I was trained as a classical musician and, when I left it and began hearing popular music, in a weird way, my heart went to very simple music, very text-based music, people, as I say, Dylan and Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, Lou Reed, all that gang. And, during the years, they have remained my main love and inspiration, but I have listened to a lot of other music – new music, old music, jazz. I love jazz pianists and composers, people like [Thelonious] Monk … Miles Davis, and many, many others. I’m not interested in a specific genre, just getting as much inspiration as I can from different genres. But, as I said, my main interest always was the lyrics, funnily enough, and the story that the song conveys, and that hasn’t changed.”
In terms of his creative evolution, however, Shaban has been focusing more on the music. He described his early composing as “very functional,” something he used mainly to help the story to come across. “Nowadays,” he said, “I’m writing more rich music. I think, in that way, I’m heading backwards to the classical time and thriving on inspiration from all kinds of music, and not just folk music or rock music.”
Shaban is excited to be performing in Vancouver with Tayeb, who he described as “one of the best singers I have ever heard.” He added, “She’s a great friend of mine, so that’s another bonus, meeting her in Canada – she’s in L.A. now and I rarely see her, so I’m looking forward to that, and meeting you all.”
For her part, Tayeb has recorded five albums and, like Shaban, has been recognized numerous times for her work. Also like Shaban, music has been a lifelong passion.
“Music has been my life ever since I was a little girl,” she told the Independent. “I started writing my own music at the age of 23. To be able to express myself through music is the most amazing gift I could have.”
Tayeb said, “My style is a mixture between Israel, L.A., Berlin and New York, kind of a Middle Eastern rock ’n’ roll with a slight hint of electronic. Music keeps evolving all the time and so do I – thank God! – and, for me, the most important thing is to keep moving forward and keep my mind open.”
It was this drive to continually enrich her knowledge and creative spirit that took her to Los Angeles, she said. She moved there from Tel Aviv.
On Yom Ha’atzmaut, said Tayeb, “The show will be me singing with Shlomi and Shlomi will sing alone, as well. One thing I can promise you – the show will be full of love and true spirit.”
For tickets ($18) to the April 18, 7:30 p.m., concert at the Chan Centre, visit jewishvancouver.com.