The People’s Musician

24 March 2012 | 12:41 pm | Michael Smith

Born Israeli of Yemenite and Iraqi parents, the music Mosh Ben Ari makes is a heady cosmopolitan mix of rock, soul, reggae and world music.

“Alot of the time what happens,” Ben Ari explains from his car on the way to Tel Aviv for a meeting, “is you're working some song and it's kind of a mellow song, but then you go to the studio and you find you can do it bit groovier. The beginning of the music is a melody and in the studio and we start to work with the producer and it'll come out a different style, but if it's a writing that causes it to become a reggae song.”

When Ben Ari, who writes and records in Hebrew, kicked off his solo career, he was still a member of the most successful band to come out of Israel, Sheva, with whom he first toured Australia in 2003. They even released an album the following year, Live In Australia.

Aside from music though, Ben Ari's also developed another kind of passion. “The last album [2010's Haolnm], I was writing it for two years in the middle of a lot of big tours that I did in Israel and also New York – and I think it's one of the most special albums because of the movement; I was travelling a lot and that sort of stuff in my life. I bought a big farm and started to work in agriculture and everything was affecting at the same time as this album. A lot of the lyrics in the album were talking about being a citizen in Israel and stuff that we really want to change.”

Though he released his debut solo album, Ad Elai, in 2001, Ben Ari's solo career really didn't take off until the second album, Derech (A Path), which charted gold in Israel in 2004. Even so, the break from Sheva, which he co-founded, wasn't an intentional career move.

Don't miss a beat with our FREE daily newsletter

“It wasn't a hard decision because we took kind of a break from Sheva – we took a vacation – and in this time I was staying in my studio and was writing and recording songs that I guess anyway wouldn't have get into to Sheva because they were personal – really speaking about my being alone – so when Sheva came back, the CD was out. So it just happened.

“We did a lot of work going out and performing everywhere we can and pulling the success of the album from the crowd rather than the radio. So my career came from the real stuff, from the show. The crowds chose us, not only some company or radio to decide if we are succeeding or not. We perform a lot in Europe. It's amazing because, you know, the music is a big mix of cultures and in my case I bring Yemen music to the show and Yemen is all about groove. The music is a big reflection of what's happening everywhere.”

Mosh Ben Ari returns to Australia to headline the second Shir Madness Sydney Jewish Music Festival amongst his own solo shows. “I'm not coming with a big band,” Ben Ari explains. “I might bring a bouzouki, but most of it will be on guitar and more sitting on the voice and the lyrics and the movement, more like the groove. In Israel we are performing with twelve people playing instruments from all over the world, but in Australia it'll be more simple.”