May 4, 2006
A Deux Ex ‘Mashina’ You Wouldn’t Believe
The Rolling Stones have done it. Cher has done it.
The comeback -- that big farewell concert tour followed by a reunion and a new album -- is about as American as apple pie.
It's not unheard of in Israel, either. While solo artists like Arik Einstein, Shlomo Artzi, Shalom Hanoch and Rita have all had their ups and downs, they remain superstar commodities and churn out a new album or collection every few years. Israeli bands, on the other hand, hold their "very-very-last" concert and then reunite years later, probably less because their fans are clamoring for it than because it makes economic sense (those who were once young teenagers now have disposable income).
But who ever thought Mashina would reunite?
That seminal '80s pop-rock band -- their run was actually from 1985-1995 -- stood the test of time, putting out eight albums in 10 years and performing hundreds of packed shows.
Mashina had light lyrics about love and relationships and pajamas and zebras -- as opposed to war and politics and death -- and a synthesized beat to rival the best of the '80s bands, like, say, Erasure or Hall & Oates (who are, in fact, back on tour for their own comeback.)
Mashina injected new sounds and new life into the Israeli music scene. Founded in 1985 by Shlomi Bracha and Yuval Banay -- the son of famous actor Yossi Banay and cousin to many other Banay singers like Meir and Evyatar -- it took 10 years and a couple of bombs but mainly hits for the band to run its course. When they were done, though, it seemed like they were done -- forever.
But never say never. Especially in showbiz.
Mashina reunited in 2003, coming out with a new album, "Future Romanticism," and playing, once again, to packed houses in Israel and America. They are headlining the Israel Festival in Los Angeles on Sunday, May 7.
"In the past few years we've been concentrating on Mizrahi music," said Guy Kochlani, director of entertainment for the Israel Festival, referring to Middle Eastern-influenced music. "We wanted to give a new twist and also have an actual band."
In the past, the festival has brought in solo artists such as Yehoram Ga'on and Sarit Hadad. "Mashina is a fairly old band -- they'll attract 15-45-year-olds, because back in the'80s they used to rock out Israel; they have a huge fan base that will definitely come support Mashina," Kochlani said.
Mashina band member Banay has been rather shocked by the number of young people who attend their concerts, both here and in America. "It's amazing how many young people come to see us," he told The Journal by phone from Israel. "Sometimes we play at clubs, and it's only teenagers; apparently our songs were passed down from fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers -- there are people who are there who were never even born [when Mashina first came out]. But the people who come see the Rolling Stones were not exactly born either [when the Rolling Stones came out]."
Their decision to reunite wasn't one of those things where a band reunites for one concert and then fades away into the background again.
"We were together for many years -- we got tired, and everyone went their own way," Banay said. But "we were always friends helping each other," he said, not exactly answering why they decided to reunite. "We are good together, and we enjoy playing together," he said, as if that were answer enough.
Was it difficult to come back a decade later to an entirely different music scene -- one with hip-hop bands like Subliminal and Dag Nachash and ethnic groups like Tipex and Idan Reichl?
"There is rap and hip hop -- the Israeli music scene has changed the same way that it changed in Europe and United States. There was rock 'n' roll and then dance and then hip-hop, but one thing is for sure, like Neil Young said, 'Rock 'n' Roll can never die.'"
Even though Mashina has toured the States since it reunited, coming to Los Angeles, Boston, Florida and New York, Banay says they don't plan to record in English, like other Israeli artists such as David Broza and Ahinoam Nini (known here as Noa).
"We're too old for that," Banay says wistfully. "Sometimes it pains us that we're not a rock band in America -- but you can't have it all. We are a bit less rich than we could be in America," he says, noting that there's only about 100,000 people who buy rock music in Israel. On the other hand, he says, "America is a hard place -- you have to work all the time to chase money. It's true you live there and you live well, but you always miss Israel," he said, and referred to Mashina's most popular new song, the trance-like "There's No Other place":
"It's true that the days
Are so short
And the songs that I love
Are no longer played
But there's no place else.