Mish-Mosh of Styles Works for Israeli Singer

Singer Mosh Ben Ari remembers growing up enraptured by the Yemenite music of his grandmother. At the same time, he was rocking out to Jimi Hendrix.

Like so many other Israeli pop musicians, Ben Ari found his own way to hybridize his musical influences. A decade ago, he made a big impact on Israeli music with his band, Sheva. Later, with four solo albums under his belt, he?s toured the world several times over.

?What?s unique about Israel,? Ben Ari says, ?is you have unique mix of cultures. Everyone in Israel comes from another place. After 60 years you can see the result of what happens when you mix stuff.?

Ben Ari (whose first name is short for Moshe) returns to the Bay Area with a June 24 concert at the Independent, a 500 person-capacity club in San Francisco.

Though he has stiff competition for longest dreadlocks among Israeli musicians (Idan Raichel might have him beat), Ben Ari, 37, has a lock on funky Arab-flavored reggae-raga rock.

Born in 1970, Ben Ari claims Russian, Iraqi and Yemenite ancestry. As a music student, he spent time in India and Morocco absorbing new sounds. By the end of his apprenticeship, he had mastered exotic string instruments like the Indian sarod, the Persian tar, the Turkish jumbush and the Moroccan ginberi.

And the guitar, of course.

In 1997 he founded Sheva (Hebrew for ?seven?), which released four albums and remains an active band. But in 2001 Ben Ari recorded his debut solo album, which was followed by three others, including last year?s ?Negotiation.? He?s enjoyed his greatest success as a solo artist, both in Israel and around the world.

Though he spends a good deal of time touring outside Israel, Ben Ari thinks it?s all worth it if he can help promote a different side of Israel.

?We?re trying to show the people of the world that the most important thing about Israel is not what you see in the news,? he says. ?It?s not just issues of Palestinians and Jews. All kinds of people are living here. It?s a big celebration.?

That doesn?t automatically translate into standard-issue patriotism for Ben Ari. Though a proud Israeli, he says he has no interest in politics. In fact, he takes that a step further.

?I don?t even believe in [politics],? he says. ?It?s too much power for one person sitting in one big chair. The power is in the people.?

Though he is currently touring to promote his latest CD, Ben Ari is already writing songs for the next one. So far, he says, the tunes are mostly about ?conflict with myself,? though he?s not making predictions about the final product.

Most likely, though, the next CD will celebrate Israeli life and culture, just like his previous releases.

?We have an amazing land,? he says of his native country. ?We want to keep it.?

Mosh Ben Ari performs June 24 at the Independent, 628 Divisadero St., S.F. Yossi Fine is opening act. 8 p.m. Tickets: $30. Information: (415) 771-1422 or www.independentsf.com.

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