I feel like I was born to be a musician. Music is the most important thing in my life. It’s a wonderful way of expression that causes a supreme emotion especially when there is a strong emotional cultural connection, it is one of the ways to express what is not possible in any other way and it makes music an important and special thing.
I started my musical journey at the age of 6 when I received my first bouzouki lessons. I played several instruments including the violin, oud, piano, guitar but the bouzouki was always my main and first instrument.
There are those who say that music is a universal thing that connects people, but for me music is an inseparable part of culture. Naturally, a person chooses to assimilate into the culture in which he grew up and see the values of his culture as the center of his world, as something that establishes his identity.
I grew up with a culture that includes language, customs, values. It was like growing up in a bubble around one culture and not being exposed or environmentally influenced by other cultures. I was privileged to receive great inspiration from great musicians in music and culture with a rich and glorious history that unfortunately was cut off from me. And those musicians also didn’t get the great fame they were supposed to get.
From a great loss of culture, language and people, I was swept away to settle in Greece in Greek culture and music which became a part of me and which I live every day. You could say I lost one culture and was adopted by another, that would be the best way to understand it.
Classical music is the basis of music. I think that every musician should start his journey by listening and studying classical works of the great composers, whoever thinks otherwise then doesn’t understand music.
I also started playing classical works by popular composers such as Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, Isaac Albéniz which I played on piano, violin and guitar.
I can say that it is like the stage that every good musician goes through in his life for the musical education and understanding. The truth is, I haven’t had the chance to play a classical piece for a long time because it’s not the music I’m connected to and it’s not the western music that captured my heart.
Oud and Maqams
Later I studied the Makam theory and was influenced by great musicians who were respected people and among the greatest musicians in the Middle East including from my own family.
I learned to play the dulcimer and the violin and admired musical works in Turkish classical music by musicians from the Ottoman era. During my many visits with my parents to the city of Istanbul, I took lessons on Saz and other Turkish. I also learned songs in Arabesque style, which is a genre of Turkish music that was influenced by Arabic music.
Later I discovered that Ottoman music or by its other name the old classical Turkish music has a great influence on Greek music and of course also on classical Arabic music. There was an Ottoman musician named Zakaria Efendi who died in 1740 and he had classical works in Turkish and he was a Greek general who used to sing hymns in the Orthodox Christian Church.
Many do not know that classical Arabic music drew its inspiration from many ancient sources also from Byzantine music which actually historically began as hymns in the temples and then in the Middle Ages was developed by the Catholic churches.
Western classical music is different from Eastern classical music and the big difference between them is the freedom of improvisation that exists in the Eastern one. By the way, when I mention the word Mizrahit, it has nothing to do with what is known as “Mizrahit music” in Israel and I wrote an article about it in the past.
I am well versed in the Arabic maqams and their playing while, on the violin, on the organ and also in singing. I also have knowledge of the Arab rhythms and their playing on percussion instruments such as Darbuka, Egyptian Riq and drums.
I have knowledge in the Classical Arabic Music, the Mawshahat and also the old folk songs from almost all Arab countries: Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and also Iraq. I read, write, sing and understand several dialects of the Arabic language. From home I was exposed to the Iraqi Arabic language in the Baghdadi Jewish dialect, which is a language that is becoming extinct today.
Bouzouki is the first and main stringed instrument I play. Many ask me how I came to bouzouki and Greek music. The exposure to Greek music was from home. My dad had all the old vinyl records of the Greek singers of the Laika genre.
After that I visited Greece, where I also took bouzouki lessons and delved into Greek music and culture. I felt that during my visits to Greece, I did not experience my stay there as a traveler but as a local. I assimilated into the culture and the people and a deep and emotional connection was created.
Piano was the first keys I played and then organs and various accompaniment keyboards. Today I play on Roland’s EA-7 accompaniment keyboard on which I did a comprehensive review and comparison with other accompaniment keyboards from the leading companies.
I worked a lot on making sounds and rhythms on the keyboards. I created a unique set of rhythms from scratch for the Roland EA-7 accompaniment keyboard of all the rhythms in Greek music including sampling different sounds that are part of the set.
Maestro and multi-instrumentalist
I am a multi-instrumentalist. From a very young age I learned to play a number of musical instruments including piano, violin, oud, saz, guitar, clarinet, melodica, various percussion instruments (drums, darbuka and empty drum) and of course the bouzouki which has always been my first and main stringed instrument.
As a musical arranger, the ability to play several instruments allows me to know exactly how each part should sound and how to express the character of the piece itself. I tend to be punctual and conservative in the arrangement of a piece of music but still put in my stamp and assimilation as an artist whether it’s an improvisation or musical embellishments.
The violin and the oud are musical instruments that I really miss, but for me it is part of the loss of culture and people. This is something that is missing for me and this lack was completed by bouzouki and the Greek culture to which I was exposed and adopted.
Besides being a musician, I am also a singer who sings in Greek, Turkish and Arabic. As a speaker of the Greek language, unlike other singers in Israel who choose to invent words that do not exist and “sing in Greek”, I sing each and every word with the correct pronunciation and diction. And the same goes for the Arabic language, I read and understand what I sing. In Turkish I am helped by friends from Greece and locals from Turkey who help me understand the meaning of the words and the correct pronunciation of each word.
I think it is very important that a singer understands and pronounces the words correctly in the language in which he sings otherwise what are the words worth and what is the purpose of singing in the first place? After all, songs are based on expressing something written in a musical way and not the other way around.
I also understand the meaning of the words so I am very connected to the songs I sing and especially I like the old songs whose lyrics really speak to me.
For me, teaching is an integral part of being a musician. I take part in the learning journey of beginners and advanced musicians, and teach them the rules and the correct musical knowledge, just as my teachers taught me when I was young.
I published the book “The Magic of Bouzouki” in Hebrew which includes all the theoretical knowledge needed to learn to play the instrument and has been a success since its launch in 2009. The book was also translated into English and became a bestseller abroad. Later I also published online courses in English for learning music which became popular.
Learning music from the basics is like learning a new language, that’s why it’s important for me to start from studying the theoretical part, which is actually the universal language of music that enables musical communication.
The main instrument I teach is the bouzouki in which I teach Greek music, but I also teach other musical instruments including keyboards, guitar, oud, violin (Arabic), drums and percussion (Darbuka, Egyptian Riq).