Israeli Artist Sings Marley and Talks Godly
by Alan Zeitlin
Contestants on singing competitions can expect judges to criticize their voices — not their choice of religious observance. Unless, of course, you live in Israel.
After Avi Ganz performed a rousing rendition of Bob Marley’s “No Woman No Cry,” on Keshet’s “The Voice Israel” on Channel 2, judge Aviv Geffen asked the yarmulke and tzitzit-wearing Ganz why he chose God. Ganz responded that God chose him, and a conversation about belief in God ensued.
The 34-year-old singer said that he wasn’t flustered by the question or the discussion about religious observance, since he knows these questions will come up all the time.
“Things here are very real,” Ganz told me by phone from Israel. “Very in your face. The elephant in the room is thick-skinned and has big ears, and he’s staring you in the face.”
Ganz won the judges over with his voice, his humor and his sincerity, even singing some cantorial music from the Sabbath song “D’ror Yikra.” On the show, judges sit in red chairs with their backs to the singers. If they hit a button, the chair turns around and they see what the singer looks like. At the end of the song, the singer can select whichever one of the judges who turned around as their mentor.
Geffen, the only one of the four judges who did not press the button for Ganz, said that he expected Ganz would look like a Rastafarian. Ganz, a resident of Alon Shvut, near Jerusalem, ultimately selected Shlomi Shabat as his mentor because Shabat has been in the business longer than the other judges.
Ganz is originally from Scranton, Pennsylvania, and has been a cantor is Westchester, New York, Canada and Virginia. He has lived in Israel since 2006.
His influences include Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder and Muddy Waters. He said that he learned cantorial style from Dr. Duddy Horowitz.
Ironically, Ganz said that he hadn’t seen a full episode of the reality show until recently — because he doesn’t have a television.
“I don’t have a TV because I think it is very unnecessary,” he said. “More bad than good. I spend lots of time online and am aware of what is going on in the world. I know about lots of things that I’ve never experienced. [The Voice] is one of them.”
No matter how far Ganz goes on the show, he will likely be able to command a steeper price whenever he performs in the future.