Tami Machnai
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Tami Machnai


Band World Singer/Songwriter


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"Metro West"

Thursday, June 16, 2005

For her debut album, Tami Machnai chose the title "Levante" for the eastern wind that "flows with the sands of the desert" across the Mediterranean to Israel where she was born and raised.
It is an inspired choice by a songstress and composer whose passionate soprano voice conveys a love and longing for the Sephardic Jewish culture that enriches her music.
"My roots are important to me. They're part of who I am and what I do best," said Machnai. "Music is that part of my life that lets me express my deepest feelings."
Born in Haifa, Israel, and trained as a classical pianist as a child, the 35-year-old Belmont resident has made an album that celebrates the musical heritage of distant lands.
Working with an ensemble of eight musicians and guest performers, Machnai takes listeners on a musical journey through the traditions of Middle Eastern and Jewish folk music.
Classical guitarist Ro'i Raz, cellist Javier Caballero, violinist Marissa Licata and others weave a gorgeous musical tapestry throughout the nine tracks.
Close your eyes and hear mournful love ballads and hymns to "God's garden" where flowers are always blooming. Listen to waves crashing ashore at Barcelona or the doleful strains of Portuguese fado singers.
Machnai sings in Hebrew and Ladino, a Jewish dialect of Spanish used by Sephardic Jews of the western Mediterranean. It is a lovely lilting language that perfectly suits Machnai's soaring soprano.
One doesn't have to be Jewish or speak Ladino to enjoy this music any more than one needs to study astrophysics to feel the sun's warmth.
Machnai said, "I think it's an aesthetic experience, something that's very entertaining that brings audiences into worlds they don't often experience."
Machnai and her musicians will celebrate the release of "Levante" Sunday, June 19, at the Karoun club and restaurant at 839 Washington St., Newtonville. The show begins at 8:30 p.m.
Machnai seems the perfect vessel to bring such lovely music to American audiences.
Growing up in Israel, she heard her mother Ahuva play the piano and her father Efraim play the guitar. She began classical piano studies at the age of 7 and continued into her teens. Listening to the radio, Machnai absorbed an international potpourri of musical styles from classical jazz to Brazilian samba, from Israeli folk songs to American pop.

"Music was very fundamental to me," she said. "At a young age, I was exposed to everything."
At 17, Machnai made a "dramatic switch," temporarily quitting the piano to concentrate on singing. "I wanted to explore the strengths of my voice. It was a process of self-expression that found a way into the artist I am now," she said.
Since coming to the United States 10 years ago after completing her Israeli military service, she earned bachelor's and master's degrees at Berklee College of Music and the New England Conservatory, respectively.
She's appeared at disparate venues including Ryles Jazz Club, the FleetCenter, First Night and Karoun restaurant where she produces and leads a popular Israeli musical evening. She's performed in Venezuela, Switzerland and Japan. In 2004, she took first prize in the Billboard Song Competition's world music category.
Machnai enjoys a wide range of music including Fiona Apple, Donny Hathaway, Roberta Flack and Nina Simone.
She is married to Gill Harari, a chef specializing in Middle Eastern cuisine who'll soon open his own restaurant in Marblehead.
Machnai spent five years researching and writing "Levante" which was produced in Clear Perceptions Studio in Boston. "I wanted to go to the roots of Jewish folk music by looking at material that intrigued me. I looked closely at the Sephardic Jewish folk music of the Iberian peninsula," she said.
For centuries, Sephardic Jews lived in Spain, Portugal, North Africa and the Middle East, including Turkey's Ottoman Empire. Often living in countries influenced by Muslim culture, Sephardic Jews developed their own music, cuisine and language.
Machnai said the album often revises the lyrics and re-arranges the music of traditional Jewish music. One of the nine songs is in English.
For Jewish and, perhaps Christian listeners, the best known song is Machnai's poignant treatment of Naomi Shemer's popular "Jerusalem of Gold." Machnai sings: "The solitary city with a wall through its heart is held in its dream. Jerusalem of gold, of light, of bronze, I am the violin for all your songs."
She said the song reflects her deep love of her native country but she doesn't consider herself a "political" artist who focuses on the turmoil in the contemporary Middle East.
While fluent in English, Machnai expects in the near future to continue to use Ladino to explore her cultural roots to branch out musically.
"As far as language goes, there's no rule. I like to see myself as a versatile artist, a world artist," she said. "The music in this album speaks for itself. I really hope it reaches everybody it can. I made it to give something very beautiful to the world."

- By Chris Bergeron / Daily News Staff

"'Achbar Ha'ir', Tel Aviv, Israel"

..."Tami Machnai is a truly gifted vocalist who has a natural stage confidence, powerful and unique voice, and a very impressing performance. She chooses challenging repertoire and performs it in a most impressive way..."
( review on a performance at the 'Jazz o' Mania' Festival, April 1994, Tel Aviv, israel
- Yosi Mar- Haim

"The Jewish Advocate, Boston MA"

"...Tami is currently one of the most outstanding interpreters of modern Israeli and Hebrew songs. She has become a favorite throughout the Boston area... She treats the audience to her own brand of musical magic, as she sings selections from her forthcoming CD of haunting Middle Eastern melodies." - Interview w/Cantor Aryeh Finklestein

"Boston Herald"

Monday, September 12, 2005 -

Tami Machnai knows for a fact that you can go home again.
But the singer also realizes that she wouldn't be either the person or artist she is today unless she'd left her native Israel 11 years ago. "There's something about being away from home,'' the 36-year-old Belmont resident said."For me, I started realizing again how much I love Jewish songs.'' That process began while she was pursuing her bachelor's degree in vocal performance at Berklee College of Music, but it really took on another dimension all together in graduate school at New England Conservatory. That's where she immersed herself in world music and got to work with such people as Hankus Netsky, founder of the Klezmer Conservatory Band.
All of which eventually led to performances with the Los Angeles
Philharmonic, a first prize win in Billboard magazine's 2004 song competition, and a role in composer Osvaldo Golijov's opera "Aindamar.''
Her audiences back in Israeli tend to be smaller, mostly at private events, but the reception she receives there is just as warm as those she's been receiving in concert in Japan, New Zealand, Venezuela and the United States.
Now Machnai has a debut album out called "Levante.''
" When you come to Boston to go to Berklee, you can play with the jazz cats and do the international thing,'' she said. "But then slowly but surely you realize your roots again. You realize it's very special, who you are and where you're from.''
For Machnai, that translated into interpreting and modernizing traditional Jewish and Middle Eastern folk music. On the new CD, she sings in Hebrew, English and Ladino, the Jewish dialect of Spanish tied most directly to the Sephardic Jews of the western Mediterranean region.
What drew the singer back to the music she grew up with?
"The energy, the emotion, the depth and the beauty,'' she said. "I do like to stay loyal to the original traditional style, but do something new with it.''
At Ryles, she'll put a few fresh twists on the sound by bringing together musicians who will mix violin, oud, reeds, cello, piano, accordion, bouzouki, percussion and bass.
Taking those kinds of steps outside the strict tradition have been easier to make thousands of miles from home.
"There's something about the space here that allows you to do this inner search more than in my very intense country,'' Machnai said."I love it dearly, but it can drive people insane with the political situation.
"Here you're on your own and you have time to go, `Oh, so this is
what it's like to breathe and digest and express.' ''

- Bob Young

"'Yediot Ahronot'-Yediot America section / Arts (2005)"

Tami Machnai will perform with her ensemble next Friday, July 15, at
‘Satalla’ in Midtown Manhattan, NY. The renowned bass player, Emmanuel Mann, will be part of her performing ensemble. Tami Machnai, who formed The Tami Machnai Ensemble about four years ago, lives in Boston for the past ten years. Her debut album ‘Levante’ was released recently. She produced it herself and it includes songs she wrote and arranged.

Machnai, who studied classical music in her early years and plays piano to this day, told us that as an adolescent she started to feel that her personal direction was in singing. As a child she was exposed to a wide variety of music, from Brazilian music to the best of Israeli music. In Israel, She studied in the Rimon School of Jazz and Contemporary music and founded a jazz ensemble with which she performed around the country and in several festivals. She then traveled to Asia and performed in Tokyo, Japan as a singer/piano player for seven months. Machnai says that in Japan, she in-effect started her performance career.

Tami arrived to Berklee College of Music in Boston in 1995 to study voice performance, and continued to the New England Conservatory, where she focused on composition. Although she lived for the past ten years in the U.S. she is often broadcasted on the Israeli radio. Dalik Volnitz, who presented her songs on his radio show ‘Galim’, and the musical editor Sigal Harosh, recently compared Tami to the famed singer Ester Ofarim.

Tami fell in love with the Sephardic music a few years ago and decided to evolve in that musical direction. She studied Spanish and researched the Ladino language and culture, which she got hooked-on.

Machnai: “I was got exposed to this music through a personal journey. In the last couple of years I got interested in writing my own music and I discovered some musical materials that attracted me. I was always attracted to emotional and intense content, and I found these in Sephardic music. I started to compose text in Ladino, in which I discovered ‘thousand and one nights’ behind the songs, and it was quite a journey for me. I did an in-depth study of this music and the Greek and Turkish influences on it. I also continued to work on developing my personal style, as I always did. The discovery of the richness, that endures in the Sephardic culture and the Jewish prayers and hymns, has had a significant influence on my music ever since. People say that there is a strong synthesis of eastern and western themes in my music. I love music that is true to its original character and its ‘natural colors’.”

You have eight musicians in your ensemble. What do they play?

Machnai: Classical guitar, clarinet, violin, cello, piano/accordion, bass and hand percussion. My musicians are from all over the world: Israel, Japan, South America and the U.S.”

What will you sing for us at your show in NY?

Machnai: We will perform both songs from our new CD and others not included; a combination of original songs that I wrote and arranged, and other traditional songs, in new and personal interpretations.
- Michal Daniel

"The Jewish Advocate, Boston MA"

...Hankus Netsky, the founder and director of the Klezmer Conservatory Band and faculty member at the New England Conservatory, describes Machnai as “a performer of extraordinary creativity, vocal talent and passion.” In fact, Netsky will be among her accompanying musicians for the upcoming concert. Osvaldo Golijov, the Argentinean renowned composer, now residing in Boston, admires Machnai’s “ depth and magnetism and the rich mix of her Middle Eastern repertoire”.. - by Paula Sinclair


Song Collection 2006
( Co produced with Stephen Webber)


The Tami machnai Ensemble-2001 ( Demo)

Personal Angles-1998 ( Demo)



"Tami Machnai is a performer of extraordinary creativity, vocal talent and passion, a consummate artist of great emotional depth. Her work has a special spark that always moves her audience in ways they don't expect."
--Hankus Netsky Founder and Director, Klezmer Conservatory Band.

"I admire her depth and magnetism and the rich mix of her Western and Middle Eastern repertoire"
--Osvaldo Golijov, Composer

Singer/composer/pianist Tami Machnai's artistry evokes a unique and intimate cross over style. Built on a strong classical foundation, Machnai's musical journey includes powerful elements of mystery, storytelling and theater. Machnai's music defies traditional definition. Her fierce independence and refusal to settle, driven by her passion for simply great music creates a very personal style of her own.

Able to move comfortably between very different, sometimes extreme, musical languages, Machnai organically weaves sound colors into rich personal interpretations. Drawn to the peculiar, non-conventional (modal) harmonies with influences from classical and contemporary composers-- through Sephardic and Middle Eastern historic and sacred sounds-- to British Folk and orchestral progressive rock from the 70's (Pink Floyd, Queen, Kate Bush, Led Zeppelin) and contemporary lyrical songwriters ( Rufus Wainwright, Jeff Buckley, Fiona Apple) -- Machnai composes and performs music seeking depth, echoing emotions and startling with elements of surprise. She leads and directs a flexible ensemble in which you will find piano, guitars, violin, cello, clarinet/flute, accordion, bass, drums and hand percussion.

Recent credits include performing at Lincoln Center, NY in Peter Sellars' production of the opera 'Ainadamar' by Osvaldo Golijov, performing in Israel at Eynav-Center, the Zappa Jazz Club and on national TV, performance at The Fleet Center, Boston, at the opening ceremony of the International JCC Maccabi Games, for an audience of fifteen thousand; performing with the L.A. Philharmonic at the new Disney Hall in a production of Osvaldo Golijov 's opera 'Ainadamar'; two performances in Auckland and Wellington, New Zealand; a Performance at the Argentinean Jewish Relief Campaign of Greater Boston concert (AJRC) for an audience of nine hundred; and performing at the Boston 'First Night' celebrations on New Years eve 2004. Machnai was also joining creative forces recently with producer Stephen Webber (Aaron Neville, Meshell Ndegeocello, Lindsey Mac) to produce her new CD, prelude to a future album. As a song writer she has received prestigious awards. Two of her songs each won first prize in the BILLBOARD International Song Competition, World Music category: 'Yo M'enamori' won 2004 and 'Summertime Debka' won in 2007.

In 2005 Ms. Machnai celebrated the release of her CD 'Levante' in Boston and New York. The shows received superb responses from the audience, as well as from representatives of the music industry and media. In the Boston area Tami has performed at a wide range of venues including Ryles Jazz Club, Karoun Restaurant, where she also leads and produces a popular monthly Israeli music evening, the Boston Public Library, the Berklee Performance Center, Longi School of Music and the French Library, as well as numerous Jewish temples. She was also featured on the Boston NBC affiliate, WHDH Channel Seven News in a broadcast of the 2004 First Night celebration.

Outside the U.S., Ms. Machnai has performed in Wellington and Auckland, New Zealand, in Temple Sinay and Liston Park Festival; in Tokyo, Japan, at Club Kokatoo; in Caracas, Venezuela, at the Yohan Sebastian Bar and La Casa De Cultura; and in World Music Performance workshops at colleges and community music schools in Zurich, Switzerland, and in Marakai, Venezuela.

In her native Israel, Ms. Machnai has performed several times on Israeli national television and has performed in Tel Aviv at the Jazz O'mania Music Festival and the Suzanne Dalal Dance Festival. She has recorded a SONY Television commercial as soloist of the Arnon Palti Jazz Quartet, worked in collaboration with the Nimrod Frid Dance Ensemble, and has recorded with Boston Reggae singer/songwriter Casper John on four of his albums.

Ms. Machnai's music draws on her rich cultural and educational background. She began her studies as a classical pianist at the Dunia Weitzman Conservatory in Haifa, Israel, and continued at the Rimon School of Music in Tel-Aviv, Israel. Tami Machnai holds a Master's degree in Contemporary Improvisation from the New England Conservatory
(with academic honors), a Bachelor's degree in Vocal Performance from Berklee College of Music (Summa Cum Laude), and a Graduation Certificate from the Rimon School Of Jazz and Contemporary Music in Israel.