• Yair Dalal was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Ministry of Culture by State President Yitzhak Herzog hosting the 2022 ceremony. The ceremony expresses appreciation for the contribution of artists to the cultivation of culture in Israel | Photo: Wikimedia Commons by Kobi Gideon / GPO

Music for Peace

Tal Hartuv - 4 April 2023

Yair Dalal was born and raised in a suburb of Tel Aviv. Very much a city boy he studied violin at a prestigious Israeli music school devoting months to perfecting a classical music repertoire, infused with Jazz, rock and other western music. At the music school he could not shake his love of Iraqi-Jewish music which he had grown up with at home. The tunes and tones were with him night and day. They even accompanied him during his army service.

“Many of the songs he writes are based on the liturgy of the synagogue”

Yair Dalal playing the oud | Photo: Wikimedia Commons by botend

Like many famous Israeli musicians, Yair’s career also had its genesis in the army. He served in the armoured corps and played in the army band. True to the tradition of many young soldiers, Yair also wanted to travel after his service to give himself time to think about what he wanted to do with his life.

It wasn’t long though before he was called up again due to the First Lebanon War. It was a difficult experience for the young man. He saw the brutal side of an ugly war. When the fighting was finally over, he sought peace for his soul, and he knew where it was to be found. Thus, he enrolled for a teacher-training certificate in music. As soon as he was qualified, he took his violin and his newly acquired Middle Eastern stringed Oud and moved out of the city to a kibbutz in the Aravah desert.

In between teaching at a local high school, he spent hours alone perfecting the Oud and composing music that reflected his Iraqi roots. A likeable soul, Yair soon befriended the local Bedouins. It wasn’t long before they were all playing music together under the desert skies. The sound was unique. It was a blend of Jewish, Arabic, Iraqi and Bedouin music that recalled the songs of his childhood. This mix of genre from an Iraqi‑Israeli Jewish man who was now playing with the Arab Bedouins, had not been heard before.  It caught on during the First Gulf War when he released a record which had a violin part which mimicked the sound of scud missiles falling all over Israel.

“The mix of genre from an Iraqi‑Israeli Jewish man playing with Arab Bedouins, had not been heard before”

Since that war over thirty years ago, the innovative musician still plays all over Israel. For Yair, even what he wears for the concerts is intended to reflect his spirituality. He performs in a loose long white shirt with a cloth over his shoulder which looks like a tallit. A proud and thankful Jew, who is not overly religious. His spirituality comes from his investment in the emotional and transformative power of music. Many of the songs he writes are based on the liturgy of the synagogue.

It is his belief in the power of music to change and soften hearts which has driven Yair to do concerts for peace. A few years ago, he formed a band of Israelis and Palestinians who would play together, covering all genres and. also famous songs like “We can work it out,” by the Beatles. When the Second Intifada broke out, the Palestinian Authority forbade the Arab musicians to play with the Jews and the band had to break up.

But Yair’s drive for peace expressed in his harmonious music is something which has struck a chord with the Israeli public and rings true until today. The music of the now-67-year-old is as popular with old and young alike, and as beloved as it ever was.

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