Morning hadn’t yet broken over the parapets of Jerusalem’s Old City walls as Ehud Banai and his eight-member band launched into a two-hour performance, one of the final two events of the Jerusalem Sacred Music Festival.
The several hundred members of the audience, sitting on cushions or on chairs along the upper walkway of the Tower of David Museum, were a happy lot. Some had spent the night wandering among 20 different concerts, another part of the festival, and were topping it off with Banai and a beer. Others had gotten up early — with coffee — for the 5:30 a.m. concert.
The 61-year-old Banai, who was born in Jerusalem, was the perfect choice to help close the four-day festival (Shlomo Bar and guests were the final event, playing Friday afternoon).
Having become gradually more religious over the last 20 years, while still retaining all of his groovy, harmonica-playing persona, he’s appealing to a wide audience, with an easy manner of including biblical references and prayerful phrases in his soulful music.
A longtime peace activist, Banai also works regularly with Arab musicians, and two of his guests during the early morning concert were George Sima’an and Salem Darwish, on oud and drums respectively. His other guest was Etti Ankri, another singer-songwriter who’s become religious in the last 15 years.
Accompanied by his band, who played piano, keyboard, violin, bass, guitar and drums, Banai led the audience from the quiet, soulful sounds of early morning into a faster, rock-minded tempo of sunrise.
As the sun began to make its way into the courtyards of the museum, Banai launched into “Hayom,” (Today) and “Tip Tipah,” (Little Drop).
The encore,”Jamali Phurush,” a song about a Persian princess, included a slightly psychedelic violin solo with a section of “David, Melech Yisrael” (David, the King of Israel), an ode to time, space and place.