A different tune

Ishay Ribo to be 1st Israeli to headline Madison Square Garden

Orthodox star popular with both secular and religious fans to perform at iconic New York venue in September

Israeli singer Ishay Ribo performing at the Sultan's Pool in Jerusalem, on September 21, 2022. (Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90)
Israeli singer Ishay Ribo performing at the Sultan's Pool in Jerusalem, on September 21, 2022. (Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90)

JTA — The Orthodox singer Ishay Ribo, whose music has attracted a diverse audience of religious and secular Israeli fans, will be the first Israeli artist to headline a concert at New York City’s Madison Square Garden.

“I’ve been keeping this inside for a long time and more than once I pinched myself to check if I was dreaming or if this is real,” Ribo wrote on his Facebook page on Monday. “It seems that both answers are correct, thank God.”

At a time when Israeli society is deeply divided by political and religious fault lines, Ribo, 34, has achieved crossover appeal by blending religiously themed lyrics with pop melodies and is a leading voice in Israel’s “faithful pop” genre.

One of his songs, “Sibat Hasibot,” was the most-played song on the country’s radio stations in 2021, according to a recent New York Times profile.

Born in Marseille, France, to parents from Algeria and Morocco, Ribo’s family moved to the Israeli West Bank settlement of Kfar Adumim when he was 8. He grew up in a Haredi family and was first exposed to secular music when it played over the speakers during bus rides to school.

Ribo self-released his first album in 2014, and four of his five albums have reached gold certification, each selling more than 15,000 copies in the Israeli music market. He has performed alongside popular Israeli musicians such as Shlomo Artzi and Idan Raichel, and has drawn some backlash from Orthodox Israelis.

The poster for Ribo’s show at the iconic 20,000-seat New York City venue, which is scheduled for September 3, highlights his religious identity. The concert is advertised with a photo of Ribo in silhouette, performing in front of a crowd full of flashing phone cameras. Block letters spell out his name in gold, above Hebrew text reading “Elul 5783,” — the month and year of the show on the Jewish calendar. One of the sponsors of the show is Bnei Akiva, the religious Zionist youth group.

Ribo is not the first Orthodox Jewish musician to have captured the attention of secular listeners. Other such performers include Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach — who blended liturgical lyrics with the sensibilities of the Greenwich Village folk scene and, later, San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood — and the Miami Boys Choir, an American musical group founded in the 1970s that recently went viral on TikTok.

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