Assaf Amdursky, a leading Israeli recording artist, will perform at the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre (MNJCC) in Toronto on Dec. 9, during an event celebrating Israel’s 70th birthday.
Amdursky rose to prominence in the Israeli music scene in the mid-1990s, when two songs from his first solo album shot to the top of charts. He wrote and recorded the hits, Yekirati (My Darling) and Ahava Khadasha (New Love), with his band, Taarovet Escot, but the band’s record label missed the songs’ potential.
“Those two hit singles were presented to our record label, Hed-Arzi, at the time, and turned down as songs not strong enough. They really couldn’t imagine those songs as radio-friendly songs,” Amdursky said in an email interview.
Having proven the record label wrong, Amdursky went on to record six studio albums, two live albums and many more hit singles.
Amdursky – who plays guitar, keyboard, percussion, bass, harmonica and trumpet – has never restricted himself to a single genre and is equally comfortable with rock, pop and dance music. As a teenager, he listened to jazz artists Miles Davis, Keith Jarrett, Lee Morgan and Thelonius Monk, and their influence is evident in his sound.
Amdursky attributes his interest in a wide variety of music to his father, Benny Amdursky, a well-known folksinger who formed and produced many Israeli acts.
Benny Amdursky started out as half of the Dudaim duo, went on to form the Gesher Hayarkon trio and, later, the Ha Shlosharim trio. As a singer, he toured the world, while owning a bar and restaurant back home in Israel. He died of cancer in 1994, at the age of 62.
“My father used to play all kinds of records in his restaurants and at home – Brazilian music, lots of jazz, folk, classical and Israeli folk and rock. I was brought up to enjoy all kinds of genres. Same with food, art forms and people, too,” Amdursky said.
He discovered New York City’s house-music scene in 1994 and began flying in and out of the city regularly, working as a DJ and producer. After remixing and producing dance tracks – sometimes alone, sometimes with his production partner, musician Omri Anghel – Amdursky said that he got “some nice recognition from top DJs and record labels.”
“My father used to play all kinds of records in his restaurants and at home – Brazilian music, lots of jazz, folk, classical and Israeli folk and rock”
The duo’s first single, Set Me Free, made it into the Top 20 on Billboard’s dance music chart. Deciding to try his luck in New York, he moved to the city with his wife, Michal, and their newborn daughter, Milla, in 2002.
Amdursky’s wife found living in New York with a new baby and without family support stressful and she ended up returning to Israel alone, but Amdursky soon followed.
“After a few months, the absence of my daughter and the long winter finally got to me, and I decided to pass on my dream to reach an international recognition as a musician, and focus on being a true parent – involved and loving and present. I packed my equipment and my personal belongings and moved back to Israel, this time for good,” Amdursky said.
“I still DJ a lot and hope to release my latest works as an electronic producer anytime soon, internationally. It’s been a while and Milla has grown up since last time I tried. This upcoming February, she’s gonna turn 16 years old and she’s joining me on tour for the first time. I’m very exited about that.”
Amdursky has been recording independently and recently crowd-funded NIS100,000 ($37,000) for his next studio album, which hasn’t yet been released.
“When record stores are hard to find, the crowd-funding thing was a magnificent bridge, connecting me and my crowd with no media or any other mediators,” he said.
At the show at the MNJCC’s Al Green Theatre at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 9, Amdursky will be performing solo, singing his hits and accompanying himself on piano and guitar.