Ahead of performing in London, singer Shlomi Shabat reveals his concert will mark a series of ‘firsts’ for the man known as “Israel’s musical treasure”.
Although he has entertained private audiences with his lively Mizrahi music in the UK capital before, his show on 11 July will be the first time he has performed at a West End venue alongside a live band.
More importantly for the well-known composer and musician, whose albums sell into the hundreds of thousands, the concert marks his first overseas concert for children’s charity, Variety Israel, a cause that is close to his heart.
The 62-year-old, who has written a song especially for the event and says he is “a friend of Variety for life”, explains: “I’ve had a deep connection with [the charity] for years. This is my first overseas show for Variety, voluntarily and with love.
“I am a personal friend of Udi Angel [Variety Israel’s president]. He’s a dear man and you can’t say no to him.”
With a successful career now spanning 25 years, Shabat – who is a mentor on The Voice Israel – comes from a musical family. He was born in Yehud, just outside Tel Aviv, to parents originally from Turkey.
“My parents would always sing around the house,” he recalls. “My sister, Leah Shabat, is a very famous singer in Israel and my daughter [Manor] is also very musically talented – in fact, she is coming with me to London to sing with the band at the Variety concert.”
Even his son, Avihu, has inherited Shabat’s vocal talents and is himself a rising talent on Israel’s music scene.
Shabat cites his musical influences as Matti Caspi, Arik Einstein, Yehoram Gaon, Shlomo Artzi, as well as more recent artists, such as Eyal Golan, Moshe Peretz and Yehuda Poliker.
His breakthrough moment came in 1989, following the release of his single Because Of The Wind, which was composed by his sister.
Shabat, who sings in Hebrew, Turkish and Spanish, says: “It really became a very famous hit, but luckily it’s not my only one and I managed to keep using my creativity and producing more songs.”
He adds that he enjoys composing, but revealed his mood has a huge influence on the tone of the song, as does the political climate in Israel.
“I really enjoy writing songs in good periods of my life, but the most beautiful songs that I wrote were in times of sadness and hurt,” he explains. “Recently I am not writing as much, as I find it hard to be creative during this period in Israel filled by terror and hate.”
Over the years, his music has meandered across a number of styles, such as South American, salsa, gypsy, rock, as well as Sephardic, all of which can be heard on his impressive collection of 12 studio albums and five concert albums.
Does he have any particular favourites from his collection? “It’s extremely hard for me to pick my favourite song or album as I treat them like my children and you can’t pick a favourite child – but of my songs, they would be Biglal Haruach, Aba, Lechol Echad and Yesh Lach.
“I would say my favourite album is Haverim, as I collaborated with many different artists – the young, the new and the ones I grew up with.”
Recently becoming a “very proud” grandfather – “my phone is full of photographs of my granddaughter” – Shabat adds he is “really excited” to be London-bound.
“It’s a very important performance to me and I’m going to give everything. I’m really excited to fill the audience with a feeling of being home for a few hours.”
Ahead of the show, the charity’s chairman Ory Slonim, adds: “We love Shlomi Shabat as a singer and human being who cares a lot for our beloved ‘special’ kids at Variety Israel.
“This event will bring lots of smiles to our kids’ faces and will fill our hearts with love, which is what Variety Israel is all about.”
• Shlomi Shabat performs in London on 11 July at 8pm. For tickets and details, call Tzemach Productions on 020 8201 7443, or 07956 640330 / 07904 124284.
All proceeds go to Variety Israel