‘Music opens hearts and makes the world much better.’ — A Conversation With Israeli Musician Micha Biton

Micha Biton is one of the early pioneers of the renowned music scene in Sderot, Israel.

As a young child, he performed in major festivals and competitions representing his city, and was considered a musical child prodigy. His father, Amram, recognized his musical talent when Micha was only 5 years old, and he encouraged him even then to take the stage.

Micha captivated audiences by singing in Spanish, Moroccan, and French. But his life took a dramatic turn when his father died suddenly at the age of 41, leaving his widow, Perla, to care for 10 young children.

After his father’s death, a decision Micha was moved to a foster family in Jerusalem, where he became the foster child of Israeli author Galila Ron-Feder Amit, who’s gone on to publish some 400 books, most of them for children and teenagers.

Micha eventually become the subject of her most beloved youth novel, “To Myself” (“El Atmzi” in Hebrew). Over the past four decades, more than a million children have had the pleasure of reading this moving story about finding hope through despair and of seeking light through darkness.

Micha has been singing ever since, and was one of the first Israeli musicians to experiment with “ethnic rock,” combining Western rock music with Moroccan inspired scales and instrumentation. In the 1990s, he founded the popular band Tanara, and then released five studio solo albums of original music.

Today, Micha performs across Israel and abroad, bringing his story and his songs of inspiration and joy to audiences throughout the world. We caught up with Micha to learn more about the longtime Israeli musician.

IZZY: How would you describe your music to a stranger who’s never heard it?

Micha Biton: My music style is ethnic rock, a combination of Western music and North African music. I combine basic Western instruments, bass drums, and electric guitars with darbuka (a goblet drum) and Arabian violin. My lyrics I write are composed of personal stories and life experiences.

IZZY: Who were you musical influences as a child?

Micha: The musicians who influenced me the most are Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, two tremendous composers whose writing is personal and touching. They are poets who changed the face of music in the world. And on the other hand I was influenced by musicians from North Africa like Salim Halli and Rabbi David Buzaglo, Moroccan Jewish musicians who composed poetry and scriptures in the synagogue, and from there it burst out into the world.

IZZY: How has your father’s death influenced your music?

Micha: My father was the first to recognize my love of music. Just when I was 5, he took me on stage to sing songs I learned from the records he played on the old turntable in our house, records that played Moroccan Arabic music, French chansons, and Andalusian music.

Everything my father loved to listen to I learned and sang. My father inflated me when I was a child and for him I was a child prodigy. When I was 9, my father died suddenly of a heart attack and it was a disaster for me. He was all my world and suddenly my life changed.

IZZY: Israeli music is beginning to gain traction abroad thanks to more Israelis creating music in English. What do you think Israeli music can do for the country in terms of how people around the world perceive Israel?

Micha: I follow and see how young Israeli musicians create in English and succeed in the world. There is no doubt that music can be of good service and an ambassador for our country. Music opens hearts and makes the world much better.

I always pray and hope that whether it is through music or through a visit and personal acquaintance with Israel, people will see the truth that Israel always wanted and still wants peace with the Arab world. I hope music will contribute to the longed-for peace for Israel and the Arab peoples.

For more about Micha Biton, or to have him perform in your area, visit his website for further information.

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