Moshe Bonen loves a good party, and for the Haifa native that means bringing international, American and Israeli music to the dance floor. Bonen will showcase his eclectic musical tastes when he deejays CJP’s Blue & White Night party on Thursday, May 12, at Whisky Saigon in Boston.
Bonen, 33, cultivated his love of music at an early age. He plays 15 instruments, including the piano, Spanish guitar, oud and bouzouki, a Greek string instrument. In a recent interview with JewishBoston, he noted: “I play by ear. Basically everything I hear I can play on the spot. It helps to have that kind of musical ear to DJ properly and to connect to the songs. It also gives me a lot of flexibility in expressing myself.”
Bonen’s Sephardic father and Tunisian mother also shaped his musical tastes by playing French, Arabic and Ladino music throughout his childhood. “I think [my parents’ music] made me who I am, along with the Israeli music that was played in my home,” he says. “I also heard the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and the Beach Boys.”
The breadth of Bonen’s musical tastes was first on display during his army service when he joined the Israel Defense Forces radio station, Galgalatz. “Galgalatz is Israel’s largest radio station,” he says. “A lot of the broadcasters are soldiers who are also the announcers and reporters. This is what they do for their army service. During my time in the IDF I became an expert in Israeli music and had a daily show called ‘Musica Hayom’ (Music Today).”
Bonen interviewed Israel’s biggest musical acts, as well as internationally acclaimed musicians who came to perform in Israel. Sean Lennon, David Bowie and the Black Eyed Peas were among the famous stars who visited Bonen in his studio.
Bonen has been based in New York City since 2007. The singer-songwriter and composer has just completed his first album in Israel, from which he has released two singles. “After many years of giving the microphone to other people, this is the time that I dedicated to myself,” he says. “The album is a compilation of songs written during my journey in the United States. I left a big career in Israel to come to New York to start over. Some of the songs tell of the difficulties of being an immigrant.”
Recording and producing the album enabled Bonen to explore further a variety of musical genres. He highlights those genres in his DJ work, giving them a unique Israeli spin. “I try to marry American Jewish and Israeli cultures,” he says. “My parties attract a core of Israelis looking for songs they used to listen to on the radio and Americans who simply love the music. There’s no barrier between the two. Music is an international language, and so is happiness. When people are happy it doesn’t matter in what language they listen to the music.”
Blue & White Night partygoers can expect to celebrate Israel’s Independence Day with a mix of Israeli and American music that spans the decades. Bonen cites Mashina, arguably one of Israel’s most influential rock bands in the 80s and 90s, as a particularly interesting group. “Their music is full of character and even biting,” he says. “I always like the songs I hear on the radio.” Mashina will also be performing in Boston on Saturday, May 14.
These days, Bonen says Israeli music is also about blending hip-hop or Middle-Eastern sounds into an existing song. The practice is a reflection of Israel’s diversity. “People come from all over the world to Israel,” Bonen says, “and making music this way is a good representation of that. Israeli music is so great and special because it brings influences from all over. Just look at the Israeli acts that have made it outside of Israel’s borders.”
Bonen is talking about stars like Hadag Nahash, The Idan Raichel Project and Rita. Rita, who has been performing since the 1970s, is enjoying a renaissance. Bonen reports that after being a pop-rock star for so many years, she’s bringing her talents to the international music scene and mining her Iranian-Jewish heritage for inspiration. “Rita is not unique,” he says. “There are a lot of Israeli artists going back to their roots after assimilating into the mainstream and having hits in rock and pop. They’re going back to look for something really unique and special.”
Bonen is looking forward to returning to Boston and building on the success of previous parties he’s hosted here. “The last experience I had in Boston was awesome,” he says. “The crowd was lovely and happy. There was a good vibe on the dance floor.”