Ivri Lider: Israeli hero

November 2, 2006

“I’m what you call a pop star in Israel, and I’m gay and I’m out, so that by definition makes me an activist.”

Never afraid to toot his own horn, Israel’s best-selling singer Ivri Lider made a quick stop at Georgetown as part of his first extensive U.S. tour to talk about his music, being gay in Israel and yarmulkes.

Often called the voice of the new generation by Israeli music critics and fans alike, Lider takes this label seriously. “I feel it’s an obligation to be a good voice and a liberal and loving one,” Lider said. This responsibility brought him to a lunchtime discussion about the new Israeli identity and the way his music fits in. “Israel is a very multicultural place, but my stuff is basically Western music with a lot of little influences in rhythm and melodies that have come from Arab music and from eastern music.”

Lider keeps his music light. Despite claiming that the events in Israel have “influenced everybody because it’s your day-to-day life,” he centers his ballads on the theme of finding the man he loves. “I think that being free is very important for an artist because I write lyrics also,” he said. “I do not think what people are gonna think, you know? I just go in and write whatever I want.”

He displays the same attitude about his tour. “I hope it will be fun, I will have a good time with my band and a lot of good concerts,” Lider said. “I just want to enjoy myself.”

His self-proclaimed musical and social freedom combined with his exuberant personality has frequently attracted controversy. “I think being the first pop star to come out of the closet [in Israel] would be the most controversial thing I’ve ever done,” he commented.

“I don’t know if I’m an activist by action or just by who I am.” During the panel discussion he also talked about being openly gay in the military, even though it was an uncomfortable experience.

Despite being the face of the new Israeli identity and making the Time Out Tel Aviv 200 coolest people list, Lider hasn’t forgotten his roots. “I was going to be a Jewish schoolboy with a yarmulke,” he said, referring to his Halloween costume. He also shed some light on one of the world’s biggest mysteries—keeping a yarmulke on a bald head. “You probably glue it. I guess you just stick it on forever. It’s a special yarmulke.”

For a sample of Ivri’s music as well as some great photos, visit www.ivrilider.com.

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