Hanan ben Ari Photo credit Ortal Lavi

By Rabbi Yair Hoffman

5TJT: Your music seems to have a special theme to it—where you tap into genuine emotions that people feel in different stages of their lives and in difficulties that they struggle with. Was there something or someone that inspired you to write this type of music?

HBA: Yes. There was. Shuly Rand, the actor, taps into these emotions. And I patterned myself after him and after some other artists that I grew up with, and that tap into emotions. And I must give credit to them. But it is not just these—I do try to write on what I myself experienced. Each artist does it a bit differently, each one writes or infuses in his work little details and big details about his or her own struggles and those who surround them. Generally, songs do not appeal to me. But when done in this manner, it speaks to you. I felt that music was lacking, because it doesn’t speak to people.

5TJT: Which difficulty that people struggle with that you have addressed in your songs do you empathize with most?

HBA: The difficulty that I do most is the desire to live life that is not just stam, [mediocre]. Let’s aspire to a great life, to live properly, to be a good father, and not just a good father, but the best one we can be. A good son, a man, a Jew, and not just a regular typical life. But, on the other hand, and this is where the struggle is, one cannot live a life where every moment of life is extreme. This appears in all of my songs.

I will tell you a story. A psychologist said, “I do not know whether this is ethical, but I listened to your music. What are you mitgagaya for?”

I answered, “The ein sof.”

“This is not my department. I do not know kaballah,” he answered.

But I do see him still. I gain perspectives and much self-knowledge and tools from him. And it helps my music.

5TJT: You have trained and studied in yeshivot. What lessons or topics that you have studied in yeshivah do you think inspired you the most?

HBA: Everything that I encountered in life and certainly in yeshiva, Gemara in Yevamot, Ramchal, Rav Kook, Midrash Rabba. This week I had a fantastic insight from a Midrash Rabbah. I even wanted to write a song regarding this midrash.

5TJT: Were there rabbinic inspirations, models, that you had?

HBA: Of course! When I was young it was Rav Kook. I started to learn him at 14.

5TJT: Orot?

HBA: Yes.

5TJT: You understood him at 14?

HBA: His Hebrew vocabulary is very sophisticated but I felt as if he was talking to me, about me so I tried very hard to comprehend and appreciate him. I cannot even believe that he said this. Now it happens again to me with the admor mYisbitzer.

5TJT: Where do you get the topics for the songs?

HBA: They are topics that are in my mind for quite a while. Sometimes even several years. It cooks and cooks and cooks. But it comes out in a boom. Just complaining about things is not worthwhile. I approach the sugyah from every side, if it is, it takes a while so be it.

5TJT: Did you always like to sing?

HBA: Yes. At home. In class. In shul. In Bnei Akiva. In the army.

5TJT: Were you a born singer, from the start.

HBA: Actually quite the opposite. I was horrible and subjected good people to it. I would strum on the guitar. It took me quite a while that I began to believe that I could do something worthwhile.

5TJT: When did you realize that you could pursue a career in singing?

HBA: It did not happen all at once.

5TJT: What else did you do, career wise?

HBA: I was an avreich in Ramat Gan. I began in chinuch with the youth, with the thought to be a menahel in a school. I thought that this was my destiny. I had thought that I could use my music to enhance my chinuch, but the music took over. I had thought about it during the nights and realized that this was probably the ideal way to go to touch people.

5TJT: How many did you come out with?

HBA: Thirty something.

5TJT: Which song of yours do you like most?

HBA: It always changes, but most of the time I like shivurei leiv the best.

5TJT: When is your concert in the United States?

HBA: At the end of October. In Brooklyn, on October 26, at the Kings Theatre; in LA, on Monday, October 24 at the Saban Theatre; and in Miami, on Sunday, October 30 at the Lauderhill Center.

5TJT: What about your family? Can you tell me their ages?

HBA: I have a close and loving wife who understands me. I have bli ayin harah 7 children—ages 12, 10, 8, 6, 3.5, 1, and 9 months.

5TJT: Are there plans to also sing in English?

HBA: It is best for all concerned that I not sing English. When I sing in English, it comes out bad.


The interviewer can be reached at yairhoffman2@gmail.com.


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