The bouncy, feel-good rhythm of his latest song ‘Swahili Girl’ belies the anguish singer and guitarist Gilad has experienced in the last few months since public events, including concerts, has been shut down.
“I come from 20 years of live music performance, where the musicians, have the freedom to improvise right there on stage,” says Gilad who now spots a clean-shaven head and bearded look. "That is the beauty of live music."
For an artist who was on stage at least twice a month before the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, the new situation has taken a lot of getting used to.
“My last show with my band was performing at J’s in Westlands, Nairobi in January before a crowd of almost 1,000 people, then the pandemic forced everything to shut down. Today, I’ll say ‘give me even 50 people for a show,”’ he quips.
The last few months have witnessed mixed fortunes for the ex-Israeli diplomat, who has since settled in Kenya as a full-time singer, songwriter, and guitarist. In July, he was among a host of African pop stars that performed for “We Are One Africa” a series of virtual concerts sponsored by Amref Africa in support of frontline health workers and vulnerable communities. During the show, he performed a stripped-down acoustic medley of some of his biggest hits including “Unajua”, “Sema Milele” and “Mapenzi.”
The curfew hours spent at home have also spurred his creativity with no less than four new songs written during that period. But it is the energy and atmosphere of a live concert in front of a crowd that the gravel-voiced singer misses the most.
After many months separated from his group, the Superband, rehearsals resumed mid-July under very different circumstances, everyone adhering to the protocols of wearing face masks, sanitising, and keeping social distance. The set-up of the band consists of a drummer, bassist, guitarist, keyboardist, and two singers.
“Ironically, the period of isolation has brought the musicians closer to their instruments and we have noticed during the rehearsals that our playing skills have sharpened since we were last together,” he says.
This Saturday night, Gilad and Superband perform their very first live stream on YouTube and Facebook.
“After watching Nyashinski perform at his virtual album launch in April, I said ‘I want to do this’ and it has taken me this long to get my act together,” says Gilad.
“It is perfect because the musicians are wearing headphones during the performance and can hear the output so the music is as crisp as can be.” He says the repertoire of the concert is tailor-made both for his die-hard fanbase who ‘sing along to every song’ and other music fans who may particular favourites from his collection.
The concert will also be the first time that he performs the song ‘Swahili Girl’ since its release on July 27.
The lively romantic song with a catchy chorus was written by Gilad and fellow Israeli singer/songwriter Eliad about a man sharing memories of the time he spent with a Swahili Girl in East Africa. The love he feels is shared throughout the bars of the song describing a romantic encounter that lingers in his mind.
Gilad was introduced to Eliad by a mutual friend and together they wrote ‘Swahili Girl’ through a series of video calls between Nairobi and Tel Aviv in 2017. The following year, the two musicians met in Israel and jumped into the studio with the producer of the song Tzealon to record the song.
Eliad is one of his country's most popular music and film stars having served as a singer in the band of the Education and Youth Corps of the Israel Defense Forces before releasing his debut single in 2011.
He won the MTV Award for Israeli Artist of the Year in 2015 and Song of the Year 2019 at the Israeli Music Awards. The plan for Eliad to travel to Kenya for the launch of the single was thwarted by the Covid-19 outbreak and so Gilad went ahead to release the song a week ago. It has struck an instant chord with fans.
To watch Gilad and Superband this Saturday night, subscribe to the StudioTisa YouTube page and Gilad’s Facebook page.