A (Music) Man of the World

Give a holler, and Ami Yares will come runnin'.

Well, at least as long as it takes him to fly over from Israel.

But he knows the route: The HOLLER! band co-founder hails from South Jersey, but he has traveled far and wide from his adopted home in Jaffa.

Last stop: World Cafe Live, in which his American-influenced Holler held court and the attention of an audience addicted to his Sephardi/American sound.

Sounds a bit different from what he grew up with; where his dad's ancestry is linked to long-ago Spanish roots and his mother's was dappled in Greek sunlight, the family tree somehow took a detour from those roots to raise him Ashkenazi.

So far away, the Sephard influence seeped back into his soul and sound. But then, at 30, he is not blind to the benefits of a blended culture.

"In a way, I have a displaced identity," he muses. "I'm not completely Israeli; being American is an integral part of me."

He wouldn't part with either element. Nor did he depart from America five years ago without plans of returning "every few months" to visit family here.

"It's good to be back," he says prior to his WCL gig.

And, good to go back to Israel, where the Gen-Xer generates a warm welcome manifested in handshakes and applause.

"It's nice the way I've been accepted there" as an American expatriate, accepted without patronizing from the public.

"Slowly, it's happening there," he says of his career. "And I'm getting more serious gigs."

Friendly Persuasion

He is not alone. Some of his "old friends came out to Israel to write music," and he felt the write stuff himself. The Rutgers University alumnus and former special-education teacher had sensed that he "was ignoring a need I had to write."

That talent, he says, tellingly developed in the Tel Aviv suburbs and throughout Israel. "I needed a change."

Before he could cook up a career, he had to take jobs to make sure change was in his pockets, as well as attitude. In short order, he became a cook.

But it did allow him to steam ahead, "the flexible hours allowing me to study" at Hebrew University graduate school.

All shuk up: While he arrived back in Philly to finalize plans for his HOLLER! concert, he concedes that "the Shuk is my full-time job," a new sounding board for his talents, banding together in 2008 with Yoni Avital and others who teach about Jewish/Israeli culture.

"I have an earnest desire to write original compositions," says the Jersey Jewish boy who "grew up on WXPN," the station linked in sound and soul to WCL on Penn's campus.

Intimate imagery is what he offers on his guitar/banjo/oud, oozing old style with the new. And the New Jersey son welcomes the chance to stage concerts on the most intimate level.

In fact, some of the best performances he's had were in people's living rooms, when he and his band have been hired out for private gigs.

And that makes for the best of homecomings, he says, coming to a home and making it his own, musically. 



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