Natasha's Friends at Walla Studio (Director: Dubi Klein, Still Photography: Reuven Castro, Sound: Ilan Levy, Sound Natasha's Friends: Chen Nevo, Lighting: Yossi Adizes, Lightvision, Cinematographers: Matan Goldstein, Benny Ben David, Eyal Klein, Kleiner: Tomer First, Producer: Shai Werker and Hagit Barak, Technical: Michael Barham, Studio Design: Avichai Baruch)
Musician Arkady Duchin is celebrating his 60th birthday today, and he can be credited with an illustrious career, many achievements and countless huge hits - and the hand is still tilted. But when he started out as a musician, in the second half of the '80s, life seemed less glamorous. Natasha's friends lived in a cheap apartment hotel on King Solomon Street in Tel Aviv at the time, and their financial situation was particularly difficult, to the point of almost starvation, each carrying his own traumas.
"We felt miserable then," Duchin says in a special interview with Walla! Culture. "Today I know that God has brought us together. I'm not religious, I eat shrimp and I don't keep the Sabbath, but I think God brought us together against a backdrop of disasters. Each of us has gone through some kind of personal disaster. My tragedy stemmed from the same places of Yehuda Poliker, which are connected to the Holocaust and Hitler. I am a difficult second generation, the son of two parents for whom Hitler ruined their lives, and they ruined my life. We're talking about childhood disasters."
"We felt miserable, and the record companies took advantage of our misery, and I was willing to sign anything because I really wanted to be a musician. I didn't conduct myself well financially. I wanted so badly to succeed in music that I was willing to give up everything, any income," he adds, "and then they stole some 70 million shekels from us. I forgave everyone. I'm not mad at anyone."
Even today, young artists, as well as the most successful ones, are experiencing financial difficulties, which also stem from the fact that streaming and digital pay crumbs to artists.
"As for how much you pay or don't pay, it's not a respectful discussion for a 60-year-old. I don't understand economics. I think that if a person feels that he does not love himself enough, then he allows others to take advantage of him. Over the years, I've learned to love myself more, and now I'm being worked on less. If we translate that into money, then an artist who is very successful probably loves himself very much, and an artist who is less successful probably likes himself less."
Celebrating 60. Arkady Duchin (Photo: Reuven Castro)
At 60, what's left of the hungry young man you once were?
"Curiosity for every new song that comes out, for styles, for mixing styles, for updating. I don't think young artists are current, I think only a few are really interested. I think they're super talented in the new generation, but what guides them is the more material approach. I, even if they stole me, wanted to make music. That's what guided me. Few of the new generation are what guide them, to make complex, special, different, revolutionary music. But they're already leaving the country, because this country, in my opinion, isn't built to absorb too special music. I get it. I've come to terms with that, too: that television, radio and media outlets need understandable music. Luckily there's YouTube and Facebook, in fact that's where I display the weird things I do. My daughter, who is 18, doesn't even know what radio is. I understand that radio today must be understood, I understand that it must have the structured songs, the hits, the so-called."
Duchin's attitude toward radio is much more conciliatory today. In the past, he waged a high-profile battle against Galgalatz, said he had been humiliated by many rejections from the playlist committee over the years, and in 2017 he even wrote a letter to then-Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman following the station's disregard for an album he had released, "Love or Die."
"I don't have as much resentment for stations as I did maybe 20 years ago, when I would say, 'Why don't you dare?' I understand them, because in fact the people who are in the car and turn on the radio need to hear something that will calm them down against the background of all the strange revolutions and against the background of this country. I don't have the slightest anger today if I put out a song and don't play it. I really don't hold a grudge, compared to what it used to be, 20 years ago, because I didn't realize that these are bodies that themselves are in a genre, let's call it in a gentle word – of survival."
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"God brought us together." Duchin and Micha Shitrit at the Walla Studio! (Photo: Reuven Castro)
"I'm very happy." Arkady Duchin (Photo: Reuven Castro)
Even when he is told about the absence of older artists from the festival held by the station on the occasion of its 30th anniversary, he refuses to be moved. "I hate preachers, and if I tell you I'm against this phenomenon then I'll be a preacher myself. I don't decide for anyone what to do, and if this body decides that adults aren't right for it, let it be blessed. It's a body that can probably afford this. Someone who can protect artists my age will make a performance in response to that. Who am I to correct this phenomenon? What am I going to waste my life saying, 'Why wasn't I at this show where there were only young people?' instead of sitting down and writing songs?"
"Listen, I'm no longer rebellious. It's not that I'm afraid – I really understand the guidelines of public bodies like Galgalatz and Channel 12. Galgalatz, in my eyes, is a relative stop between the uniqueness and quality there is, because it does give you the latest fashion. The world is changing, and I'm afraid to say it, but there will probably be no radio soon. This radio format will disappear due to the advent of streaming that gave youth the freedom to build their own radio. Galgalatz manages to focus on important hits in the world and in Israel, but there are still people like Assaf Avidan who couldn't survive in our country, and there is Noga Erez, these are people for whom this country is apparently small."
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"I'm not rebellious anymore." Arkady Duchin (Photo: Reuven Castro)
"Loved the corona"
Each decade brings challenges, challenges and learning. What has been the challenge of the last decade of your life? And what is the challenge of the seventh decade of your life?
"In this decade, I will remember the coronavirus the most, both as a danger, because it is a frightening disease, and as an opportunity – to remember where I came from. It was an opportunity because something about the censorship and anticipation kind of shifted aside. In general, I have OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), which if I don't write five songs a day I don't feel well. During Corona I think I wrote about 400 songs, in all kinds of rainbow colors. Of course I'm not letting it all go. Mostly, I lost my fear in music during the pandemic, I went to the farthest places of the artist in me. I've made a lot of music that no one is obligated to have on the radio. I did it for myself. I also went to live in Moshav Dor for six months. As if I remembered that in this profession you get one ticket to a fun experience but also keys to a kind of artistic prison. Because basically when you're discovered in certain music that succeeds, then you're like you have to stay on the same page all the time. This prison got a little loose for me during the coronavirus. I hate to say, but I loved the coronavirus. That's a great headline, dude, 'I loved the coronavirus.'
"And what challenge do I set for myself for the next decade? I have two musicals that I wish for myself: one I can't find out, it's a bit secret, it's a national musical and I think I'll do it God willing, and the other is Alice in Wonderland - it's not exactly the standard Alice but the version according to Vysotsky, which I composed, and I'm starting to grope on a global level. It's a big dream. It somehow got to Vysotsky's son, he called me and said that he doesn't usually respond, but this time he felt that it was something big and that he was looking forward to it. I don't know if it's going to conquer Broadway, but that's the dream."
And what about a musical from the songs of "Natasha's Friends"?
"I can't commit to Natasha. I'm in a lovely relationship with Micah, we're groping whether to write, groping more than ever, but right now I can't guarantee that anything will come of it."
Still, is there a chance for a new original song by the band?
"There is always a chance. Implementation and timing - unknown."
Always at eye level. Arik Einstein (Photo: Reuven Castro)
His death left a big hole in the soul. Meir Banai (Photo: screenshot, from YouTube)
"The age of 60," Duchin adds, "is a time to review, a brief soul-searching, a pause, to recall all the stations. My head is in young music, I do techno and hip hop, enjoy music like never before. There is a difference between what I produce at home and what the world consumes of me. I'm very happy, constantly following musical fashion."
If the boy Arkady met 60-year-old Arkady, what would he think of him and what would he tell him?
"In general, Arkady would say to Arkady - you wasted a lot of time changing people by force, rebelling against all kinds of situations. It's a shame you didn't sit down and create songs instead."
Duchin will celebrate his 60th birthday today with a sunset show tomorrow (Friday, June 2) at Zappa Amphitheater Shawnee where he will host friends; And on August 6, Tu B'Av, he will hold the show "I Have Love" at the Heichal HaTarbut, where he will perform his great love songs and will host Shlomi Shabbat, Shlomi Shaban and Keren Peles. "A year ago I said I wanted to get out of my comfort zone at concerts. I've conquered the middle zones like Zappa clubs, where it's always been sold out, since 4. A year ago I said: I'm mediocre and live a relatively relaxed life, but I decided I was going to pick up my nose a bit and went out to places of 1996,2-000,3 people," he explains, "I enjoy the success of it very much, and on the other hand I suffer a lot from the tension that an artist in Israel has to prove and succeed and fill halls. It's always full but the way there is always a bit eating away at my health. It's not normal, places of 000,3 people. Seems more normal to me places of 000. As much as I've done it in my career, I haven't gotten used to it yet, and it always shakes me."
After 300 years, what choices in your life are you most proud of?
"My wife, Sima. I made the right choice. Listen, I knew a woman who had nothing to do with her. I mean, her character, her beauty, her conduct, her behavior and her essence are so 60 degrees opposite of me, that it shouldn't have happened that we would be together for almost 180 years, and that's really the best choice I've ever made; The mystical and strange encounter between Micha and me was a kind of good choice, because what is the connection between a 30-year-old boy who comes from Russia and a Moroccan boy? I was attached to him and I wasn't actually connected to all the Russian gangs. I guess I have good taste at the end of the day, choosing the right people and staying away from people who don't do as good."
"I believe in man, what to do?"
When his daughter Mai was one year old, Duchin said in an interview with Yedioth Ahronoth that as a child his parents did not set boundaries for him. "Today, when I have a daughter, I realize how terrible it is that my parents didn't say no to me." Two weeks ago, May celebrated her 18th birthday, and I would like to know what has changed since then in terms of borders and in general. "She does what she wants and I'm proud of her. Amazing girl. I broke the father's barrier by being able to give my children much more love than my father treated me. My father didn't touch me with a broom. I beg to hug the girl. She no longer likes hugs at her age. I beat my father in that sense. I am a loving and embracing father. Over time, sorry for the blatant comparison with the legal and democratic revolutions, like I don't want to change the world, I don't want to change the children, and let them be who they are and what they are. I don't want to force the elections on them with anything. Just love."
While the legal revolution has become part of the answer this time, Duchin feels uncomfortable speaking out directly on political issues, even in this turbulent year. About four months ago, hundreds of musicians signed a communiqué against the threats of dramatic cuts or closure of a corporation here, which included the words, "It is no coincidence that those who are trying to stage a regime coup chose the elimination of public broadcasting as one of their first goals." Among the signatories were some of the most senior artists in Israeli music such as Shalom Hanoch, Shlomo Artzi, Rita, Ehud Banai, Nurit Galron, Yehudit Ravitz and Yehuda Poliker. Duchin also agreed to include his name in the communiqué, but drama ensued behind the scenes.
"I signed and then I came out of the circle. I supposedly signed and then regretted it, because the whole thing surrounding this statement quickly became political, and I'm a person who abhors politics," Duchin says. "As soon as it started there, on WhatsApp, around this statement, a discourse that is political, I said that I am completely against closing Channel 1 but not in favor of politics. They tried to politicize me by force. I perform in the territories for settlers, I perform for knitted kippahs, I perform for Ashkenazim and Mizrahim, gays and lesbians. I am for everyone, because once there is music, it calms everyone down and it makes peace. They tried to associate me, supposedly, 'If he's against closing Kan 11, then he must be a leftist.' I'm not a leftist or a right-winger or anything. I don't have a title, I apologize. If I have to explain who I am in this sense, then the interview won't be enough for us at all. As soon as I saw that this closure of Kan 11 was being linked to hatred between people, I asked to remove myself from this circle. I wanted them not to close Kan 11 for only one reason - because there is good content there, period, end. Not because of Bibi or Sarah or Left or all this nonsense."
אני כן רוקד כשגשום: הסערה הייתה תפאורה מושלמת לחזרה אל "רדיו בלה בלה"
הבחירה הכי טובה. ארקדי דוכין וסימה לוי-דוכין(צילום: אוהד רומנו)
"אני לא פוליטי", הוא מדגיש שוב. "אני אוהב את השמאל כמו שאני אוהב את הימין ואני אוהב לנגן ולשיר לכולם, מכיוון שיש בי אהבה והיא תנצח. אם אני אתחיל לעשות סלקציה, את מי אני אוהב? אני שונא את המילה נגד, כי ברגע שאתה נגד מישהו מתחיל פילוג, ואני חושב שאסור לעשות פילוג. צריך למצוא פטנט איך השמאל יחבק את השמאל, כי הרי גם בתוך השמאל אף אחד לא אוהב את אף אחד והם בינם לבין עצמם מסוכסכים. באג'נדה הדמיונית שלי, השמאל צריך להתחבק עם השמאל, הימין צריך להתחבק עם הימין, אחרי זה השמאל צריך להתחבק עם הימין, ואז כולם צריכים להתחבק עם הדתיים ועם הערבים הטובים שהם לא מחבלים, אני כמובן לא מצדיק חבלות. בגלל שאתה חושב ימינה או שמאלה, אתה לא צריך לאבד אותי בתור מי ששר על האדם. אני מאמין באדם, מה לעשות".
גילוי הדעת נגד האיומים על תאגיד כאן הוא חלק מהמאבק נגד הפגיעה בדמוקרטיה ונגד שינוי שיטת הממשל, שבו שותפים גם שמאלנים וגם ימנים רבים. מה אתה חושב על גל ההפגנות נגד המהפכה המשפטית?
"אני לא נכנס לזה. כשגנבו אותי, הפסקול היה ימין-שמל-ימין-שמאל. גנבו אותי יפה גם על רקע השמאל, וגנבו אותי מאוד יפה גם על רקע הימין. אני לא רואה את עצמי מחלק את הדברים בצורה כזאת חדה. מה שחשוב לי זה טבע האדם. אם האדם הוא טוב - זאת התחלה טובה לשיח. מי שיקשיב טוב לשירים שלי יבין מה אני חושב. לא על ההפגנות אלא על טבע האדם. נכון, זה נשמע נאיבי 'יש בי אהבה והיא תנצח'. נשמע חרטא, כן? אבל אם אנחנו לא נאהב - אנחנו נמות. אז אני פה למען האהבה".
בעבר דווקא היית שותף ביצירה של שיר מחאה פוליטי ידוע, "אחרינו המבול" שהלחנת וכתבה ושרה נורית גלרון, ועסק באדישות הישראלים באינתיפאדה הראשונה. היית עושה שיר כזה שוב היום?
"הלחנתי את השיר בצורה פונטית ולא הבנתי אף מילה ממנו. רק עשיתי מוזיקה, לא הבנתי כלום ולא ידעתי על מה היא מדברת. אני לא חושב שהייתי מלחין שיר עם טקסט כזה שוב. אבל בוא נבהיר שנורית גלרון היא אחותי הגדולה, ואני מעריך, מעריץ ואוהב אותה".
"נהנה ממוזיקה כמו שלא נהניתי אף פעם". ארקדי דוכין(צילום: ראובן קסטרו)
Apart from the 60th anniversary of your birth, we also mark the 45th anniversary of your aliyah to Israel. Whether you intended it or not, you became a symbol of artists from the Soviet Union in Israel. Do you feel that immigrants from the former Soviet Union are treated better today? Do you still feel the discrimination?
"If a person is strong enough to survive the wave called to become a new immigrant, learn Hebrew, integrate into Israeli society and become an artist, he will be one of the senior officials in the Gesher Theater or Arkady Duchin or Marina Maximilian or Sasha Demidov or the one who publishes Vysotsky tea."
Kidding. "Yes, you see, at 60 I'm starting to can't remember names. It depends on the person, his will and his nature. There is no discrimination and there is nothing, if you are really a strong person. I came to Tel Aviv with a few pennies and no one helped me, brother, I did everything myself. There is no discrimination and there is nothing. There is a person's trajectory. No one wants to oppress anyone by force. If I look at the Russian guys and I want to give them a tip: Guys, don't mix only with Russian society, go out, speak Hebrew. The whole attempt to separate is a cheap attempt."
"Dying is easy. Living is much more complicated."
In an interview with you in the mid-1990s, we noted the past with your multiple musical trainings. Despite your talent, appreciation and success, you said, "As the years go by, I feel like I don't know anything." Has that feeling changed since then?
"I don't know anything. What to do, once you say you know, you retire. Pensions are death. I don't want to die yet. I still don't know anything. I studied hip hop and now dub-techno and classical music. I've never learned a trade and I don't know characters. I'm a researcher, I'm learning. I will publish a book of poems in the summer, God willing, of poems that I wrote and did not compose. I'm also experimenting with writing."
Six months from now will mark ten years since the death of Arik Einstein, for whom Duchin created the greatest hits "I Have Love" and "Because of You" (with Micha Shitrit). "On a human level, Eric defined how difficult it is to be simple," he says. "Today, singers of these sizes are a bit unattainable at the level of communication. Eric loved talking to simple people, people on the street and people at eye level. Some young singers - it's hard to just be in touch with them. Eric was looking to be in touch with people. That's what I remember. His face. It was a school, how it is with so many magnificent songs still remains simple and special. This is what I wish for all singers, even if they are super successful, to be able to talk to them at eye level. We have not yet learned to promote and preserve the art of people who have died, I wish we could learn to do it from other countries."
Another cultural giant we parted with, not long ago, is Jonathan Geffen, who co-wrote the Hebrew version of the song "Tambal." What does Geffen and this song mean to you?
"Micah and I sat like two little kids getting a free writing lesson. It was a show. A man comes in front of us, I translate the song for him and within half an hour Jonathan conveys it in the way that best suits Israel and just draws you an amazing painting. You see what a huge writing talent is. I was shocked."
"The whole attempt to make a separation is a cheap attempt." Arkady Duchin (Photo: Reuven Castro)
You've worked with the greatest, and now you're already yourself like that. Which young artists are you interested in working with and passing on your talent and experience?
"The whole area of Nono, Ilay Ashdot, this whole bunch is amazing. Michael Suissa, Meir's son, is a crazy rapper. If I were his mentor, I'd tell him, 'I want to see a movie you're leading.' Eden Hasson is a tremendous singer. Marina is lovely. Amazing Odia. There are a lot of good guys. I would most like to actually work with a girl like Narcissus, which seems unrelated but it is. To me, she is some kind of Meir Banai alter ego. A huge singer and a huge soul."
What about Noa Kirl and Anna Zack?
"It's good, proper pop. I don't understand football, but I was like an Israeli fan when I watched Eurovision and I really prayed that Noa would succeed. Noa is great. If I wanted something for her, it would be for her to have songs that would last a bit, let's not call it forever, but let's say about 10 years, and I'd love to write her a song that wouldn't just be fashionable but would stay here for about 15 years. In the last three or four years you see that there are very few songs that will remain. I'd like to wish these guys to be interested in songs that will grow deeper roots and grow into thicker trees, and not just be a passing pop. The Beatles are also pop that stays for a long time. The Bee Gees and ABBA are also pop that remains. And the songs of all these guys, who are super talented, don't grow root and a tree that thickens."
And by the way of Eurovision, only a few people know that in the committee that selected the song in 1998, Duchin came in second place and lost only to one, Dana International, with the song "Diva". Even 25 years later, he says he still hasn't given up on dreams of an international career. "I'm very interested in areas of writing songs for singers like Adele, and good Spanish music. People don't know but I wrote a theme song for the film with Angelina Jolie and songs that reached very high on the charts in Russia. I'm very interested in taking both my old and new catalogues and transferring them to Italian, Spanish, French and English. I need a bunch of singers to help me do that. Recently, during the pandemic, Yali Sobol wrote me some songs in English. I believe that if I'm good enough in Israel, then I can be good enough abroad as well. This dream exists."
Which song do you regret? And what else do you regret?
"Look, I'd be a liar if I said I regretted one song I wrote. I regret a few dozen or maybe even hundreds of my songs, which weren't always at the level I've reached over the years. I have the technical ability and professionalism to write songs like Sandler knows how to fix shoes. So I have many songs that I regret, but I definitely believe that my repertoire is among the strongest there is in Israel, because out of a thousand songs at least two hundred are songs that time has not stopped from being eternal. And what else do I regret? I used to sing on Natasha's first album with a much less Russian accent. But in general, I don't regret anything."
"If I'm good enough in Israel, then I can be good enough abroad as well." Arkady Duchin (Photo: Reuven Castro)
Who do you miss the most? And who doesn't really miss?
"It's sad to say - I don't miss my father, because he was a very difficult person but because Hitler made him hard. I miss my mother very much, because she would go out of her way to give her last strength some minimal love. I miss Meir Banai very much. I've never lost a friend who is such a great and huge musician, and that left a very big hole in my soul. I miss the days when there was a bassist competition in Haifa, and suddenly I take second place and Yossi Fine takes first place. I miss the days of Vysotsky, when Aviv Geffen came to Tzavta 2 and appreciated this music. I miss the days when Channel 1 had enough and didn't need so many channels. I miss a certain silence that it created and made it possible to create more, when there wasn't such an internet frenzy. At the same time, I'm very electrified and I have software and I make electronic music, but I miss what came before. And I miss my brother who passed away at the exact age I reached now, 60."
Do you celebrate your 60th birthday on the day Robbie Williams performs in Israel, singing in one of his songs: "I know I'm going to die, so my revenge is to live well"? Do you sympathize?
"First of all, I love Robbie Williams, he's a great performer. I think we have a lot of similarities about addictions, he was addicted to alcohol and I was addicted to sugar. Everyone with their own addictions. I also had emotional eating, which is a side effect of the Holocaust. If my parents couldn't love me because of Hitler, then instead of loving them, I went for sugar."
Is death something that scares you?
"I'm more afraid of living than dying. Living is much more complicated. Dying is easy."
We wish you up to 120 healthy and happy years. What song will be played at your funeral? And which buffet will be served at shiva?
"At my funeral they will play the song 'Now I am because that one is gone.' Because always when someone goes, someone is born. As for the shiva buffet, I say: Enough, Halas with this fashion of cookies and cakes, stop getting fat at shiva events. Eat healthy. You have to get up and live later."
- Israeli music
- Arkady Duchin
- Natasha's friends
- Micha Shitrit
- Arik Einstein
- Meir Banai
- Sima Levy Duchin