With a passionate fan base that crosses religions, ages and continents, French-born Israeli singer-songwriter Ishay Ribo is a global superstar who proudly sports a kippah and has a strong mission behind each song.
Many of his music videos have amassed millions of views on YouTube (chart-topping hit Lashuv Habaita has 47 million views and counting) and he has sold out concerts in prestigious arenas around the world.
The spiritual soft-rock musician draws inspiration for his songs through the Torah, prayers and other sacred texts while blending in contemporary music and melodies to create a sound that is heart-warming and unique, and a consistent message of hope and spirituality.
Ribo, who will be performing with his full band from Israel in Melbourne and Sydney later this month, sees his trip to Australia as a miracle he is very grateful for.
“We’ve never been to Australia before,” revealed Ribo in an exclusive interview with The AJN.
“The thought of performing in front of a crowd who hear me from far away is very emotional. The operation of bringing the whole band in is a semblance of a miracle! To come with the whole team and perform the way we do in Israel, and the way we’ve performed in New York is exciting.”
Ribo’s concerts in Australia are organised by Ohrsom Student Australia, an organisation focused on building communal belonging and increasing cultural interest with young Jewish Australians.
Connection through music
Ribo’s music, while steeped in Judaism and spirituality and performed in Hebrew, has attracted fans from around the world, with many of his concerts drawing crowds including Jews who are strictly Orthodox and secular alike. In Israel, Ribo’s performances have even seen ultra-Orthodox crowds who may previously have shunned singers who perform at non-kosher venues, according to reports from The Times of Israel.
When asked why he thought his music had such far-reaching appeal, Ribo said: “I’m not really sure, but because the contents of my music are connected to belief and spirituality, I think this connects us all to our identification as a Jewish nation everywhere we can be found, even in distant places. With the wonders of digital communication and platforms today, we can make connections through music, tefillah and inspiring learnings.”
Ribo, 33, who is a father of five (his eldest is aged 12 and youngest recently born in January this year), also believes strongly in using music to reconnect young people with their Jewish belonging.
“The best way to attract youth of our generation is with culture and the arts because it has something that allows stigmas to be put aside. Music can have a great influence. I often get told by people who aren’t really connected to Judaism that my music reaches their hearts deep within.
“It’s hard to explain, but I believe people intrinsically connect to the arts, and specifically to music. It opens the heart without an intellectual bend to it. Music has the power to cause things to happen above and beyond the natural.
“Therefore, all Jewish culture, and all Jewish people anywhere, can connect and become emotional by sharing music – they find a ‘home’ this way.
“It is important for people who are spread out in distant places, like Australia, to form a connection between their fellow Jews from around the world, and to be more in touch with each other,” said Ribo.
Rabbi Evan Widmonte, founder and director of Ohrsom Student Australia, saw Ribo as the perfect fit for his organisation’s goal in addressing the concerning pattern of communal disinterest in young Australian Jews.
“Ishay Ribo is an Israeli musical artist who blends Jewish spiritual influences with contemporary melodies. In doing so, Ribo has created a social revolution, breaking down the divide across the Jewish and Israeli world. Ribo’s unique lyrics are infused with his own poetic creativity, which breathes life into his music.”
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“As a beacon of Jewish unity and inspiration across the world, Ribo’s impact speaks to the Ohrsom mission. For Ohrsom, this is a critical opportunity to gain exposure across the Melbourne and Sydney communities in a way that celebrates and showcases our values,” said Widmonte.
Ribo, who is based in Jerusalem with his family, spreads his love for Israel through his music, and is driven to welcome people to rediscover what Israel has to offer.
“Our job, when we travel and perform, is to talk about how amazing Israel is, how important it is, how it is a home for each person, and no one should feel they are a stranger there. Sometimes, due to politics or security, people say, ‘Israel isn’t for me,’ but it really belongs to each and every Jew.
“Even when I’m in Israel, I have many conversations with olim who arrive in Israel. We need to spread out the red carpet for them and show them admiration and respect, because anyone who leaves their home and moves somewhere new, they have sacrificed.
“The best way to attract youth of our generation is with culture and the arts because it has something that allows stigmas to be put aside. Music can have a great influence.”
“Even those who still live out of Israel should, every now and then, think why they are still there. People shouldn’t simply use the excuse of well this is what I’m used to. There are all kinds of questions that need to be put on the table, and so at each performance, I say a few words about this topic.
“I also get reactions from people saying that my words inspired them to make aliyah. We have open arms for all who want to come. At the end of the day, we are all one nation, one people,” said Ribo.
Encouraging young adults to build a love and connection with Israel is top priority for Widmonte’s organisation as well.
“Ohrsom offers a gap year experience, which is a nine-month program for post high-school students that is based in Israel with a significant world travel component. We also have an annual Ohrsom Israel trip – which is a vibrant, social and uplifting two-week Israel adventure for university students, and it includes 25 post-trip follow up sessions, cementing a sense of belonging to their local Ohrsom community and new friendship networks.
“On top of that, we offer ongoing weekly events in Sydney and Melbourne. These include discussion and learning groups, charitable food drives, shule services, Shabbat and festival programming, and women’s empowerment initiatives to name a few.
“Ohrsom Student is also made up of dynamic educators who offer personal mentoring, leadership, self-development and Jewish mindfulness workshops,” said Widmonte.
Ribo, who is excited to be partnering with Ohrsom Student Australia, is looking forward to performing in front of a new audience.
“I’m curious to see how the Australian crowd will react. We’re coming to give it our all.
“We’ll have a couple of days rest to recuperate from jet lag when we arrive – we’ve been warned that it can be pretty serious when travelling to Australia – and my band and I expect to give Melbourne and Sydney audiences our best performance possible,” said Ribo.
The Australian Jewish News is a media partner for Ishay Ribo: Live in Concert.
Ishay Ribo will be performing in Melbourne at Margaret Court Arena on February 26 and in Sydney at Enmore Theatre on February 27. For more information, visit ishayribo.com. To purchase tickets, visit ticketek.com.au