Washington DC is a long way from Kiryat Gat, the southern Israeli town where 33-year-old Israeli rocker Ninet Tayeb was born and raised. But, that’s exactly where Tayeb, one of Israel’s most popular musicians, found herself performing last week as a guest on Tiny Desk Concerts, an intimate concert show broadcast on National Public Radio (NPR) from their offices in the US capital.
In fact, the performance was so well-received it prompted the show’s host to compare Tayeb to iconic American rock star Joan Jett.
“As I watched one of the most famous entertainers in Israel today here at NPR,” Tiny Desk’s host Bob Boilen wrote on NPR’s website, “I flashed back to a 1976 concert I saw by a not-yet-famous Joan Jett. Ninet has that same fierce and honest conviction, is walking that same path that Jett did and poised to find notoriety in this country, which she recently began to call home.”
“An unrestrained talent”
“Tiny Desk Concerts” is a video series of live concerts hosted by NPR Music at the desk of All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen. In describing how he discovered Tayeb, Boilen wrote, “Ninet won me over during a small concert at last year’s SXSW; it was early in the day, but she was fully on fire and intense. She and her potent band have put out five albums and their most recent, Paper Parachute, is the home of the songs she brought to us. It’s filled with a her husky-toned voice and guitar lines straight out of stateside ’70s rock, with a Middle Eastern lean. It’s a winning sound, performed by an unrestrained talent.”
A Star Is Born
Tayeb was brought up around music and began performing at small events at an early age. Musically, she was influenced by rock bands like Pink Floyd, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Oasis. Now her music is influenced more by the likes of PJ Harvey, Bjork, and Jeff Buckley. Her breakthrough came is 2003 when the 20-year-old was crowned winner of the very first season of Israel’s American Idol-style competition show Kochav Nolad (A Star Is Born), a win which instantly catapulted her to national fame.
Tayeb, known by most Israelis simply by her first name, Ninet, has released four successful albums in Israel (one of them in English), and has twice won Israel’s Favorite Act at the MTV Europe Music Awards. She has also worked with producer Mike Crossey (who produced her third album, Sympathetic Nervous System), and artists such as Steven Wilson, Gary Lucas, Cyndi Lauper, The Jesus and Mary Chain and The Dead Daisies.
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Coming to America
Alongside her musical career, Tayeb has enjoyed a successful acting career, performing both in movies and plays. But, after taking advantage of almost everything the local scene had to offer, she set her sights on the international stage, looking to take her music to America. Tayeb, who is married to music producer and guitarist Yosi Mizrachi, currently lives in Los Angeles.
“Here I’m starting from scratch,” Tayeb told Grimy Goods, a Los Angeles music lifestyle blog, in a recent interview. “I do have a fanbase in Israel and I’m pretty established there but I don’t want to think about it like that because I want to start fresh. I needed it for myself to discover new things about me, the way I see and feel things creation wise. I came here and just started to write because I was so inspired from the nothingness, we had no family or friends–we do now–but at the beginning it was just so hard and I just wanted to use that.”
In support of her new American debut album, Paper Parachute, Tayeb just wrapped her first North American tour, including a sold out show during a snowstorm at Mercury Lounge in NYC and will be heading to Austin as one of the official SXSW artists.
Her new songs reveal an artist with fierce determination, yet honest vulnerability.
On girl bands: “Now is the time to make a change”
As one of Israel’s biggest female rock stars, the importance of female acts taking to the stage to sing is not lost on her. “Nowadays, as a woman, I want to believe it’s getting easier,” she told Grimy Goods. “I’m just calling every woman that’s here, that makes music to go out there and do it and to not be afraid of anything, because I really believe and feel that right now is the time. I feel it in my body. Now is the time to make a change, and the fact that there are so many girl bands just shows that.”
Photos and videos: NPR: Bob Boilen & Courtesy