Riding the web to world fame

2011-03-11 12:37

‘If it wasn’t for the internet I’d probably be sunk as a musician,” says Yoav, a fast­-rising star of the alternative scene.

At a time when the music industry is losing CD sales to the download culture, he doesn’t fully buy that the internet is bad for the music business the world over.

Yoav, a musical nomad who calls Cape Town home and is a one-man band armed with a guitar and some effects pedals, has reason to ­celebrate the internet as a tool.

After all, he owes his growing global appeal to fans making his songs part of the most downloaded music on iTunes and the web in general.

Yoav has been the iTunes Canada Single of the Week featured ­artist, and clocked a number-one song in Russia, where he also ­received a special Ramp (rock ­alternative music prize) award in ­recognition of his achievements.

His music is also being downloaded by the neo-revolution’s Twitter-kids in Tunisia, Egypt and even in Indonesia, “places where me and my company haven’t ­invested any marketing”, he says.

Yoav also celebrates that he gets invited to play in places solely on the basis of his music and not a sales pitch.

He says: “The weirdest venue I’ve played was a private jet-owners’ party in Moscow, Russia, where the audience was made up of mafia-looking millionaires.”

Being a one-man band with occasional help from a sound engineer means it’s cheaper to book him. This works out well for the man in love with the road.

The Israeli-born, Cape Town-raised musician is crouching over a flowery decorated tea pot when I meet him at a Joburg restaurant.

He declares that, as an artist, “it’s not a bad thing to be telling people to look closer at things”. So, there’s a requirement to have a ­political commitment of sorts.

Yoav is fixated on WikiLeaks, the website that leaks government secrets.

“I spend a lot of time on that stuff, man,” he says with intensity in his voice.

He wears the look of a guitar-bearing backpacker type: unkempt hair, a worn T-shirt twinned with a rugged brown leather jacket along with a pair of road-beaten boots and jeans.

The look is completed with two days’ worth of stubble.

The rough edge to his persona is a strong feature of his style, as he manages to manipulate unique and unusual sounds from his acoustic guitar, mixing the eclecticism of 70s fusion with a neo-rock feel.

Coupled with his singing, the creative device is ­working, as can be heard in ­Yellowbrite Smile, one of his fast-selling ­singles.

Yoav is suspicious of stability as a feature of an artist’s life. “Show me one great artist who got married, got the attendant happiness and his work kept growing?”

So, there’s no girl waiting for the globe-trotting, postmodern griot with a guitar.

His Israeli birth will also influence the future direction his career will take.

In dealing with this idea, Yoav starts by acknowledging that South Africa and Israel are two of the most politically interesting places to be.

He then says: “I’m not looking forward to that (Israeli­Palestinian) question.”

However, instead of becoming a sloganeer, Yoav says he prefers “the Bob Dylan stance”.

Meaning one speaks out against wrong in ­general and does not get caught up in choosing sides on an issue.

“But I’m being politicised anyway,” he adds.

He says that being from two countries at the same time means he’s “always felt like an outsider”.

The outsider life goes back to his childhood as “a super-romantic kid who wasn’t good at sport”, to find a way out by playing guitar.

Though now he’s just released his second album, A Foolproof ­Escape Plan, and is travelling the world; Yoav says he is not out for fame.

He declares that he doesn’t think he’s becoming a superstar.

“Even if I just become a cult ­musician ­travelling the world, evolving and meeting great people that’ll be cool,” he says.

So, as we observe his star rising, we wait to see whether success will land him one particular address.

One thing is clear, though, Yoav is at home in the world.

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