BANAI , family of Israeli actors and pop-rock singer-songwriters. For over half a century the Banais provided the country with leading theater and film actors, directors and pop and rock stars.
Foremost among the clan was yossi banai (1932–2006), one of Israel's leading actors and comedians, who also released a number of big-selling albums based on the French chanson singing style, and published several books. Banai followed in the footsteps of his older actor brother Ya'akov, joining the Nahal entertainment troupe at the start of his military service in 1951. On his return to civilian life Banai enrolled at the *Habimah acting school and took part in numerous stage productions.
Banai always had a penchant for the comic side of his profession and in the 1960s joined forces with Rivka Michaeli in a program of humorous sketches and songs called Yaldut Kashah ("Difficult Childhood"). The songs from the show were later released on record. In 1968 Banai collaborated with Eli Gurelitzki in a comic-musical production, directed by Nissim *Aloni, called Ḥakhamim ba-Layla ("Smart Alecks") for which he wrote some of the sketches and two songs. A record of songs from this show, too, was subsequently released.
During the 1960s Banai spent some time in Paris and was later among the leading performers of French music, which was popular in Israel during the 1950s and 1960s. Banai performed translated versions of French hits in several of his productions, including Tel Aviv ka-Ketanah ("Little Tel Aviv") and Yossiakhzakyuna, and in 1969 he presented an entire show based on the music of popular French crooner Georges Brassens. In the early 1970s Banai released records that included the works of Belgian-born singer Jacques Brel and French singers Barbara and Georges Moustaki. Around this time he also put out several albums of original Hebrew compositions.
In 1973 Banai, Michaeli, and Aloni reunited for the comic production Nissuin Nussakh Gerushin ("Divorce-Style Marriage") which spawned two successful albums. It was around this time that Banai joined forces with one of Israel's top song-stresses, Naomi *Shemer, with Banai providing the lyrics for Shemer's music to "Sefirat Mellai" ("Stock Taking").
In 1979 Banai created his most successful one-man show, Ani ve-Shimon u-Moise ha-Kattan ("Me, Shimon and Little Moise"), based on Banai's childhood in Jerusalem. The show closed with Naomi Shemer's composition Al Kol Elleh ("For All These") which quickly took on anthemic popularity. Throughout the 1980s Banai continued making popular albums, including teaming up with leading pop-rock figures such as Matti *Caspi and Yoni Rechter. In 1990 he recorded a song entitled "Eyfo Ani ve-Eyfo Hem" ("Where Am I and Where Are They"), written by his rock star son Yuval. Throughout this period Banai continued to be active in serious theater, participating in the Cameri Theater's Gam Hu be-Aẓilim (1989), Mareh me-al ha-Gesher (1990) for the Habimah Theater, and the 1999 production of Melekhet Ḥayyim for the Beit Lessin theater.
In 2000 Banai was awarded the Israel Prize in recognition of his contribution to the entertainment industry.
Other entertainers in the Banai clan include Yossi's younger brother gavri, who was a member of the country's leading comic team, *Ha-Gashash ha-Ḥiver, from its establishment in 1963.
Yossi's son, yuval (1962– ), was a founder-member of rock band Mashina in 1984, following a stint as the soloist of short-lived rock band Shelom ha-Ẓibbur. Mashina soon found success and became the country's top rock act for much of its lifetime up to 1995. Yuval and Mashina were heavily influenced by British punk rock and American funk and started out performing cover versions of punk, funk, and blues numbers in small venues in and around Tel Aviv. There was also something revolutionary and anti-establishment about the band. The debut album, Mashina 1, included several hits, such as "Rakkevet Layla le-Kahir" ("Night Train to Cairo"), with lyrics written by Yuval's cousin Ehud, and "Ha-Tottakh Meẓalẓel Pa'amayim" ("The Cannon Rings Twice"), the latter about a soldier who can't get the sounds of artillery out of his head after returning from battle. Mashina's material often touched on political and social issues, and its music had mass appeal as the band continued to fill the country's largest venues and its albums sold consistently well. The group disbanded in 1995, after a sell-out tour, reuniting in 2003. In the interim, Yuval released three solo albums and toured with Mashina members Iggi Dayan and Shlomi Brakha.
Yuval's cousin ehud banai (1953– ), the son of Yossi's brother Ya'akov, took cello lessons from the age of 10 and was inspired by the hits of Elvis Presley, Cliff Richard, and The Beatles. He began developing his guitar-playing skills as an idf soldier and honed his craft entertaining on the streets of London after his release from the army. After his return home he started writing songs and worked as a stagehand for his uncle Gavri's Ha-Gashash ha-Ḥiver comedy team. Over the next few years Ehud wrote a number of hit songs and in 1982 tried, unsuccessfully, to start his own band together with vocalist Avi Mattos. At this time, his on-stage efforts received a welcome boost when he was hired to play guitar and provide backup vocals for his uncle Yossi's production Kemo Ẓipporim ("Like Birds") which was based on gypsy music. Ehud's first breakthrough came in 1985 when he recorded the hit single "Ir Miklat" ("City of Refuge") and the following year he established his Plittim (Refugees) band. Two years later, at the age of 34, Ehud finally got a recording contract and released his first album, Ehud Banai ve ha-Plittim, which was a smash hit. Ehud Banai became one of Israel's most popular rock artists, including a generous amount of ethnic material in his records and performances. He had put out seven albums by 2005, the last, the eagerly awaited Anneh Lee, being his first in six years and selling well.
Other successful members of the Banai "dynasty" include rock guitarist-vocalist meir (1961– ); his younger brother, rock, dance, electronic music pianist-vocalist evyatar (1973– ); and actress-comedienne orna (1969– ).
[Barry Davis (2nd ed.)]