Caspi, Matti

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CASPI, MATTI (1949– ), pop-rock multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter. Caspi was born in kibbutz Ḥanitah. He developed a keen interest in music as a child, starting piano lessons at the age of 10. He made his first public appearance at the age of 16, playing live on Israel Radio's popular young talent show Teshu'ot Rishonot ("First Applause"). He made his recording debut the next year, contributing a song entitled "Leiẓan Kippurim" ("Kippur Clown") to an album called Heidad la-Ẓe'irim ("Salute to Youth").

Caspi's musical career began in earnest after he joined the army. He spent his military service as a performer in the original Southern Command Group line-up and began experimenting with different types of music. He composed songs for the troupe's debut performance and later appeared on one of Israel Television's first music clips, performing "Ani Met" ("I Am Dying") alongside Gadi Oron and Ya'akov Noi. The trio became known as the Three Fat Men, changing the band's name to They Don't Care on their release from the army. They Don't Care recorded one eponymous album and Caspi simultaneously wrote music for theater productions, such as Lili Gam ("Lili Too") and Ir ha-Gevarim ("City of Men") as well as for music festivals and other performers.

In 1973 Caspi formed Behind the Sounds together with pianist-singer-songwriter Shlomo Gronikh and released a groundbreaking album of the same name, incorporating rock, jazz, and psychedelia alongside more familiar Hebrew pop sounds and rhythms. One year later Caspi released a highly successful debut solo album, called Matti Caspi, following that up with The Bell in 1976. Caspi was now an established star and his composition "Emor Shalom" ("Say Hello") was chosen as the Israeli entry to the 1976 Eurovision Song Contest, performed by all-girl trio Chocolate, Menta, Mastik.

Over the years Caspi collaborated, performed and recorded with many of Israel's leading artists, including premier songwriter-pianist Sasha *Argov, songwriter Ehud *Manor, the Parvarim duo, rock songstresses Riki Gal and Yehudit Ravitz, and blues-rock singer Dani Litani. While generally pokerfaced on stage Caspi has also revealed his comic side, particularly in the humoristic 1990 album Shirim be-Miẓ Agvaniyot ("Songs In Tomato Juice") on which he teamed up with comedian-songwriter Dori Ben-Ze'ev. In 1993 Caspi left Israel for the United States, but quickly resumed his leadership position on the Israeli entertainment scene on his return in 1997.

[Barry Davis (2nd ed.)]