POLIKER, YEHUDAH (1950– ), Israeli rock-ethnic guitarist-singer. Poliker is one of the best-known artists in Israel, but it took him a long time, a lot of hard work, and a musical reincarnation to get to the top. He was born in the northern town of Kiryat Hayyim and began playing melodica and accordion as a young child. For a while he divided his leisure time between his musical explorations and goaltending for the local youth soccer team. When he received a guitar for his bar mitzvah the former won out and he soon began spending most of his time out of school honing his guitar skills.
When he was in high school he set up a band called fbi, which included a bass player called Banjo Kimḥi. This was followed by a band called The Phantoms, which broke up in 1968, when Kimḥi joined the army. Poliker enlisted a short while after but failed to win a place in the navy band, despite his advanced instrumental skills, because he could not read music. Poliker's stint in the army was short-lived, and he soon resumed his musical career, forming the Tigers in 1970. This group was a far more professional outfit. It lasted a full five years and, for a while, relocated to Tel Aviv before Poliker returned north to set up Bareket, with Kimhi back on bass. Bareket mostly played covers but also began to perform some original material, and even released a couple of poorly received singles.
It was in 1980 that Poliker got his first big break when supergroup Brosh recruited him for a show with megastar pop singer Zvika Pik that ran for six months. That spot brought him to the notice of several leading figures of the Israeli music industry, including a producer by the name of Ya'akov Gilad. Gilad soon took a trip up north to see Poliker and his Bareket group for himself and was impressed. Shortly afterwards, Poliker and the band members moved to Tel Aviv, began working on a new album, and changed their name to Benzine. Benzine's debut recording, "24 Hours a Day," was a hit and the group was one of the leading rock bands on the Israeli scene until it disbanded in 1985.
With the passing of Benzine, Poliker took the biggest step in his career when he returned to the ethnic sounds his Greek-born parents had brought with them to Israel. In 1985 he released his first solo album, Enayim Sheli ("My Eyes"), which incorporated a mix of Greek songs and rock material. The record was an instant hit and Poliker had found his way to the hearts and ears of a much wider audience. In 1988, Poliker's career took another successful turn when he released Efer ve-Avak ("Ashes and Dust"). This was a very emotive album which included several songs with lyrics based on Poliker's parents' Holocaust experiences and Poliker's own feelings as the child of Holocaust survivors and on the hardships of growing up in Israel of the 1950s and 1960s.
Poliker was now a superstar and remained at the top, releasing more big sellers, like Pahot Aval Ko'ev ("Less, But Painful") in 1990 and 1995's Ha-Yeled Shebekha ("The Child in You"), which included electronic and computer music.
[Barry Davis (2nd ed.)]