The concert was sold out, the anticipation so high even storm warnings didn’t keep the crowds from filling the auditorium as Luna Abu Nassar and Neomi Hashmonay took the stage at the Piano Festival last night – and their performance was mesmerizing! Their voices at times as gentle as the rains of autumn, at times flashing and dazzling as a bolt of lightning, they brought the thunder. It was a meeting of artists utterly unlikely, and entirely meant to be.
Unlikely because each of these singer-songwriters is striking in her individuality, in songs that emerge from deep within the soul, songs that could not be written by anyone else. Yet perhaps that insistent pursuit of individual truths is precisely what creates the connection between Neomi and Luna onstage. Luna Abu Nassar grew up in Nazareth and is a founding member of the hip hop ensemble System Ali, as well as an independent singer-songwriter with two solo albums featuring original songs in Arabic and Hebrew: Ma’arbolot (2017) and Asaper Lakh (2013). Neomi Hashmonay comes from a Hasidic background and released her debut album Shmoneh Shurut in 2017.
The concert opened with Luna’s song Su’aal (question), and Neomi sang this intensely personal song about questioning, seeking, searching, as if these words in Arabic emerged from within her spirit. When Luna sang of “black fire on white fire” (from the title track Shmoneh Shurut) as Neomi accompanied her on the piano, the words of the song and its elusive search, the desire to see the beauty, felt as though meant for Luna’s ethereal voice. When they sang together, the harmony was magical.
One of the most striking aspects of the concerts was the natural demeanor and almost minimalist presence of both Luna and Neomi, relying on the power of the words and music, letting the songs take center stage. It was a night of pure music. Performing with Neomi and Luna were Noa Ayali on cello and Stav Lipitz on drums. Together, they were a very tight ensemble, with a warm rapport between the musicians.
As songwriters, Luna and Neomi share an introspective quality, as well as the capacity to rock it out, strong and loud. Emotionally evocative, reflective, these are songs that reach deep into hearts and minds. There were so many magical moments in this concert, whether Luna Abu Nassar’s Mishwar, Yom Min el-Ayaam, and the kinetic Rakevet, or Neomi’s Nahar, Eikh Zeh, and her hard rocking composition to the traditional Karev Yom.
There was a thrill in the air, and both Neomi and Luna confessed to feeling excited about sharing the stage for the first time, yet at the same time were comfortable talking and laughing about it. As the evening went on, the comradery between the two singers, and the affinity of their songs created a warm atmosphere, a shared experience marked by the intensity of the music. As Luna and Neomi came out for an encore, they made a joking reference to the possibility of covering a Kendrick Lamar song, and although that did not happen (next time – please!) they closed the night with a song by Etti Ankri, beautiful in its poetic simplicity.