MIAMI - From the outside, the house in Miami Beach looks like just another rich person’s holiday home. The windows command an ocean view. A red Porsche sits in the back driveway and no street noise invades the tri-level mansion.
However, inside, after one obtains permission from the home’s owner, producer Rudi Perez, one is privy to one of the most promising secrets of the American music industry and his name is Gad Elbaz from Holon, Israel.
The 24-year-old singer is collaborating with Perez on his first international disc. If there is no change, he is likely to become the next Ricky Martin, minus the open shirt or any other secular accouterment.
Earlier this month, Elbaz arrived in Miami to record some demos ahead of the new album and to sign a hefty contract that will catapult him to the status of singer with concerts in New York, London or Paris and a duet with Julio Iglesias.
At a time when Achinoam Nini sings for the Pope, Elbaz intends to spread the Torah. When he sings in the studio located in the basement of the producer’s home, he needs to thank not only the Almighty but also local real estate agents who surprisingly have had a major part in this success story.
From Bar Mitzvahs to stardom
Two years ago, Elbaz was invited to appear at the bar mitzvah of an American Jewish boy. His enchanting voice was heard by the bar mitzvah boy’s uncle, real estate mogul Shlomo Fellig who decided to help the young man make the transition from performing in banquet halls to concert halls in the US.
Elbaz was flown to Miami, the home base of Fellig, and the two agreed that Pelig would represent him and promote him to the American Jewish audience. Expectations were not very high. A contract between them was drawn up and signed on a paper napkin in a local restaurant. Elbaz recorded some songs in English on a disc produced by Fellig. It failed to make waves along the Miami coast but it did bring him invitations to appear at events sponsored by the local Jewish community.
About a month ago, Fellig was looking to rent out his house. At the same Perez was looking for a place to build a sound studio. A representative for Perez was sent to negotiate with Pelig and saw the Elbaz disc sitting on the table. The guy asked for the disc, listened and was swept away by the singer’s voice and the large white kippa on his head. He passed his discovery on to his boss.
Perez remembers the afternoon when he was driving through South Beach and put the Elbaz disc in his car player.
“As someone who works with Christina Aguilera, Iglesias and Michael Bolton, I succumbed to the charm of Gad’s voice,” he recalled. “What amazed me even more was his vocal range and power. He sounds much older than his 24 years.”
Perez called Fellig and invited him to his office. “At first I had no idea what he wanted,” admits Fellig. “He said he wants to turn Gad into an international star, a voice of Israel in the world. I explained three important things about Gad to him: One that Gad is religious, two that he has a message he wants to spread and three, he has no intention of changing his lifestyle. Perez told me that he accepts the three conditions.”
Surprising phone call
In the meantime, in Holon, the young couple Moran and Gad Elbaz gets a phone call. Fellig informs them of the developments.
“I thought he was kidding with me,” said Elbaz. “But after a few minutes he called again and put Perez on the line. I was in shock when I realized it was really him and not an imposter. When I understood that I was talking to one of the world’s greater producers, I told Perez that I don’t know what I did that the Blessed One Be He favored me with this great privilege.”
The plan to market Elbaz’s songs and turn him into a star included a number of crucial stages: a contract with Columbia records; clips for MTV; a duet with Iglesias, and a world wide concert tour. The trademark already exists: Pretty soon you will not be able to call Gad Elbaz by his name. You will have to refer to him as ‘The Voice of Israel.’
Love songs? Only about god
But Elbaz will hop on the freeway to fame and fortune only on weekdays. He will not perform on the Sabbath will not perform in clubs where there is mixed dancing and he will not expose his chest for the purpose of making a video clip.
Even before the scream of his first female fan, Elbaz is quick to brush aside any thought or temptation in the future. Love songs, if he performs them will be about God. Even the demo CD recorded in Miami carries the catchy words: “God, God, come and say shalom.”
Elbaz stressed that he means to perform love songs to the Creator and will take no responsibility for how people interpret his lyrics. “My intentions are pure. I am sincere. My clips will not show women. Eventually people will get my message.”
When the conversation turns to duet possibility with one of the most famous Perez’s clients, Christina Aguilera, Elbaz is not impressed. That singer is the essence of failure and her career is a nightmare to him.
“Rudi Perez worked with Christina. She has a great voice but did not speak the truth from her heart," he says, and Felllig adds: “Gad will make people proud of their Jewish-ness and show them there is a God and that they don’t have to be American to be cool. Because of Gad, Israelis will return to their roots. He will appear at the MV awards show with a kippa on his head. He will be sanctifying the Almighty. He will bring peace and love to the world.”