American indie singer-songwriter Devendra Banhart canceled his two Tel Aviv concerts late Monday night, hours before he was to have landed in Israel and despite repeated assurances he had no intention to withdraw his shows. The concerts were scheduled for today and tomorrow at Tel Aviv's Barbie club.
"We love the land and people of Israel, and have been looking forward to our third show there with unimaginable anticipation," a statement posted yesterday on Banhart's website read. "Unfortunately, we tried to make it clear that we were coming to share a human and not a political message, but it seems that we are being used to support views that are not our own. We will be overjoyed to return to Israel on the day that our presence is perceived and reported on as a cultural event and not a political one. We truly hope that day comes soon."
The concert producer Shrulik Einhorn and Shahaf Schwartz said they were "deeply disappointed by the cancelation and surprised by the timing, since the artist and his manager repeatedly stated that cancelation was not an option." All ticket holders will be reimbursed.
Israeli singer Geva Alon, who was supposed to be the warmup act for Banhart, said yesterday he and other artists would hold a free concert at the Barbie club tomorrow. "When we heard of the cancelation, we decided to take action. We're culture-loving musicians, not politicians."
Banhart's only concerts in Israel took place in 2006, to great critical acclaim. His latest album, What Will Be, was released in October by Warner/Reprise, and saw him move away from his characteristic minimalism to a more approachable style. He had also recently re-recorded, with friends, Leonard Cohen's debut album, "Songs of Leonard Cohen."