'Presenting Princess Shaw': A Star Is Born, With a Little Help From an Israeli Music Producer

Ben Shalev
Ben Shalev
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Samantha Montgomery (AKA Princess Shaw) from the documentary "Presenting Princess Shaw."
Samantha Montgomery (AKA Princess Shaw) from the documentary "Presenting Princess Shaw."Credit: Haim Yafim Barbalat
Ben Shalev
Ben Shalev

During the first week of April, Ido Haar’s documentary “Presenting Princess Shaw” opened in local movie theaters. The film tells the story of Samantha Montgomery, an amateur singer from New Orleans, who posted original a cappella songs on YouTube in complete anonymity until the moment when Kutiman discovered her wonderful voice. Kutiman (Ophir Kutiel) is a musician from Kibbutz Tze’elim who invented the concept of mixing unrelated musical video clips he collected from all over the Internet.

With the help of musical condensation, he constructed the song “Give It Up” around her voice and her song and turned Montgomery, whose professional name is Princess Shaw, into an internet star. In advance of the screening of the film, Kutiman released another song that was engineered around an a cappella video clip by Princess Shaw called “Stay Here.” The song is more pop-like and structured than “Give It Up,” and therefore Kutiman’s intervention is somewhat less profound.

He surrounds Princess Shaw’s voice delicately, mainly with various types of keyboards, and then leaves her most of the stage. The song itself is very simple, and under different circumstances, there might have been reason to regret the fact that it repeats the same sequence of chords over and over again throughout. But hey, it’s originally a song that an amateur singer sang a cappella in her bedroom. It has to be very simple. And with the terrific amount of soul in Princess’s marvelous voice, simplicity is a surefire recipe for activating emotion.

Kutiman's Give it up featuring Princess ShawCredit: YouTube

Asher Bitansky – ‘Ani Shelakh Ve’at Shelo’

Asher Bitansky has been one of the leading impresarios in Israeli pop for the past 45 years (working with Kaveret, Tamouz, Netanela, Achinoam Nini), but he himself is also an artist who writes and sings (his most famous melody is Nurit Galron’s “Ma Yihyeh Besofeinu”). Recently Bitansky took out of the drawer an old song of his that was recorded in 1977 with the leading musicians of Israeli rock of the day: Gary Eckstein, Moshe Levy, Ohad Inger and Meir Israel.

Asher Bitansky – Ani Shelakh Veat Shelo

The beauty of “Ani Shelakh Ve’at Shelo” lies first of all in the fact that it’s an “after hours” song, of the kind that has rarely been done here, not then and certainly not today. It begins like a delicate broken-heart ballad, but soon the tone becomes casual, coarse and even drunk and high on drugs. Bitansky’s singing is contemptuous of the respectable standard of Israeli music. It’s not “what will become of us” but barely “what will become of me.” And the guitar solo by Gary Eckstein towards the end is wonderful.

Moshik Afia – ‘Hamishi Sameach’

People whose livelihood involves listening to the entire selection offered by contemporary Israeli pop are doomed to listen to many bad songs every week. But only rarely do they come across a song that isn’t simply bad, but displays shameless contempt for the intelligence and the aesthetic sense of its listeners. That is the case with “Hamishi Sameach” by Moshik Afia.

Moshik Afia – Hamishi Sameach

The idea is actually not bad: to write a song that suits a specific day of the week. Last year Eyal Golan took Friday afternoon, and now Afia wants to lay claim to Thursday. That’s legitimate. But like that? On that substandard level? There is presumably a story here about a guy and a girl who travel to a zimmer (bed & breakfast) in the north, but actually there’s nothing. “And she’s captivating. She has a terrific look/She conveys a facade to me, it’s unbelievable.” This thing was put together in five minutes at most, including the inferior melody, which actually insults Afia’s voice.

Let’s pray that this silly and ugly song won’t become a hit. On second thought, the last time I said such a thing, “Mi Shema’amin Lo Mefached” (Eyal Golan) became the biggest Israeli hit of the past decade.