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Genre : Israeli

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HaChaverim Shel Natasha (Hebrew: החברים של נטאשה) (Natasha’s Friends) was one of the most popular Israeli bands during the 1990s. Formed in 1986 by Arkadi Duchin and Micha Shitrit, the band released five albums, including the ambitious concept album Radio Blah Blah, before their breakup in 1996. Based on rumors, the band is planing to get back together in 2008. 

First, a bit of background. Micha Shitrit was born in Yokneam, one of those development towns designed to absorb the large immigrant populations of the 1950's, Jews from North Africa. His family, of Moroccan origin, arrived in Israel in an exceedingly difficult economic situation, which was made worse due to his father's constant periods of unemployment. That same reality was shared by the majority of the North African immigrant families, and this ended up designating Yokneam and its sister development towns as areas where humiliation and desperation reigned supreme. Shitrit remembers how he suffered as a child,seeing his father, who had always been a most elegant and respected figure, enter furtively into their house, concealing himself so that the family would not see the filth left on him from 12 hours in the factory. And he remembers how, at 15 years of age, he was watching his own future as he watched his father. To this same Yokneam came 15 year old Arkadi Duchin, emigrating with his family from the former Soviet Union. Duchin's family underwent an absorption process even more difficult than that of Shitrit's parents, and they frequently had to ration the food so that every mouth could be filled. Duchin, famous for his shyness, recounts that he was so humilliated at not being able to express himself in Hebrew, that he decided not to speak at all! And that notwithstanding, he was drafted into the tanks' division in the Israeli Army and served in the Lebanese War. To this day he reminds us that, at the war's end, he still did not know who was the enemy or for precisely whom or what he had been fighting for.


Once both of them had completed their army service, they returned to Yokneam to look for employment; though neither one yet knew the other. In a short while they became aquainted thanks to shared friends , and they swiftly began to improvise melodies together in the long and empty afternoons. Tasks were clearly defined: Micha took care of lyrics and vocals, Arkadi dealt with the music. These musical interlude afternoons lasted about a year, and they might have gone on indefinitely, but something happened. Arkadi was the first to note that Yokneam was anathema to his dreams and aspirations. With 70 shekels in his rucksack, he packed his suitcase, and took the bus in the most anxious and hope-filled journey of his life, towrads the Big City: Tel Aviv. When he got there he rented a room in an old dwelling, and searched for employment. In his free moments he ferreted about the city streets, and upon returning to his room each night he composed melodies, keeping them in store for some time in the future. Two months had barely gone by, when Arkadi opened the door and saw Micha!. He brought with him two changes of clothing and 120 shekels more. How fortunate it was for Israeli music that Micha knocked on the door that lazy Tel Aviv afternoon: together, they became one of the most creative duos in Israeli music.

Micha remembers that he begged Arkadi to play something altogether new. His initial idea was to bring the duo more up to date in terms of Israeli Rock. He didn't realize that Arkadi had a surprise in store. His voice had been transformed from a fragile thread which struggled merely to keep a tune, into a resonance that would make anybody tremble. That short period of independence and loneliness had done something to Arkadi, and Micha wasted no time in deciding that from that moment on BOTH of them would sing!. But until that voice would reach the ears of the public, the two of them still needed some sort of steady income! Micha worked as a building constructor during the day, and Arkadi washed dishes at night in a bar. How did they resolve such clashing schedules? Frequently during the day, Arkadi would drop by Micha's construction site. They would toss around a new composition, and go back to their apartment with fresh new ideas and lyrics ripe for composition. Once they had achieved some sort of minimal economic stability, they began to look for new band members. And this is also when they coined their name: Hachaverim shel Natasha, "Natasha's Friends".


Hachaverim shel Natasha was the name of the band's first record, which debuted in Israeli disc shops at the close of '89. This first outing did not reap any economic benefits for them, but it did gain them artistic recognition. In 1991 we heard "Shinuim be herguelei hatzricha" ("Changes in Consumption patterns"), and in 1994 "Achlazaurim". Their fourth work, "Radio bla bla", was certainly their most important. This opus allowed them to discard their other jobs, demonstrated an elaborate level of musical sophistication, and had the greatest amount of material on it! (2 CD's). Nonetheless, all these changes began to generate tensions within the group. And that was why the fifth disc, a live concert recording, was actually a farewell, (though nobody knew it at the time), which included the band's best tunes. Following the split, both members have pursued their solo careers with a success that designates them among Israel's most successful contemporary singer-songwriters.

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