It’s the most common, basic story. A young man is born into an upper society, where his education is the top priority. Along the way, the young man is being exposed to the sufferings of this world. He goes on a journey, and somewhere out there meets God.
Roy Rabinovici was born in Israel but lived with his family in San Francisco until he was five. They moved back to Israel and settled in Savion – a small town in the center of Israel, with a very rich population and lots of big, private villas.
As he tells me that, he is almost embarrassed. This place has a reputation for being snobbish and arrogant.
Roy and his brother and sister weren’t particularly spoiled kids, but they got an intensive musical education. Playing classic piano since they were five and going to schools in Tel-Aviv with an artistic agenda, their parents never really intended their kids to turn into musicians, rather than just have the gift of music.
In his early teens, Roy put aside the classic piano and began playing the saxophone, like the cool jazz-kids. This symbolic change of scene was his teenage rebellion, against his parents and the snoozy place he lived.
When they moved to Tel-Aviv later on, Roy felt more in place. He was always an outsider in the rich neighborhoods, and being a Tel-Avivian sax player seemed more appropriate for him.
We meet at his home in Ajami, an old Arab-Jewish neighborhood by the shore of Jaffa, Tel-Aviv. It’s a beautiful old fashioned Arab house with tall ceilings, a yard, porches facing the Mediterranean. He’s been renting this place for eight years now, living with different roommates, and currently sharing it with his girlfriend. This apartment has been hosting parties, barbeques, work meetings, friends who need a place to stay at, and of course, his studio. He’s been living there for so long, I can’t separate the person from this house – tall, peaceful, welcoming.
As he opens the door he apologizes for the mess, saying he’s keeping some of his friend’s equipment in there. Two dogs welcome me, a comic duo of an energetic attention-seeking female and a small porkish male who gargles as he walks. They belong to his sister, who lives next door.
I ask Roy what he means when he says in the song “Never want to be young again”. He says this is like a mantra, humming and repeating one sentence, reminding oneself to not reminisce on the past and live the moment. While on the surface we all want to keep our youth, we should content with the now.
There is something meditative about Roy, his music, and the way he works. The process is not so much about the result, but more about the process itself. He often grabs instruments he can’t play on, just for the sake of making a mistake.
Roy wasn’t meant to be a musician. In the eleventh grade, he moved to the USA and studied in the UWC, where he put aside the music and was more into politics. The future was clear. He thought he will have an ordinary job growing up, maybe a career in politics, economics or medicine.
But then he moved back to Israel and was drafted into the army.
A loud snore cuts into the air. The small dog fell asleep on the couch and is snoring like an old grandpa. This wakes the other dog and she comes to us wagging her tail, thirsty for attention. She comes to me and sits on my lap, so we need to talk over her.
He obviously doesn’t like to talk about his time in the military, so I don’t push it. Take an eighteen years old person and make him face all the pain in the world, and he would never be the same.
In Roy’s time off as a soldier, every third or fourth weekend, he gathered his brother and a bunch of nearly 20 young musicians, and they played music. It was the first time since the tenth grade that he played, this time with the music as his own choice.
It began as a sort of escapism from the horrors of the army. Some people need healing after the military service is over, and Roy felt like he needs some time before facing the world.
The group changed as people left and joined until they remained seven. Little by little, the collective turned into a thing. They truly believed in themselves, even while living in London with no money eating only canned food. They lived and worked together in one apartment like a small communal camp, having daily chores and duties. Since there were seven of them, each one had a different day for cleanings.
They called themselves Acollective. Even during the army days, Roy told his friends to remember that name.
In 2011, after 4 years of work, they released their first album – Onwards.
This put them on the map. They had crazy fired-up concerts, a busy stage with seven energetic men burning the night away. With Roy playing (mostly) the sax and his brother Idan as one of two lead singers, they performed both in Israel and abroad. In 2014 they released their second album, Pangaea.
Roy followed his mentor, jazz musician and teacher Amit Golan, and went to Shtriker, the music school Amit opened. The program combines studies in New York but Roy never went, since Amit passed away a year and a half after he established the school. He disagreed with the teaching methods of the school without its founder and left.
Being young, Roy thought he will change the world, but soon learned the world changes you.
By 2018, many of the band members matured and settled down, got married, developed careers of their own. With only four members left, Acollective hired some players and with lots of hard work managed to release their third and last album – The Coming of Light. After one last concert when they gave an electric performance, they parted their ways.
Roy gathered some sketches he’s had and began working on materials of his own. For the first time, he felt the weight of doing everything by himself. He strongly believes in the power of a group, of artists who inspire each other. While working alone, you have to keep going even when feeling uninspired or stuck. It’s a lonely process, but he felt like he has to go through it to prove himself he can.
He soon found out he was not alone. With technical and emotional support and collaborations with great musicians, he managed to create a poetic and mature solo album – Maybe Day.
We go to his home studio, where he plays some sketches. The house is filled with hidden gems – a vinyl collection, beautifully illustrated books, a series of manga about Budha’s life. Roy takes the time to look for a specific page in the manga – an illustration of all the living creatures in the world dancing the spiral dance of life. He says this is the moment of realization that we are all one.
By the end of February, he launched his album with a concert. He says he’s still not used to being alone on a stage, stand there and sing and talk to the crowd. But he was not alone. He had his players with him, guitar, drums, keyboards, and later on a brass duo that together with his sax gave the whole show a jazzy – New Orleans vibe. He finished with a sentimental encore, a sweet ballad he played alone on the piano.
He does not like perfection, and this was not a perfect show, which makes it so touching.
The sketches he lets me hear deal with death, regret, trauma. Roy never loses his cool, his bassy voice always remains low and calm. He glides through life, not planning more than one or two steps ahead, goes with the flow. Always moving onwards.