The first Israeli performer to headline a concert in New York City’s Madison Square Garden will be the Orthodox singer Ishay Ribo, whose music has won over a broad fan base of religious and secular Israelis.
On Monday, Ribo posted on his Facebook page, “I’ve been holding this inside for a long time, and more than once I’ve pinched myself to check if I was dreaming or if this is true. Thank God, it appears that both responses are accurate.
Ribo, 34, has found crossover appeal by fusing religiously themed lyrics with pop tunes and is a significant voice in Israel’s “faithful pop” genre at a time when political and religious fault lines sharply split Israeli society.
According to a recent New York Times story, one of his songs, “Sibat Hasibot,” was the most-played tune on the nation’s radio stations in 2021.
When Ribo was eight, his family relocated to the Israeli West Bank town of Kfar Adumim from Marseille, France, where he was born to parents from Algeria and Morocco.
He was raised in an Orthodox haredi family and first heard secular music when it was piped over the bus speakers on the way to school.
Four of Ribo’s five albums have achieved gold certification and have each sold more than 15,000 copies in the Israeli music market since he self-released his debut album in 2014.
He has shared the stage with well-known Israeli musicians like Shlomo Artzi and Idan Raichel, and this has caused some Orthodox Israelis to express their disapproval.
Ribo’s performance at the famous 20,000-seat New York City arena, slated for Sept. 3, is highlighted on the flyer.
A silhouetted image of Ribo playing in front of a crowd of people flashing their phones serves as the concert’s advertisement.
The show’s month and year on the Jewish calendar, “Elul 5783,” are written in block letters over his name in gold. The religious Zionist youth organization Bnei Akiva is one of the show’s sponsors.
Ribo is not the first musician of Orthodox Jewish heritage to draw in listeners from the general public. The Miami Boys Choir, an American musical ensemble founded in the 1970s, recently had a song go viral on TikTok, and Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, who combined liturgical lyrics with the sensibilities of the Greenwich Village folk scene and, later, San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, are other examples of this type of performer.
However, Ribo is not the first Orthodox performer to organize a show at Madison Square Garden. A Hasidic charity concert with singer Lipa Schmeltzer was scheduled for the stadium in 2008, but Schmeltzer ultimately decided not to participate after 33 rabbis issued a decree stating that the concert would “strip the ribs and cause lightheadedness” and “strip the soul.”