Yonatan Bar Rashi is the eldest son of the late Avraham Bar Rashi (formerly Allan Gittler), a time-bending guitar great who worked with Gil Evans, Elvin Jones and others. Yonatan's father used classical technique on electric guitar and designed the minimalist Gittler Guitar, the only musical instrument in the permanent collection of NY's Museum of Modern Art.
Yonatan currently performs and records in Israel with his own ensembles in various genres, and performs in concert tours, festivals and recordings in Europe with leading Gypsy/jazz singers/composers Desiderius Duzda, Ida Kelarova, the Jazz Famelija and more. Yonatan was born and raised in NYC and began knocking on things from early youth. His sister got him his first pair of "congas" when he was 10 years old - two pickle barrels from Chinatown with goatskin heads on rims held on by C clamps. His first public playing was at some big parties in the late 60's in NYC and Woodstock, with African groups, including the drummers for Odetta. " I was tiny.
My mom said I could barely reach their drums. But I was already playing a while and I was the only kid they allowed to sit in." His first "formal" conga studies were with a Latin group of drummers called "Lexington Avenue", based in a storefront on 117th street and Lexington. " They were very kind to me. They did not laugh at my pickle barrel congas." Yonatan attended NY's High School of Performing Arts and played and sang with several groups, fairly obsessively. He recalls one strange practice routine: "My friends and I would stand between subway cars and start singing a tune while the train was still in the station... the train started and we couldn't hear ourselves 'til we got to the next station... that's when we'd find out if our timing and tuning were tight."
In 1976 Yonatan and high school pals Dave Ortiz and David Ramirez were "discovered" while playing in Central Park by members of "The Tokens" who sang "The Lion Sleeps Tonight". That summer they recorded an album (Skateboardin' USA), appeared on nationwide TV and did a US tour. " It was well-done bubble gum pop, a big production, but somehow mis-managed and fizzled out - maybe for the best. But it was great experience with super musicians." In 1982 he began a 3 year stint in the US Peace Corps. "I went for selfish reasons only - I knew it was the best available way for me to experience a culture outside the US." He was assigned to the Eastern Caribbean, which led to long musical associations with Caribbean/jazz saxophonist/composer Luther Francois (albums with Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Melba Liston & others), pianist Emerson Nurse, and several others.
He played with a wide range of groups in many genres including Caribbean/jazz fusion, Calypso, Cadanse, Zouk, Soca, Reggae and folkloric forms. "Luther Francois - an incredible person and musician, from an amazing family. He and his family are some of my greatest friends and influences. Luther's music can get to a rare shade of deep blue that I've only heard elsewhere in the music of my dad and a few others." In 1986 Yonatan returned to NYC, went to visit family in Israel shortly thereafter, and has lived in Israel most of the years since. He performs in Israel and abroad. Among many others, he has performed and/or recorded with: Avraham Bar Rashi, Estas Tonne, "Baladi", Avishai Cohen, Yair Dallal, Eyal Sela, Shuli Natan, Jonathan Miller, Yehuda Glantz, David Adda, Yonatan was hired to play in the Saint Lucia Jazz Festivals of 1992, '93 and '94 with Luther Francois and others. In 1998 he recorded the CD "Deep Hip", featuring his father on guitar, Yonatan on percussion and other Israeli musicians.
This CD is still only available through Yonatan, because his business skills are lousy. In Israel he began playing the darbuka and applies the double hand roll to it - perhaps the first and only darbuka player to do so. He also applies this technique to cajon and also plays hand pans and other percussion instruments. Many videos with Yonatan can be found on youtube.com under Yonatan Bar Rashi and more. "There's nothing like the sounds of congas and bongos. I love the darbuka also now, and finger techniques are a whole new world. The odd way of holding it and the odd-time Mid Eastern rhythms are interesting and fun." Yonatan on "genius" and the "mystique" of music: "Genius is mainly obsession - the more you do it, the better you get - it's that simple. I agree with the Suzuki music school on that score - We ALL are born with pretty much the same equipment and potential, no matter our pre-dispositions. My dad used to say "don't be paralyzed in awe of the greats - we all have the same basic potential."
Yonatan was born August 23, 1958. He is married and has 3 daughters. CDs, partial list: Percussion Master - Yonatan Bar Rashi, solo & with guests 2012 Sunen Savore - Ida Kelarova, Desiderius Duzda, Jazz Famelija & Guests 2011 Aven Bachtale - Ida Kelarova, Desiderius Duzda, Jazz Famelija 2009 Jamming Away - Estas Tonne, guitar and Yonatan Bar Rashi, percussion, duo 2008 Kostiza Band - Yonatan Bar Rashi with Kostiza Band 2007 Gypsy Celebration 2005 - various artists Apsora - Ida Kelarova & Apsora ensemble 2004 Timeless - Nobuya Yamaguchi, Odelia Zadok 2003 Yadayim - Yadayim Percussion Ensemble 2002 HaMakhshevot Sheli - Baladi 2001 Open Roads - Shuli Natan 1999 Deep Hip - Avraham Bar Rashi 1998 Junglebean - Jeremy Avis 1998 Epic - Avraham Bar Rashi 1997 Na'ale - Yehuda Glantz 1996 Indigo - Avraham Bar Rashi 1995 Jewish Music Ensemble - Akiva Ben Horin 1992