Eviatar Banai (also spelled Evyatar or (incorrectly) Evitar; Hebrew: אביתר בנאי; born February 8, 1973) is an Israeli musician, singer and songwriter.
Banai was born in 1973 in Beer Sheva. The extended Banai family is notable as an outstanding family of Israeli artists; Eviatar is the younger brother of the actress Orna Banai and the singer and songwriter Meir Banai, although their father, Yitzhak Banai, was a judge.
Banai studied cinema in high school. He also studied piano for eight years. While serving in the Israel Defense Forces he directed and wrote the screenplay and the music for a comedy film called Six, that was shown on Israel's Channel 1.
After his military service in the IDF Banai lived and worked in a kibbutz in the Golan Heights. There he wrote a play, which he hoped to stage in Tel Aviv. He moved to Tel Aviv to do that, and although the play was never staged, he stayed to live there and started writing songs. He played intimate concerts in small clubs in Tel Aviv and after some time the music producer Chaim Shemesh, who worked at Hed Arzi Music, proposed him to record an album.
The songs on the album were produced and arranged by Israeli singer-songwriter Corinne Allal. Most of the album was based on Banai's unique melodic singing voice accompanied by a piano, some songs had strings arrangements and a few had simpler rock guitar-and-drums arrangements. The eponymous debut album was released in 1997 and the combination of traditionalist chamber pop sound with modern sounds, emotional lyrics and intricate melodies was well-received: The reviews were uniformly positive, many songs became major radio hits and the album sold over 50,000 copies.
Overwhelmed by the success of the album, Banai, like many young Israelis, traveled to India to overcome it. Upon his return to Israel he settled in the desert town of Mitzpe Ramon, where he started working on his second album, Shir Tiyul (שיר טיול, Trip Song). The album was released in 1999. Its style was completely different - it had very little of the piano sound that characterized the first album and was mostly based on experimental electronic music. The reviews praised Banai's boldness and innovation, but the sales were poor and Banai retreated from the public attention.
In 2004 Banai, like his cousin Ehud Banai, returned to his Jewish religious roots and became a baal teshuva. He moved back to Tel Aviv, married and had a son.
On Purim day of 5765 (2005) he released his new album `Omed Al Neyar (עומד על נייר, Standing on Paper), produced by Gil Smetana. Most of the music was written by Banai. One song was an adaptation of a poem by Rachel, some others were contributed by Etgar Keret, Amir Lev and Gilad Kahana and rest were written by Banai. The music on the album was again a departure from his earlier albums - it was mostly played by a basic rock band of guitar, bass and drums. The album received critical praise, produced several radio hits and returned Banai to the public attention. It was certified gold in November of the same year.
Banai released his fourth album Layla Kayom Yair (לילה כיום יאיר, Night as the Day Does Shine; taken from Psalms 139:12) on November 22, 2009. It was similar in musical style to `Omed Al Neyar, while the lyrics showed Banai's deeper involvement with Judaism. The albums was produced by Amir Tzoref. The jazz musician Daniel Zamir contributed saxophone to three songs and Eviatar's father Yitzhak Banai sang on one song.