Eitan Steinberg & Etty BenZaken


About, Press


Modalius Ensemble is a classic-ethnic group that brings together prominent Israeli musicians, each specializes in a different musical style—from Middle Eastern ethnic music to contemporary concert music, from Early music to Jazz. The ensemble creates an inter-cultural discourse through research and performance of ethnic music from various communities in Israel. At the same time we enthusiastically perform contemporary compositions created especially for us. The ensemble was founded and is directed by the acclaimed Israeli artistic couple vocalist Etty BenZaken & composer Eitan Steinberg and is supported in part by the Israeli Ministry of Culture and Sports.

Modalius’ vision is to bridge the common separations between ‘ethnic’ ‘classical’ and ‘contemporary’ music. With a thorough research, Modalius preserves and revives folk and traditional music from the many ethnic communities in Israel in more than 15 languages spoken by Jews, Muslims, Christians and Druze. Modalius’ programs celebrate the many identities in Israel’s culture and at the same time show how we all share common characteristics. Our artistic mode is also a social mode, a bridging human mode.

Modalius’ multi-stylistic concerts combine Avant guard with folklore and tradition. Each program is an original one, in which all the arrangements are composed by the award winning composer Eitan Steinberg. We also perform music composed especially for us by Israeli composers.

The unique color of Modalius derives from its' unusual instrumentation and from the versatile abilities of its’ members: Etty BenZaken – an acclaimed voice artist who perform contemporary works as well as ethnic music; Sarig Sela – a recorder player who is an expert in European Early music; Orit Messer-Jacobi – who plays the baroque cello and is also a conductor of youth orchestras; Tal Feder – a double bass player renown in the Jazz and popular music scene; Oded Shoub – a renown classic guitar player; and Amnon Yoel – who plays a verity of drums and ethnic percussions. The composer, arranger and conductor is Eitan Steinberg, who often joins also as flutist, percussionist or accordion player. These core ensemble members are occasionally joined by visiting musicians on the Arabic violin and lute.

3 CDs performed by Modalius Ensemble are now available:

Ladino - double CD, celebrating the 20th anniversary of BenZaken-Steinberg's Ladino project (2019) >>

Liberty Otherness Responsibility (2018) >>

שמחה فرحة Joy (2017) >>

Press selection:
  • ""JOY" - a source of joy!" - Israel's daily Ha'aretz, 2017  the full CD review (Hebrew) >>

  • "Exciting to the ear, pleasing to the heart" - Israel's daily Ha'aretz, 2015 the full review (Hebrew) >>

  • "A major role in the Festival played the multi-cultural singer Etty BenZaken, who radiated her charming personality with ensemble Modalius conducted by Eitan Steinberg, in a rich program" - Ministry of Culture’s summery of Israeli Music Festival, 2014
    Excerpts from Eitan Steinberg’s project “Joy שמחה فرحة” were performed by Etty BenZaken also with the Boston Musica Viva Ensemble, to raved American reviews:

  • "Poignant! … Steinberg’s “Joy” caught the inner working of the human spirit at its most exuberant … The piece, a recent project by Steinberg and BenZaken for their inter-cultural ensemble Modalius, is a collection of Jewish love and wedding songs from different Euro-Asian regions"
    Boston Classical Review >>

  • "Crowd pleasing … Steinberg’s settings of folk songs reflect the multilingual sources of Israeli culture. Rather than offering a monolithic nationalism, and avoiding saccharine sentimentality, each song is flavored with a distinctive spice"
    The Art Fuse - Boston Arts Magazine >>

  • "Tour-de-force ... BenZaken rocked the entire assemblage in the Tsai Center!"
    The Boston Musical Intelligencer >>


Etty BenZaken and Modalius: selection clip

Etty BenZaken & Modalius perform traditional wedding song of the Indian Jews. Arr.: Eitan Steinberg

Modalius perform an anonymous Italian Medieval Saltarello. Arr.: Eitan Steinberg

Etty BenZaken & Modalius perform a Palestinian wedding song. Arr.: Eitan Steinberg

Shiri Riseman: "Bauchi" performed by Modalius Ensemble

Modalius members perform "Frere Jackues" in 3 voices and 3 languages. Arr.: Eitan Steinberg

Among our projects:

Joy  שמחה  فرحه

Since 2014

The video excerpt: Judeo-Spanish Romanca from “Joy  שמחה  فرحه”. "Joy" is Modalius’ debut program, still successfully performed. It is a multi-lingual celebration that brings together medieval European music, contemporary concert pieces, and arrangements of folk songs in Hebrew, Arabic, Yiddish, Ladino, Hekitiya, Malayalam, Juhuri and Russian. All these are weaved together by composer Eitan Steinberg, especially for the ensemble's virtuous abilities. The concert has been performed in Israel’s best classical venues, and Etty BenZaken performed songs from this program also in Boston, with Boston Musica Viva Ensemble, and in Estonia, with Hortus Musicus Ensemble. On April 2017 it was released on a CD. 

Free listening & digital purchase >>

The Interdisciplinary Concert Series

Since 2016

The video excerpt: Etty BenZaken's work, after a text by Israeli author Ronit Matalon. The Interdisciplinary Concert Series of Modalius Ensemble is a unique series in which each concert is a creative dialogue with a guest musician or artist. Our guests so far include lute player Ophira Zakai (a concert that we successfully perform also in 2018), butoh dancer Maya Dunsky, Jazz pianist Anat Fort, and beloved author Ronit Matalon: during 2016-17 we were privileged to collaborate with her in four concerts, before her untimely death on December 2017.

"Liberty Otherness Responsibility"

Since 2016

The video excerpt: “A Parable” by Hagar Kadima – one of the works composed for Modalius as part of this project. The “Liberty, Otherness, Responsibility” project (in Hebrew these three words derive from the same lingual root: Herut, Aherut, Ahrayut) brought together a diverse group of eight composers, who composed music for Modalius. All the eight pieces are inspired by the project’s title, and after their premier in 2016 they became part of the ensemble's ongoing repertoire: Ido Akov: "The Panther's Skin" (text by Shota Rustaveli, in Georgian and Hebrew); Guy Ben-Tov: "Va'Yissa Meshallo Va'Yomar" (text by Yehuda Elharizi, in Hebrew, Arabic and Aramaic); Hagar Kadima: "Parable" (text by Wislawa Szymborska, in Hebrew); Uri Netanel: "Africa" (text by Uri Netanel, in Gibrish and Hebrew); Shiri Riseman: "Bauchi" (text by Italo Kalvino, in Hebrew); Yuval Shay-El: "And you are to love those who are foreigners" (texts from the bible, the Koran and the New Testament, in Hebrew); Sara Shoham: "Identity Issues" (text by Yona Wallach, in Hebrew and Arabic); Eitan Steinberg: "Spinning" (text by Ronit Matalon, in Hebrew). 

Free listening & Digital purchase >>

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Eitan Steinberg and Etty BenZaken

Composer-Conductor & Vocalist

Eitan Steinberg and Etty BenZaken are known for their collaborations in contemporary music, ethnic music, and music-theater projects. Steinberg is the recipient of the Israeli ACUM Prize for Lifetime Achievement (2014); Landau Prize (2010) and Israel's Prime Minister's Composition Award (2007, 2018). Etty BenZaken frequently performs his music as well as other contemporary works composed for her voice, along with ethnic music in an array of languages. She is an active interdisciplinary artist in the fields of literature, music, theater and visual arts, and the recipient of Rosenblum Prize for Outstanding Artists (2018).

Tal Feder

Double bass player

Double bass player Tal Feder graduated in Music from University of Haifa, earned his Ph.D. in Sociology there, and is an alumnus of Haifa Youth Symphony. He performs in Israel and abroad as part of various Jazz and ethnic ensembles, and is featured as instrumentalist, composer and arranger in many Jazz and Israeli music CDs.

Orit Messer-Jacobi


Cellist Orit Messer-Jacobi received her B.Mus. from the Rubin Academy at Tel Aviv University, and mastered in baroque violoncello studies in Italy. She is the principal cellist of The Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra, and is active also as a conductor of youth orchestras and chamber music instructor. Her playing is featured on Sony Classic, Stradivarius, Arcana and Accord label.

Sarig Sela

Recorders player

Recorders player Sarig Sela graduated from the Jerusalem Academy of Music, and earned addistional B.A. in Mathematics and Computer Science at the Ben-Gurion University. He studied medieval music at the Schola Cantorum in Basel, Switzerland, and is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Musicology at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem. He is an active soloist of Early, classical and contemporary music.

Oded Shoub


Guitarist Oded Shoub graduated from the Tel-Aviv Academy of Music, and for 12 consecutive years has won scholarships from the America-Israel cultural fund. He plays classical and contemporary music as a soloist and in ensembles, and has performed the two guitar concerti by Rodrigo with the Israeli Chamber Orchestra. He is an appreciated teacher of classical guitar, and five of his pupils won the Israeli army position "Excellent Musician".

Amnon Yoel


Percussionist Amnon Yoel performs with classical, Jazz and ethnic ensembles, using improvisations and exploring the sound possibilities. He holds a B.A. in music from the University of Haifa, and a teaching certificate in Special Education from Haifa's Gordon College. He invests most of his time teaching music to people with special needs—mentally retarded people and people with CP.

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© Eitan Steinberg & Etty BenZaken | Updated March 2020 | Site design: Dina Konson