|Born||April 13, 1932
Jerusalem, Mandatory Palestine
|Died||May 11, 2006
Tel Aviv, Israel
|Occupation(s)||Performer, singer, actor, and dramatist|
Banai was born in Jerusalem during Mandatory Palestine, and grew up in the neighborhood of the Mahane Yehuda market. He was one of the more prominent members of a family celebrated for producing several famous performers and musicians: his brothers Gavri, Ya'akov and Haim are actors, his son Yuval and nephews Ehud, Uri, Me'ir and Eviatar are musicians and singers (some of whom occasionally act), and his niece Orna is an actress and comedian.
Banai was one of the first members of the IDF's famous troupe of performers, the Nahal troupe. He dropped out of school in sixth grade to join the theatre, studied acting under Fanny Lovitch and eventually joined the company of Habima theatre. Throughout his lifetime he collaborated with most of the active theatre companies in Israel performing in countless productions. He had a particularly close relationship with playwright Nissim Aloni, and starred in the premiers of many of Aloni's plays. Banai also inaugurated famous roles in the plays of Hanoch Levine and Yaakov Shabtai.
Banai himself wrote several cabaret style revues, which he typically performed solo. He also wrote and directed comic sketches for the comedy trio Hagashash Hachiver, one of whose members was his brother, Gavri.
As a singer, he was famous for his personal presentation, smoky voice and penchant for performing French chansons. Some of his revues consisted of renditions of the songs of Jacques Brel and Georges Brassens, which were often translated from the French for him by Naomi Shemer. Shemer also wrote several of her own songs for Banai.