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Farewell to ‘the rockstar who never acted like one’

  • Ari Brest
Ari Brest captivated audiences whenever he stood up to perform as a singer, musician, or actor. He undoubtedly had star quality – that X factor.
by NICOLA MILTZ | Jul 11, 2019

But the life of this 26-year-old, up-and-coming lead singer of the Indie rock band, Boxer, was cut short when he passed away on Sunday.

He stayed over at friend’s house for a get together, went to sleep, and didn’t wake up on Sunday morning. The cause of death is still unclear, his family said.

Hundreds of shocked and grief-stricken mourners gathered at the funeral of this gifted performer on Monday.

Portrayed as super-talented, highly creative, intuitive, and free-spirited, Ari touched many with his innate passion for self-expression and sense of humour, those close to him said.

His parents, Hedley and Lindy, told the SA Jewish Report that their beloved son “loved people and had a zest for life”.

“Ari was not afraid of dying so long as he lived his life to the full, which he did,” they said.

Early on Sunday, as rumours of his passing rippled through the community, disbelieving friends from around the world reached out to one another, clinging to the hope that what they heard was untrue.

But as the news broke on social media, dozens of heartfelt messages came through from people expressing condolences.

One of his closest friends, Aron Suttner, posted a message on Ari’s recently created brand page, The Scruple. He called on others to post further anecdotes and messages which will be collated and presented to his parents.

Suttner described his friend as someone who “spread so much love and light”.

“Ari was a man of such sensitivity. He felt the vibrations of people around him, and took on the burden of so many people’s angst,” Suttner said. “He shouldered the experience of the modern man with difficulty, but also with grace.”

“His art was cutting edge, and his charming nature made us all walk a bit taller. He also believed so strongly in the creativity of others.”

Ari was born and raised in Johannesburg, and lived in the suburbs of Fairvale and Fairmount. He was the middle child of three sons, Ilan, 29, the oldest, and Gabi, 19, the youngest.

The three boys grew up in a musical household. Their father, Hedley, is a well-known base guitarist and their mother, Lindy, a gifted singer. The couple met many years ago performing in the same band together.

According to Lindy, Ari knew he “had something” from a very young age, long before they did. “When he was in Grade 1, before we even knew he could sing, he asked us to find him an agent,” she said.

He began his school career at Yeshiva College, and loved singing in the school choir and performing in the Shooby Doob Shloimy concerts. Later, he moved to King David Victory Park (KDVP) High where, according to his teachers, he excelled in the arts.

Apart from doing well on the sports field, Ari became known as a consummate performer in drama and musical theatre.

Head of arts and culture at KDVP, Renos Spanoudes, said Ari was gifted. “He came from a grand pedigree of performers. His father, Hedley, would assist all our musical productions on guitar while his son performed on stage.”

He said Ari had a beautiful voice, and was a strong actor. “He understood the power of taking direction, and was cast in the major productions and one-act plays, in which he shone. He studied two of his great passions in life – music and drama – for matric, and went on to study further in these fields after school, slowly making a name for himself.”

Spanoudes said Ari would often visit the school after he matriculated, offering to help the music and drama students. He became an inspiration to many.

“He connected deeply, and kept in contact with people in his life. You could see this from his funeral, which was attended by so many, a true testament to Ari’s impact on the world.”

After school, Ari obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Drama, majoring in film. He had recently moved away from home, and was eagerly awaiting the release of a new album.

Close friend and fellow band member, Jake Nudelman, who plays keyboard, said the band was struggling to come to terms with the death of its lead singer, songwriter, and close friend. “It has been surreal,” he said.

“Ari was my first friend at high school – we clicked immediately. Our connection was always music and drama. Besides being creative, he was a warm and spiritual person. He was eager to connect with new people from all walks of life and build meaningful relationships, which made him special.”

Nudelman said Ari had a “wacky take on things” even writing a song about his fear of spiders, describing him as a “soulful, deep thinker, who asked big questions”.

He said Boxer was in a good place, having recently performed to a packed audience in Cape Town, and was working on releasing a new album and music video.

Ari’s lifelong friend, Daniel Godley, said, “The essence of Ari was his kindness and openness to the human experience of others.” He said that in spite of his friend’s incredible success, he would always be remembered for the way in which he interacted with people: “Ari made you feel forgiven and welcome in an unforgiving and unwelcoming world.”

In his eulogy, Rabbi Alon Friedman of Yeshiva College Big Shul said Ari had lived his life with passion and enthusiasm. “He was a rockstar, but when you met him, he never acted like one,” Friedman said.

Indie rock band Shortstraw posted on Facebook, “The world has lost one of the most genuine and kind-hearted people, and a creative mind like no other.”

At the time of his death, Ari had been in great spirits, his parents said, and was looking forward to joining his girlfriend, Megan Gottscho, 26, in Vietnam to make short films and take photographs. Ari encouraged everyone he knew to make the most of what they had, and not settle for less than the life they were capable of living, they said.

“This is what we want him to be remembered for.”

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