GROWING UP without a father wasn’t easy for 20year-old Zak Abel, singer songwriter and former UK table-tennis champion. With no father to act as role model, Abel turned to his coach, Eli Baraty, who inspired him to become the UK national table tennis champion between the ages of 12 and 16. Baraty even continued to support his young protégé when he gave up the sport to sign a record deal aged just 17.
“Eli became the role model I needed” says the former University College School pupil whose father passed away when he was 12.
The singer, who also attended the Jewish state school Matilda Marks, adds: “My dad was born in Morocco but moved to Israel, and I didn’t really get to know him.
“He died when I was so young. But I had other positive male role models and Eli was one of them.
“I’m sure not having my dad around has affected my life completely; as you grow older you learn from the people around you, and I didn’t have a dad growing up.”
Abel met Baraty at his local Maccabi centre. “It was because of him I got into tennis and he has been around for me since,” he explains.
The pair’s relationship is so important that it is on show in Abel’s latest video, for his single ‘Everybody Needs Love’. There the duo show off their table tennis skills.
The 20 year old says: “We filmed it all in one take. It’s basically me playing table tennis and singing at the camera.
“The song is about feeling disconnected with people and being numb and wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of life. Life isn’t just happy all the time or sad all the time and I want to talk about the wide spectrum of emotions in my music.”
But although he loves music, Abel, who grew up in Hendon with his mother Rachel, says he didn’t ever imagine he would sign a record deal.
“I found some management through a family friend and started doing some song writing sessions with different people. One of the people who I wrote with was published by someone at Atlantic