After playing together for nearly a decade, two talented young musicians in Jerusalem, who happen to be sisters, are well on their way to success. With a steadily growing audience and more and more concerts scheduled in the country, the Djamchid sisters – Eden, 24, and Shay-Li, 25 – equipped with a delicate combination of a cello and guitar, released in June their nine-track debut album, Djamchid Sisters.
The release of the record was a long time coming, with both Eden and Shay- Li working not only on their music but also to pay for the recording process, though they received backing from a successful crowdfunding campaign.
Recorded in a studio at Moshav Neta’im, near Rishon Lezion, the record was released at Beit Avi Chai in the capital.
Eleven people were on the stage, which more than quintuples the number of members the band started with, so that they could achieve the full sound of the album. “We wanted everything...the string quartet, the trumpet player, everything,” says Eden.
The sisters began playing as a duo with Shay-Li (then aged 16) on guitar and Eden (then 15) on cello. Their gorgeous and complementary voices intertwine through the songs on their first record.
Eden, who began playing classical music on the cello at age five, began a high-school elective music program at the Yellow Submarine music venue in Jerusalem. Students would gather after school and bring their instruments to play pop rock music together. Initially, Eden wanted to sing, but after some prompting from the program’s director, she began to bring her cello. Eventually, she became a hot commodity, playing with many of the groups when they gave recitals. She realized that she preferred singing and playing modern music on the cello, “and I never went back,” she tells the Magazine.
They plan to have a show with a backing band every few months, to create a fuller sound, but acknowledge that the logistics of practicing and playing with so many musicians can be difficult.
Seeking to reassure those who are partial to the sound of the Djamchids in their purest form, Shay-Li says, “It’s still the essence of us.... Whatever you put on it, it helps, but it’s still more natural to be just the two of us.”
When they play, the connection between them is not only natural but seamless. The Djamchids say they work so well together thanks to their parents and because they grew up very close to each other and their two other siblings.
“We’re not just sisters, we’re really good friends,” Eden says. “With a band mate, you can be very close, but if it doesn’t work out you can say, ‘OK, we’ll never speak again.’ But we live together, and if we are doing Shabbat dinner afterwards, we have to make it work out because we are part of a family, and in this family, we have to be OK.”
But such sibling synchronization is rare, and the Djamchids have gotten lucky: “People come to Eden after the show and say ‘My dream is to do something with my brother or my sister’ or ‘I can’t imagine doing something [like this] with my brother or my sister,’” Shay-Li says.
WITH A song on the record titled “Jerusalem,” Shay-Li says that the connection between their music and the Holy City is inseparable.
“I think that Jerusalem is a very complex city,” Shay-Li, the band’s lyricist, says. “But not complex in a bad way.... If you are living here, you always need to ask questions about life. And this is a big part of our music, and it has a connection to the fact that we are living here. You’re always thinking.”
Though they’re based in Jerusalem, the sisters are constantly touring, and their willingness to play house shows – concerts hosted in people’s living rooms – allows them to be heard in smaller cities where there may not be more traditional venues available. After the long and strenuous process of making a record, Eden says, they are looking forward to playing some small shows “to fill ourselves again.”
The only international show they’ve played to date was at a Jewish women’s festival in Krakow, where they played in a synagogue for more than a thousand people.
“It was amazing,” Eden says, and even though the crowd wasn’t fluent in Hebrew, people “were very attentive.” It made the sisters rethink whether they need to sing in English to take the next big step and attract an international audience.
“The reaction we got from people who don’t know a word of Hebrew – of that they don’t understand, but they did feel something that inspired them to write us and buy our album [after the show],” Eden says.
“Until Krakow, I didn’t think that we could have international success,” she adds, “but now I feel more optimistic.”
Asked if there is a dream venue that they’d like to play, Shay-Li responds that it’s more about the circumstances than the building: “There’s not a specific venue that I want to play, it’s that I want to perform in front of people in the right place, even if the right place is in front of 70 people. It’s a small country, but it’s not so easy to get to everyone, and this is what I want to do – be in places where people are very focused.”
Eden speaks about how even when they are playing a venue that’s not perfectly suited to their gentle melodies, it all works out in the end: “There’s a sort of magic when we start to sing; even if a place is a bit loud, [the noise level of the audience] comes down. It’s a good sign. And we really appreciate it. It’s really a gift.”
The Djamchid Sisters play at Nocturno in Jerusalem on December 7. You can listen to their record at www.djamchidsisters.bandcamp.com