Yael Deckelbaum launches new record 'What about the women'

Veteran singer-songwriter winds up over six years of marching and music with a new album.

 Yael Deckelbaum - songs with a powerful global sociopolitical message. (photo credit: OMER MESSINGER)
Yael Deckelbaum - songs with a powerful global sociopolitical message.
(photo credit: OMER MESSINGER)

Yael Deckelbaum is a woman on a mission. For a musician that primarily means creating meaningful, entertaining and – possibly – inspiring material and getting it out there to the masses via live shows, Internet and recordings. But, for the past half a dozen or so years, the fortysomething singer-songwriter has been writing and performing songs of a more stirring nature, with a powerful global sociopolitical message.

Deckelbaum launches her latest record

That will come through in her show at the Gagarin venue in Tel Aviv on Wednesday (doors open 8 p.m., show starts 9 p.m.) when she officially launches her latest record, What About the Women.

She will share the stage with her band and a bunch of guest artists, including internationally renowned singer Ester Rada, and Karolina and Dana Adini. The latter make up two thirds of folk-soul-funk threesome Habanot Nechama, which started life in 2004 and had a smash hit with the Hebrew-English-language close harmony song “So Far” in 2007. Deckelbaum is the third member of the trio, so it makes perfect sense to have them in the Gagarin gig mix.

Musicians generally spend much of their time on the road, but, in Deckelbaum’s case, that isn’t just a matter of plane- and train-hopping, but actually getting out into the street and engaging in some purposeful community traipsing.

It all started back in 2016 when Deckelbaum joined the Women Wage Peace (WWP) movement. The regional fissure-bridging initiative started life two years earlier, in the wake of Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, when Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Druze women joined forces to kick-start a dynamic designed to, eventually, put an end to the violence and warmongering that has been the lot of this part of the world for decades now.

POPULAR ISRAELI singer-songwriter Yael Deckelbaum. (credit: ASSAF SHANI)POPULAR ISRAELI singer-songwriter Yael Deckelbaum. (credit: ASSAF SHANI)

In a TED talk she gave in Jaffa in 2019, she recounted how, for years, she had dreamed of doing her bit to break the cycle of conflict and bloodshed here and elsewhere on the planet. When she came across WWP, she not only signed up but also offered to provide the movement with a soundtrack. “I’m here to give my music to this cause,” she said at the time.

She quickly came up with “Prayer of the Mothers,” sung in Hebrew, Arabic and English, which became the movement’s anthem. She also performed it and other numbers from the new album at peace rallies and marches in which she participated on four continents, starting with the March of Hope of thousands of Israeli and Palestinian women, to the Dead Sea. Two years ago the movement was granted official UN recognition.

Now the songs can be heard at Gagarin, as an album rollout, with the repertoire featuring the punchy “This Land” – also in a trilingual format – which is more than a little reminiscent of the Habanot Nechama close harmony approach.

The show and record have been a long time coming.

“This is the end of a chapter of my life,” says Deckelbaum. “Making this record was a long chapter. This is a journey that began in 2016, and now I am bringing out this odyssey album.”

That’s a long time to be on the road, and the musical bottom line is the end product of countless artistic and very human arduous, emotive and rewarding encounters, lovingly facilitated by producer Adam Ben Amitai and Ronen Sabbo.

“Making this record was a long chapter. This is a journey that began in 2016.”

Yael Deckelbaum

“It has been quite a journey, from the descent to the Dead Sea with Women Wage Peace, and the start of the ‘Mothers.’” That is a reference to the Prayer of the Mothers Ensemble, of 14 secular, religious, Arabic, Christian and Jewish women, who celebrated in song womanhood and what Deckelbaum describes as “a world where we learn to see the beauty of our diversity, unite above religions and nationalities and restore the forgotten values of humanity, authenticity, kindness, mutual responsibility and hope.”

THE GENETIC backdrop for standing up – and singing out – and being counted is there, too. Deckelbaum’s father, David Deckelbaum, was a Canadian-born banjo player and founding member of the legendary Jerusalem Taverners troupe, Israel’s first American folk and country-style band. Deckelbaum Sr. was also around, in North America, to catch the subculture vibes and sounds of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement.

That informed Yael’s view of the world and her nascent musicality.

“I know that my father greatly admired Pete Seeger,” she notes,” referencing the iconic folk singer, banjo player and peace activist, who died in 2014 at the age of 94, and who strummed and sang in public, and marched, until a few months before his death. “I grew up on his music, and he was my father’s favorite. My father was greatly influenced by him.”

Like father like daughter. “When I grew up, and I became an activist myself. I took a lot from Pete Seeger and the way he lived and worked, and the things he did with his music. His story moved me, and he was a great role model for me.”

She also got an opportunity to get a little closer to the source herself. “I played at the Clearwater [music and environmental] Festival [in New York], which is based on Pete Seeger’s legacy. It was wonderful for me to meet the people there and to feel the spirit there, and all the people who were influenced by him.”

“I’ve got loads of love songs I am just dying to get out.”

Yael Deckelbaum

Now 81-year-old Joan Baez is also a name that pops up constantly in the context of the likes of Seeger, Martin Luther King, the Civil Rights Movement and the anti-Vietnam War protests. Her music and character also found their way into Deckelbaum’s heart and philosophy of life.

“People mention her to me all the time, and make comparisons between us, as activists and musicians,” she says.

That prompted a thought about whether Deckelbaum, with the past six-plus years of globe-trotting, marching, singing and playing in pursuit of a better world, is concerned she might now be typecast. But it seems she can’t wait to get back to her singer-songwriter work, with her own very personal agenda.

“I’ve got loads of love songs I am just dying to get out,” she said, laughing. “They are going to be on my next album.”

That should be a relief, and release. “As long as those songs haven’t seen the light of day, they block me on an energetic level. I have to get them out in order to free up space for more things to come.”

For now we can all revel in the stirring messages and musicality of What About the Women, but it seems there is a lot more in the Yael Deckelbaum pipeline.

For tickets and more information: https://www.eventer.co.il/what_about_the_women