Always in the mood for a melody

Her love of music has taken her on many different paths but there are still many roads not taken.

Yahala Lachmish (photo credit: TAL TOUBOUL)
Yahala Lachmish
(photo credit: TAL TOUBOUL)
When she was born, the midwife told Leonie and Haim that their beautiful baby girl wasn’t crying but singing. And 26 years later, she’s still singing loud and clear. From the minute Yahala Lachmish was born in Jerusalem, she started singing.
This made naming her easy: her parents, former Brit Leonie and her husband, Haim, decided to name her after Haim’s beloved mother, Diamantina. Yahalom means “diamond” in Hebrew and so the name, Yahala with an extra “la” at the end. The perfect name.
Raised in Ashkelon, it was three-year-old Lachmish’s job to teach her nursery-school teacher the songs taught the day before by the music teacher on the regular teacher’s day off.
At age four, Lachmish took to the professional stage joining her mom and grandmother as part of the Simcha Girls, whose repertoire included songs in Hebrew, Yiddish, Russian and other languages.
Just before first grade, Yahala, her sister Shani and brother David appeared on what might be called Israel’s first reality singing show (when there was only one television channel) Kochav Oleh (“Rising Star”) They got to the finals in this nationwide talent search.
In first grade, Lachmish was a regular on the Israeli version of Barney and four years later appeared in the nationally televised show Bravo, where kids competed in singing, dancing and showing off any other talent they had. Lachmish beat hundreds of wannabes in the auditions to get a highly coveted spot on the show.
She attended Ashkelon’s Art School in the Music stream until seventh grade then transferred to Kibbutz Yavne where the school principal set up a new music stream for just four pupils. Even after half of the class dropped out, he kept the major open for the two remaining pupils, Lachmish and Aviv Kest. And by the end of her senior year, Lachmish had mastered the guitar, keyboard, saxophone and percussion. It’s been said that if you give her a broom, she’ll play that too.
In 12th grade, Lachmish and Kest were sent to Philadelphia by the Jewish Agency for Israel’s 60th Independence Day, the first of her many performances abroad.
The culmination of her Philadelphia tour was singing in front of 12,000 of the city’s Jewish community at a rally celebrating Israel’s birthday.
From elementary school on, besides singing, Lachmish acted in plays put on by her parents’ production company, Lachmish Hafakot, and those of Ortal Hafakot.
These plays were performed all over the country for schools, both secular and religious, and special productions for ultra-Orthodox women.
In the IDF, Lachmish became a mora hayelet (soldier/ teacher) for deaf children because she wanted to enter the world of silence to try and understand how people lived without music. After mastering sign language, she began to incorporate it into songs, something that she still does today. During her reserve duty with volunteer deaf soldiers in basic training, she taught all the volunteer soldiers (not only the deaf ones) to sign “Hatikva” during their swearing-in ceremony. This beautiful and emotional tradition continues to the present day.
Ein Prat is a program for Jewish learning for young adults focusing on foundational texts of Jewish and Western traditions. This is where Lachmish spent 40 days after her army service and where she became part of The Fountainheads, a singing group of Ein Prat students and alumni who recorded songs and made video clips for every Jewish holiday. They performed all over the world to great acclaim until they disbanded in 2014.
In 2012, Lachmish became a member of the Ein Prat teaching staff, and is still there teaching melodies for Shabbat and holiday prayers to students of different backgrounds so they can all sing together. That same year, she entered The Rubin Academy of Music and Dance and completed her BA in composition in last year. In 2014 on Holocaust Remembrance Day, Lachmish moved the audience to tears when she sang in Yiddish at Yad Vashem.
This past year, Lachmish, and her singing mother, Leonie, were contestants on the Channel 2 talent show, Mishpaha B’Hofa’a (“Performing Families”) on where they made it to the quarter-finals.
Although Lachmish lives in Jerusalem, she spends a few days each week in Ashkelon, her hometown. In the city’s Music Conservatory, she teaches music theory to students who range in age from eight to 72. She also started a pensioners’ choir and is their musical director and conductor. They sing old Israeli tunes and newer ones that include songs by Idan Raichel, Arik Einstein and Mosh Ben-Ari. Lachmish is also the musical director of two Ashkelon elementary school choirs of fourth and fifth graders and a junior high school music group. And if that’s not enough, she’s also a percussion teacher in various Ashkelon schools.
She has just completed leading a three-month singing workshop for single parents and their children, Haken Hamishpahti (The Family Nest). This unique program is aimed at single parent families in an attempt to strengthen the bond between them through different courses and activities. To mark the end of the workshop, there was a special musical performance for invited guests. It was a moving evening and a huge success for everyone involved.
In Jerusalem she continues being heavily involved in music. She leads a group of 20- to-35 year olds in learning and singing ancient Hebrew songs and prayers (piyutim). And in 2013, together with her sister Shani, also an alumna of The Fountainheads, Lachmish helped give birth to a new musical group, Tandu. They’ve since sung in the Knesset, the Jerusalem Theater and many other national venues doing a repertoire of soul, jazz, and songs with ethnic and Israeli influences. They also entertain at various celebrations, including playing background music as guests mingle, and musically accompanying brides and grooms to the huppa.
Lachmish does a one-woman show performing in English and Hebrew (and also some Yiddish, Portuguese and Spanish) singing and playing her guitar. She also leads groups in song at parties and other events. Have guitar, will sing. And she does.
Because of her gift in a wide range of styles in music, Lachmish is often invited to participate in diverse projects. She recently performed with Samia Ashkar, an Israeli Arab singer, to the accompaniment of a mixed orchestra of Jewish and Arab musicians in The Jerusalem Academy in an evening featuring Arab and Israeli music. She’s sung with Pedro Grass, a spoken-word artist, on a CD he produced. Some of the music on that CD was not only performed by Lachmish, but written by her as well.
Her love of music has taken her on many different paths but there are still many roads not taken. As to which road she’ll follow next? That’s a no-brainer. Knowing Lachmish, she’ll travel down all of them, singing all the way.