Halfway through Tisha B’Av* I always think of Kol Sheva - at one time the greatest girl band in orthodox Jewish women-only British music history. One of the first and most popular songs that they performed was an arrangement of “The City Streets Will Fill” by Chanale. It's based on the story of Rabbi Akiva laughing when he witnessed a fox playing in the ruins of the temple in ancient Jerusalem. He explained that this was part of the prophecy that, one day, the city will be rebuilt and its inhabitants will live in peace.
In 2009 a group of 7 girls and women were selected from the cast of a women's theatre company to perform at another show as a vocal harmony group. A manufactured band, if you will. They sang well together and enjoyed each other's company so much that they decided to go it alone, develop their own style and even write some of their own material. The name Kol Sheva was chosen as it means “the voice of 7”, each performer had a distinct sound and together they created something really special.
Strictly orthodox Judaism has developed a custom of women not singing in front of men or mixed company (a long story for another post which is also explored in my new play, coming soon…). As some of the members of Kol Sheva kept this tradition the group decided that they would stick to women only events and audiences. As you can imagine, this limited their opportunities to perform, and yet in their heyday from 2010-2012 they built up a following and began to gig quite regularly inside and outside London.
Kol Sheva rehearsed regularly and began to write and perform their own songs as well as pop covers, mainly with a soft rock style. Their repertoire ranged from Bohemian Rhapsody to Adiemus to Wonderful World to Im Eshkachech Yerushalayim. Much like the Spice Girls, each member of the group was able to use their individual personality in their solo performances and to contribute to the overall style. There was no other group like it in the orthodox Jewish women only British music scene and they gained some notoriety.
One of their songs had a (limited) release and found its way onto ipods in the UK, Israel, America and France. Band members sometimes found themselves recognised when they were in heavily Jewishly populated areas. Their style was fresh and new for this sector and suddenly people couldn't get enough of them.
However, as with all bands, they gradually began to develop different focuses. It wasn't so much artistic differences that brought their reign of the orthodox Jewish women only British music scene to an end, but marriage, children, career demands and emigration. Having performed at several events by necessity as Kol Shesh (voice of 6), Kol Chamesh (voice of 5) and once memorably as “Here are 4 of the 7 members of Kol Sheva!” it was time to face reality and wave goodbye to their group. Fittingly, their last official performance was at the Holocaust Survivors Centre.
I'm really proud to have been part of Kol Sheva along with Ruth Bloch (our md), Selina Ben-Yoav, Abigail Felsenstein, Ophira Starr-Shaw, Rachel Sanders and Libby Levy and still miss performing with my girls. We may joke about it now but it's good to remember that once upon a time we were in a group that performed for audiences of up to 800 people!
We always gave our supporters a great show full of love, laughter and harmonious music (mostly, everyone has the odd ropey note sometimes. Don't they? Come one, it must have happened to you?) Spreading positivity is not to be knocked - especially now.
It remains one of the most joyous experiences of my life and unlike the Spice Girls we're all still friends. Even the two who aren't on Facebook.
*see post 20