Yarkoni, Yaffa (1925-2012)

Israeli singer, dubbed Israel’s “songstress of the wars”

Yaffa Yarkoni is born in Givatayim in 1925. One of her most famous songs is "Bab-el-Oued" (1948), dedicated to the Israeli soldiers who were killed during the war of independance.

Yaffa Yarkoni is the oldest child in a family of three children. Her parents, Avraham Abramov and Malka Alkhassov were Caucasian Jews who emigrated in Palestine in the beginning of the 20th century.

She spends her childhood in Tel Aviv and Givat Rambam (today’s neighborhood called Givatayim), and begins her artistic carrier in a small café called « Tzlil », and performs with her sister Tikva and her brother Binyamin in a popular trio called « Bamati ».

Following the advice of the singer Shmuel Fischer, Yaffa joins a ballet troupe led by Gertrud Kraus, one of the dancing pioneers in Israel, and stays about ten years.

On the 21st of September 1944, she gets married with Yossef Gustin, who leaves to war on the next day of their wedding as a volunteer of the Jewish Brigade Group of the British Army. Gustin dies on March 29, 1945 in the fight against the German on the river Senio, in Italy. The song Ouri, with lyrics written by Rafael Klatchkin and music by Issakhar Meron, was created for his memory.

In 1948, Yaffa marries Shaike Yarkoni (who passed away in 1983), commander in the Hagana, and one of the founders of the Israeli Defence Forces. They will have three daughters together.

She then joins the musical troupe « Khichtron » of Tsahal affiliated to the Givati brigade. Bab el-Wad, a song that she performed at the time, has become a hit, that is sung each year during Memorial Day (Yom ha-zikaron). After the war, she performs songs for the radio station Kol Yisrael.

Most of Yaffa Yarkoni’s songs were written by Tuli Reviv and Haim Hefer. She also performed some of the first songs for children by Naomi Shemer.

During a break in the Independance war, Yarkoni recorded a first disc in the studio Radio Doctor, which is acclaimed by the public, especially the Romanian song Eynayim yeroukot, considered today as the first pop song in Israel. After that, she signs with the new music label Hed Artzi that will release all of her albums.
The album Bab el Wad gathers songs of the Independance war, such as Haamini yom yavo, Rabotaï Hahistoria khozeret, Hafindjan, Khen efschar, Doudou, Yatzanu at that the audience will take as Yaffa Yarkoni’s creations, even though many of them were performed before by the « Tchizbatron » troupe.

In the 1950-1960’s, Yaffa Yarkoni becomes the n°1 singer in Israel, especially with songs broadcasted on the radio, which magnify the state of Israel (Baarvot Hanegev, Hasavta baNegev (lyrics : Avchalom Cohen, 1948)).
Her greatest success happens in 1951 with salon songs, waltzes and tangos, performed during balls in neighborhood cafés.
In 1959 is released the album Nirkoda im Yaffa Yarkoni, which gathers songs, such as Habibi, Artzenu haktantonet, Skharkhoret. The yellow press often speaks of an imaginary rivaliry between her and the other great singer of the time, Shoshana Damari.

Still in the 1950’s, she records several discs for children, of which two know a big success : Chirey yeladim kevakachatkha, with the songs Agala im soussa (recorded first in 1948) and Doubon Yambo or Youmbo written by Yekhiel Mohar, and the album Chirim miKineret (1957) with songs by Naomi Shemer, composer and poet of Kvoutzat Kinneret (a kibbutz in Galileo), which was then beginning in the musical world.
Yaffa Yarkoni records then another disc for children, with the hit song Abba cheli with lyrics by Talma Eligon.

She passed away on January 1st, 2012, at the Re’out hospital in Tel Aviv, from Alzheimer’s disease. Yaffa Yarkoni leaves behind her three daughters, eight grand-children and eight great-grand children.

Sources :
- Wikipedia : https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yafa_Yarkoni
- CRIF : http://www.crif.org/fr/actualites/Israel-deces-de-Yaffa-Yarkoni28706
- https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/yarkoni-yaffa

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