The Soaring Popularity of a New Israeli-Ukrainian Music Video Clip

The Israeli singer Gad Elbaz together with Ukrainian actors produced at the beginning of 2017 a video clip of the song "L'chaim" (To Life!) that attracted more than five million viewers on YouTube in two months. The clip was filmed at the open-air National Museum of Folk Architecture and Rural Life of Ukraine outside of Kyiv.

Gad Elbaz was born on 20 August 1982 in the Israeli city of Rekhovot into a family of repatriates from Morocco. His father is the singer Benny Elbaz and Gab began his musical career at age four. In 2005 Elbaz released the album Meanings, which sold one hundred thousand copies in Israel. He is married with three children and lives in Kholon.

Danny Finkelstein, who directed the filming of the clip, has his family roots in Ukraine and therefore it is not by chance Ukraine and the setting of a Jewish-Ukrainian village was chosen.

Gad Elbaz with friends in Kyiv.

The singer arrived in Ukraine at the beginning of August 2016. This was Elbaz’s first trip to Ukraine. All the actors cast for the production were locals from Kyiv. The events depicted in the clip take place in a Jewish wedding in a Ukrainian village at the end of the nineteenth century, and the video features Ukrainian rural scenery and mass choreography.

A striking character in the clip was the "rabbi" played by 29-year-old American rapper Nissim Baruch, who several years ago converted to Judaism and now lives in Israel. He danced in a black overcoat and heavy knee-high boots in extremely hot weather with temperatures ranging up to thirty degrees centigrade.

The clip also features many animals such as goats, horse, chickens, and sheep. The animals were difficult to control during filming and an obstinate goat did not follow directions. For the sake of one scene, there were twelve takes of a horse-drawn cart being ridden to both ends of a narrow street.

The clip is distinguished by religious themes, which is central in the works of Elbaz. All the men wore the traditional yarmulke cap.

The music video clip “L’chaim”


Oleh Artamonov in Pyrohiv.

Oleh Artamonov, the Luhansk-born actor of the "Maskam rad" theatre in Kyiv, talked about the project with the Ukrainian Jewish Encounter.

"I was delighted by everything—the film crew, the song, and the performers. The director did everything possible to make every actor involved in the clip feel comfortable. I played the role of father of the groom in the Jewish wedding. My partner and "wife" in the clip was the wonderful actress Gulia Sayko. The actor Oleh Nesterenko played the role of a drunkard perfectly.

The filming took place in August 2016 in the village of Pyrohiv. There were wonderful views of the museum, Ukrainian nature, and spectacular weather, with everything contributing to a clip that came out stunning, beautiful, and most importantly, lively.

Gad Elbaz and Oleh Artamonov in Pyrohiv.

The dancers danced cheerfully, the musicians played fiercely, and throughout it all each of us supported Gad with our song and dance. We wanted a celebration, and a celebration was what we got."

The entire film crew, including the director and actors, was like a close-knit family. While the pay was modest, our work and the atmosphere on the set delighted us all. Most importantly for all of us, the clip was finished and came out splendidly. In fact by now it has already been viewed by more than five million people. And this is simply a wonderful measure!" said Artamonov.

It is interesting to note that before our very eyes a new trend has developed over the last five to seven years as young Israelis of Sephardic (North-African) origin and young religious American Jews fly into Ukraine to visit the grave of Rabbi Nachman in Uman. Therefore Gad Elbaz’s clip with its Ukrainian motifs and elements echoes this youthful environment and introduces to them Ukraine and its rich heritage of Ukrainian-Jewish cultural interactions.

A scene from the clip.


Text: Shimon Briman
Edited by Peter Bejger
Photos: From the Gab Elbaz website and Oleh Artamonov