Yarden Klayman’s rooftop saxophone performance attracts worldwide audience

The young Israeli musician went viral last week amid the coronavirus pandemic

Yarden Klayman was stuck in her Tel Aviv apartment and feeling restless. The 26-year-old Israeli alto saxophonist was used to playing her horn at clubs and festivals late into the night, but because of the coronavirus outbreak all of her shows had been cancelled. 

So Klayman had an idea. 

Inspired by the clips she had seen of Italians singing from their balconies amid the pandemic, she took to a rooftop in Tel Aviv’s Basel Square last week and performed a 30-minute set for anybody who would listen. The free show, captured on video, was a hit, as residents in the area appeared on their balconies to move to the music. 

“It was really just an idea,” Klayman said in a phone interview with Jewish Insider, “that turned into quite an international thing.”

To pull off the stunt, Klayman contacted the Tel Aviv Municipality and revealed her plans. “I wasn’t really sure how they were going to react — like, a girl with a saxophone wants to play on the roof of a building?” she said. “I didn’t know how they would take that.” 

Despite her concerns, the municipality was, according to Klayman, all in — securing permissions, procuring a sound system and finding a building with a rooftop. With the plan set in motion, Klayman prepared a set that she described as “versatile and pretty mainstream,” one she hoped would appeal to all generations.

“So we got there,” Klayman said of the March 23 show. “And I just started playing.” 

Slowly, those in nearby apartments came out to watch. A trumpeter and a trombonist — friends of Klayman’s — appeared on a nearby rooftop, providing funky accompaniment. Another saxophonist, as well as a melodica player, also jammed from afar. 

The music, Klayman recalled, was interrupted a few times because people were gathering downstairs to listen and the crowd had to be broken up. But for the most part, she said, the performance went as well as could be expected for an impromptu affair — a symbol of hope and fun during a stressful moment.

The performance — which appeared on news channels around the world — was so popular that Klayman received several messages on Instagram from people outside the country, including those in Russia and the Netherlands, who told Klayman that they were not used to seeing uplifting news stories about Israel. 

“To see the reports about Israel being positive and showing our music,” she said, “is something that I see as a really good thing.”

Photo: Ravid Avrahami

Born in Jerusalem, Klayman picked up the saxophone at age 8 while living in New Zealand. Her father worked for Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, she said, so the family moved around a bit while she was a kid. 

“It is not the typical instrument to give an 8-year-old girl,” Klayman said of the saxophone. “It’s considered pretty masculine.” Nevertheless, when her dad encouraged her to try it, she was hooked. “It was pretty much love at first sight.” 

Klayman studied jazz saxophone at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance. After fulfilling her compulsory military service, she began playing professionally. Since then, she has toured the world, opened for The Chainsmokers and DJ Marshmello while performing at clubs and festivals in London, New York, Milan, Madrid, Munich, Montreux and other global destinations.

Klayman says she took a different path than most saxophonists. “I don’t play jazz or classical music or blues or any of that,” she told JI. “I play electronic music and pop music.” Growing up, Klayman said she idolized rock and pop stars, which may be why she took the more unconventional route. 

Photo: Idan Horta

“My dream was never to stand, like, in a big band behind a music stand and be part of a horn section,” she said. 

Klayman stands out in her milieu. “People are showing a lot of interest because it kind of brings the live element into something that is very electronic,” she said. “A lot of people tell me, ‘I never thought the saxophone worked with this kind of music.’ But I love the saxophone. I love blues and jazz and stuff like that. And I would never have imagined the combination at 3 a.m. in a dark club.”

Since last week’s performance, Klayman said the municipality has expressed a desire to hold more rooftop shows in other parts of Tel Aviv, and other cities in Israel have contacted her as well. 

“I definitely think it’s going to happen in more places,” she told JI. “It’s just a bit harder with all the new health regulations and with all the new rules. But I’m sure it will happen because people are definitely in need of entertainers at these times.”

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