July 22, 2024
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Gavi: An Orthodox Singer-Songwriter Makes His Way in the Pop Music Industry

Gavi poses for his upcoming album cover.

Gavi might certainly have been expected to become a doctor, lawyer or accountant like many of his peers. But instead, Gavi’s (whose last name is withheld for safety concerns) career path is a bit more uncharted. The 23-year-old West Hempstead native is a singer-songwriter who has chosen to pursue his dreams in the music industry. The secular music industry; not the Jewish one.

Although Gavi identifies as an Orthodox Jew and attended schools such as Davis Renov Stahler (DRS) and Yeshivat Har Etzion, the music he chooses to release is pop and does not have overt Jewish themes. His song titles range from “Cheating on My Conscience” and “Lonely Pillows” to “Love Dies.” With almost 13,000 monthly listeners on Spotify and over 250,000 streams, Gavi’s musical aspirations are becoming a reality.

Unfortunately, since Oct. 7, Gavi has been forced to reckon with the role that Judaism plays in his career more than ever before. After spending the summer of 2023 writing/recording his first album, “Seasonal Affective Disorder: (SAD),” and fostering positive connections in the music industry, everything came crashing down. At first, Gavi received sympathetic messages and calls checking up on him. A week later, the tone changed. The people he once thought of as trusted friends turned on him. The ones he respected as colleagues ghosted him. The record label that just recently was so interested in signing him, said, “We’re putting you on hold until the political climate dies down.” Although Gavi never publicized his personal views on Israel, the fact that he is a proud kippah-wearing Jew was reason enough for the label to distance themselves from him.

His story does not start here. In fact, far from it. It began when Gavi was 8 years old and interested in the anatomy of the voice. He read and learned about it, which helped him develop his vocal skills, including impressions (he can do Kermit the Frog perfectly). A year later he discovered Michael Jackson, which immediately, as he said, “changed my life.” Later on in high school he was both the captain of the football team and spearheaded the DRS choir.

In 11th grade he was able to take his passion for music to the next level when his parents gifted him a keyboard for Chanukah. He quickly taught himself the instrument and wrote countless songs. “It was a really therapeutic, cathartic experience,” Gavi said. He continued to write songs throughout high school and his gap year in Israel that were inspired by his own life. In regard to his inspiration in general, Gavi finds it in the human experience. “Imagination is key but so is empathy,” he said. “Music is about mass personalization, being relatable to as many people as possible.”

After spending a year at Yeshivat Har Etzion, Gavi attended Macaulay Honors College, where he chose to study linguistics and acting. However, he was still determined to pursue music in a professional capacity due to the powerful impact it can have on everyone. “Music is the language of the soul,” he said. In addition to the connections it can foster between strangers, “We love to see ourselves in different people.” Although Gavi knew that he wanted to follow this path, he wasn’t completely sure how he was going to get there.

Fortunately for Gavi, he received his big break. “TikTok started my professional career,” he said half-jokingly. In 2021, at the suggestion of others, he created a TikTok account and began to post videos. One of them was seen by multi-platinum music producer, A&R executive and award-winning song-writer Jeff Blue of Warner Records. Blue headed to Gavi’s Instagram where he was impressed by his cover of Demi Lovato’s “Stone Cold.” As a result, Blue messaged Gavi and arranged a phone call in which Blue urged him to come to Los Angeles to further his career. Gavi signed with Blue in 2022, took a leave of absence from university, and found himself shuttling from coast-to-coast throughout the year.

Once in Los Angeles, Gavi’s initial concerns about being a frum Jew in the music industry were quelled. “Actually, I think I had the first managerial contract with a Shabbos and chagim clause,” he said. This meant that Gavi could not be forced to work on Saturdays or Jewish holidays. Even though his commitment to Judaism led him to miss out on professional opportunities that coincided with Shabbat, it did not deter him from continuing on this path. “The human experience is really hyped up to be this grand thing that “the more famous you are, the more you do, the more you do… the more you are,” while he is of a different mindset. “It’s more based on our own perspective of ourselves.” He related it to Judaism because, “If you find meaning in both a religious connection and a musical connection, then you have to find a balance between the two.” He has managed to harmonize both.

That came to a crashing halt following Oct. 7, when his professional aspirations and his commitment to Judaism collided. It was around this time that Gavi lost a friend in Gaza who was serving in the IDF. The emotional turmoil of these experiences led him to release a song titled “Count Me Out.” The lyrics are the following: “If you wanted me dead, say it straight to my face / If you tear down a sign, then admit that it’s hate / But don’t tell me it’s peace and expect me to cease to exist, to persist / We won’t drown in no rivers or seas.” The song is a fiery and impassioned response to the surge of antisemitism worldwide. Even though Gavi does not write typical “Jewish” music, Judaism impacts his style. He gains inspiration from Kohelet, Mishlei and Tehillim. “Kohelet to me feels real.”

Ultimately, these experiences have allowed Gavi to learn who his true friends are, especially his writing partner Micah Steiner, who he is currently working with to produce his sophomore album “PTSD” (Past The Seasonal Depression). Despite everything, Gavi is determined to continue on this path.However, his goal is not fame. Instead, his dream is to “impact as many people as possible.”

“Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)” will be released on Jan. 10, 2025. You can listen to it in addition to more of Gavi’s music on Spotify and other streaming platforms.


Sara Cohen is a Jewish Link summer intern and an English major at Yeshiva University. You can reach her at [email protected].

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