Pop group prove Israel's got talent

By Jessica Elgot, April 29, 2010
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An Israeli group took London by storm on Tuesday night as they joined finalists in a world-wide popcompetition.

Umlala, a five-piece from Jerusalem, finished fifth out of 20 acts in the Global Battle of the Bands contest, which attracted entries from around the world, including Japan, Nepal,
Germany and the Ukraine.

They played the final set of the competition, which was held at Scala nightclub in London's King's Cross on Tuesday night, and were greeted by rapturous applause.

The group, whose singer Josef Leiman, 21, is the grandson of late Marble Arch rabbi Maurice Unterman, has a huge fanbase in Israel and are due to return for a series of TV performances.

Josef's mother, Reva Mann, wrote a warts and all memoir, The Rabbi's Daughter, two years ago, featuring a racy lifestyle which scandalised the Orthodox community. The group was formed seven months ago and has enjoyed immense popularity in
Jerusalem.

"We're a very lucky band," Josef said, "Jerusalem is a tiny city, so we all found each other. We bring different influences. Our drummer studies classical percussion, and our keyboard player studies jazz and composition."

Their name - it means miserable girl in Hebrew - was decided long before the group had written any songs. "We like it, because it sounds like a happy word, but it means something sad - just like a lot of our songs," he said.

"I write songs about everything and nothing," he said. "I don't think people are really missing much if they don't know about Israeli music. Some of it is OK, but there's not much going on. We listen to a lot of different music, but mainly from outside Israel."

    Last updated: 3:18pm, April 29 2010