Something about Yoni and Nina Tokayer makes people go “aww.”
The way they look at one another and their infant, who appears on her mother’s lap in many of their 22 homemade music videos, is enough to melt hearts.
And that’s even before they open their mouths. The harmonious duets by Yonina – an amalgam of their first names – are often accompanied by Nina or Yoni on acoustic guitar, or Yoni on keyboards, violin, Greek bağlama or cajon drum.
“I love your video. I’ve watched it at least a dozen times since yesterday. You two are absolutely beautiful people,” commented one fan of the couple’s a cappella cover of Matisyahu’s One Day, recorded in the front seat of their car.
“You have the voices of angels. And it’s very apparent how much the two of you love each other and your baby. That baby’s smile says it all. I can’t help but to feel happy every time I watch this, and it never gets old. Thank you for brightening my day and putting joy in my heart,” the poster continued.
Cumulatively, One Day has been watched approximately 20 million times across various online platforms. “We didn’t bother watermarking it because we didn’t realize it would be so popular,” Nina tells ISRAEL21c. “It’s okay; we made a lot of people happy.”
Speaking with ISRAEL21c from Pardes Chana near Haifa, where they recently moved from Tel Aviv, the couple explains that they originally recorded One Day in their kitchen and uploaded it to Facebook before heading out to a concert. Soon they began receiving messages from friends that the video’s sound was not working.
“So when we got there, we redid it in the car,” Yoni says. “We didn’t even realize there was a whole car karaoke thing.”
Nina Medved, a 22-year-old psychology student and daughter of OurCrowd CEO Jon Medved, and Jewish educator Yoni Tokayer, 28, married in June 2015 and began self-recording via smartphone last January when Nina was pregnant with their daughter Ashira — whose name appropriately means “I will sing.”
Most of the tunes are Hebrew treatments of popular prayers and pop tunes from Israeli artists such as Eviatar Banai and Idan Raichel.
Since both were raised in English-speaking homes, they are equally comfortable belting out the works of Matisyahu, Leonard Cohen and other American stars. And they recently recorded their first single, Ahava (Love), co-written during their engagement.
Yonina Music is now performing live across Israel and raised more than ₪120,000 in a crowdfunding campaign to finance the recording of an album.
Despite the couple’s religious Zionist headgear – a scarf for her, a skullcap for him – they have fans in Egypt, Dubai, Pakistan, Brazil and Finland. One fan posted a picture of three Tibetan monks watching a Yonina clip on a tablet.
“We have a crazy following in the Philippines; it’s our third biggest [fan base] besides Israel and the US,” says Nina.
Their unexpected success has pushed their musical sideline to center stage.
“It’s pretty intense, like a fulltime job,” says Nina. “We’re trying to juggle it all. Thank God for Shabbat, an island of quiet in our lives.”