Yemenite Songs

Yemenite Songs

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by Ofra Haza
     
 

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Of all the stars of Jewish popular music, none match the profile of Ofra Haza. Sure, Israeli songbirds such as Chava Alberstein may write more penetrating lyrics, and contemporary groove masters such as Yossi Fine or Esta make Ofra's beats seem recherché. But the whole worldSee more details below

Overview

Of all the stars of Jewish popular music, none match the profile of Ofra Haza. Sure, Israeli songbirds such as Chava Alberstein may write more penetrating lyrics, and contemporary groove masters such as Yossi Fine or Esta make Ofra's beats seem recherché. But the whole world knows Ofra, or at least her voice, and her devotion to the music of her Yemenite Jewish forbears became a model for artists straddling reverence for the past and a zest for the modern. "Im Nin'Alu" is the song that made Haza a star outside of Israel, sampled as it was by Coldcut for their huge remix of Eric B. and Rakim's "Paid in Full." Curiosity generated by her exotic, windswept vocals prompted the international release of 1987's FIFTY GATES OF WISDOM, a collection of songs like "Im Nin'Alu" based on ancient devotional poetry pumped up by contemporary dance beats. It was a left-field smash. At home, Ofra Haza captured the imagination of fans with her rags-to-riches personal story and miraculous survival of a plane crash. Later collaborations with artists from Lou Reed (on KIRYA) to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (on THE PRAYER CYCLE) may have had less of an impact outside of Israel, but Ofra Haza would again find herself the focus of international attention. Her sudden death in April 2000 of complications from AIDS raised a furor -- the reclusive singer had wished her condition be kept a secret, even from hospital workers. It was a painful ending for a beloved artist who devoted her life and art to tradition amid the pressures of the modern world. Mark Schwartz

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Christina Roden
Ofra Haza's death on February 23, 2000, at the age of 41 deprived the world of a lovely woman, a great vocalist, and a fearless cultural advocate. Fifty Gates of Wisdom, her 1985 album of boldly reimagined traditional Yemenite songs, brought her international fame, and decades later, it retains its ability to delight and inspire. The set list consists of secular tunes plus examples of a festive devotional style called diwan, which is common to all Oriental Jewish communities and can be sung in Hebrew, Aramaic, or Arabic. Each group has specific traditions, but the Yemeni variant is especially remarkable for its poetry, much of which was written by rabbis as far back as the 17th century. Most diwan consist of three separate sections: the a cappella nashid (prelude), the shira (singing), during which celebrants bang on copper trays, empty gasoline cans, or whatever else is handy, and a postlude called the hallel, or song of praise. The unusual percussion accompaniment came into use following the destruction of the Temple, when Jews were forbidden to play conventional musical instruments, and also as a result of periodic oppression by Muslim fundamentalists. In Haza's hands, these sinuous tunes are further spiced up by drum machines and synthesizers, pumping out the hypnotic dance beats that catapulted the album onto dancefloors throughout the world. It important to remember that this recording long predated the flood of world/techno fusions that have since overwhelmed the marketplace. Transglobal Underground, Afro-Celt Sound System, and Scandinavian groups like Garmarna all owe Haza a debt of gratitude. But despite the historic electronic flourishes, it is the siren-like charm of the singer's voice that creates the most indelible impression.

Product Details

Release Date:
06/23/2000
Label:
Globe Style
UPC:
0029667300629
catalogNumber:
6
Rank:
76131

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Tracks

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Ofra Haza   Primary Artist,Vocals
Marvin Feinsmith   Bassoon
Iki Levy   Percussion,Conga,Drums,Timbales,Metal Percussion
Israel Berkowitch   Strings
Elchanan Bregman   Strings
Abigail Erenheim   Flute,Piccolo
Chaim Gispan   Tambourine,Timbales,tin whistle,Tambala
Meril Grinberg   Horn,English Horn,French Horn,Oboe
Rima Kaminkowski   Strings
Lesli Lishinski   Bassoon
Eli Magen   Double Bass
Yitzchak Markowetzki   Strings
Benny Nagari   Flute,Piccolo
Abraham Rosenblatt   Strings
Iian School   Clarinet,Bass Clarinet
Shlomo Shochat   French Horn
Yigal Tuneh   Strings
Israela Wisser   Strings
Yuval Kaminkowski   Strings
Yigal Tunch   Strings
Herman Openstein   Horn,English Horn,Oboe

Technical Credits

Bezalel Aloni   Producer
Iki Levy   Wood
Benny Nagari   Arranger,Producer
Yoav Gera   Engineer
Aharon Amram   Art Direction
Keren Barak   translation

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