Famous for her beauty Ofra Haza is actually one of those few singers whose voice really deserve to be called as stunningly beautiful. Born on November 19 in 1957 and died on February 23 in 2000 for AIDS (in the age of 42) she was one of the most popular and appreciated Israeli female singers. Her voice has been described as mezzo-soprano, of near-flawless tonal quality, capable of lending itself to a variety of musical styles with apparent ease. Her genres are listed as World music, Pop, Ethnic electronica and Middle Eastern. The music fused elements of Eastern and Western instrumentation, orchestration and dance-beat. She became famous also in Europe and USA, earning many platinum and gold discs during her career. Her music was inspired by her Jewish culture and it somehow managed to bridge the divide between Israel and the Arab countries. She sang mainly in Hebrew and English but as she made a voice role in a children's Bible movie The Prince Of Egypt (1998) as the mother of Moses, she practised singing in various languages so she could sing the role in all international versions of the movie - even in the Finnish one! She was a great pride of many Israelis and during her career she wrote some of her songs herself.
She was the youngest child in the family of nine children born in the poor Tel Aviv neighbourhood of Hatikvah in 39 Boaz Street. Her parents were Yemenite Jews and she told herself that her childhood was filled with music and singing and a passion for traditional Yemenite songs, picked from her mother. At the age of twelve and one-half years Ofra joined a local theatre troupe, and manager Bezalel Aloni spotted her exceptional singing talent. He staged many of his productions around her as the centrepiece and later on became her longtime manager and mentor. At the age of 19, she was Israel's first pop princess. By the time she had completed her military service in 1979, she had matured as a singer and was ready to launch a solo carrer. On 15 July 1997 she married a businessman Doron Ashkenazi and they never had children together though she was claimed to love children (in 1982 she even published a collection of children's songs L'Yeladim).
1982, L'Yeladim album collection of children's songs
1983, Eurovision Song Contest with a song Chai (Alive) she reached enormous popularity in Israel. Her album named the same Chai that year became her biggest-selling album to date.
1984, Yemenite songs album also known as Fifty Gates of wisdom in the USA and it quickly became one of her platinum albums.
1986, Yamin Nishbarim album became her most interesting work as she wrote deep and personal lyrics at first herself and it had edgy rock sound. The album became one of her various gold discs.
1988, her greatest international recognition came with the single Im Nin'Alu, taken from the album Shaday published the same year. The album won the New Music Award for Best International Album of the Year.
1989, album Desert Wind
1992, a Grammy nominated album Kirya
1997, her English language album Ofra Haza
1998, her voice role in children's Bible movie Prince of Egypt as Yochabed, mother of Moses in the song Deliver Us recorded in 17 languages.
Album review: Yemenite songs
Now I started one of my "surprise series" to make my blog more interesting. I'm going to review music that is either Christian or might be of interest for Christian listeners. I'll give grades to albums I listen from 4 to 10, which means 4 is the worst and 10 is the best. I chose to begin with Ofra Haza as she was from Holy Land, very remarkable and popular and I find listening to some of her songs like "Gabriel" (which isn't from this album though) recommendable, because Jews and Christians have common spiritual heritage. So for me listening to some of Ofra Haza's songs is almost like listening to gospel, because in some of her songs there's inspiration from the Bible (like in "Gabriel" and in her duet "Forgiveness" with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan). So before I'll move to actual Christian/gospel music, I'll present Ofra and one another Israeli artist...
Yemenite songs or Fifty Gates of Wisdom begins with her famous breakthrough song "Im Nin'Alu". When I heard two years ago only this song I found her music wonderful and brilliant. This album is sung in Hebrew, Aramaic and Arabic and the lyrics of the songs are as beautiful and ethereal as books of the Bible. The songs tell about God and love between man and woman. The songs are mainly created together with Rabbi Shalom Shabazi, but "Yachilvi Veyachali"
is a traditional song. Even handmark of Yemenite poet and singer Aharon Amram shows in some of the songs. Instruments used on this album are drums, congas, wooden and metal percussion, timbales, genuine Yemenite tin and tambala, double bass, strings, flute and piccolo, oboe and English horn, bassoon, clarinet and bass clarinet and French horn. This album has a strong, soft pop sound mixed together with ethnic sounds. I think the sound is very modern though mixed with traditions. Ofra's voice is beautiful and perfect. These songs are like stories... the composings wake up my imagination. The songs are joyful and uplifting. I highly recommend Ofra Haza for other believers as well, because she sings about the same God we believe in.
The final grade: 9 (because the album is otherwise great, but it has lack of artist's creative control)
OFRA HAZA's RECOMMENDABLE MUSIC VIDEOS ON YOUTUBE:
1. Im Nin'Alu Ofra Haza
2. Ofra Haza feat. Iggy Pop - Daw Da Hiya
3. Ofra Haza - Chai
4. Ofra Haza - The Prince of Egypt film clip - Deliver us
5. Ofra Haza - Forgiveness
6. Ofra Haza - Gabriel
7. Ofra Haza - Yad Anuga
8. Fighter - Ofra Haza