Artist Profiles: Ofra Haza

Ofra Haza

Ofra Haza was one of Israel’s best known female singers. Born on November 19, 1957 in the Hatikva neighborhood in Tel Aviv, Israel, to a Jewish-Yemenite family of 8 brothers and sisters, Ofra was surrounded by traditional culture, music and the beautiful voice of her mother.

Ofra Haza’s talent was first recognized in the children’s theater group she belonged to in her poor Tel Aviv Hatikvah neighborhood. Her manager, Bezalel Aloni, who founded the Hatikva Theater group, discovered her. She earned roles as a soloist from the 1970’s and thereafter her professional career as a singer of popular music was launched.

In 1985 Ofra Haza, released her first international album, Yemenite Songs>, a collection of interpretations of devotional poetry written by 17th-century rabbi, Shalom Shabazi.

Thanks to the vision of English DJs Matt Black and Jonathan More, who sampled Ofra’s voice to add color to the song Paid in Full, by New York rappers Eric B. &Rakim, Ofra’s voice became known worldwide. It was an example of early world beat.

Ofra’s next album, Shaday, continued her international success selling over 1 million copies worldwide and receiving “The New Music Award” for the “International Album of the Year” in New York City on October 26, 1989. Her international tour continuously sold out in Europe, Canada, the United States and Japan. Ofra’s single, “Im Nin Alu,” won 1st place at the Tokyo music festival. In Germany, Ofra won the Tiegra Award (The German Grammy Awards) for singer of the year, and “Im Nin Alu” won song of the year. In 1990 Ofra performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival.

Ofra sang in Hebrew, Aramaic, English and Arabic, covering a wide range of styles, from religious hymns to songs supporting peace in the Middle East peace, with frequent evocations to her people’s past in the Yemenite desert.

In 1992 Ofra’s album Kirya was nominated for the Grammy Awards for the best album in the World Music category.

Ofra’s mystical voice was continuously sought after, as she appeared in many projects including, the soundtracks to the Prince of Egypt (1998), and The Governess (1998), Paula Abdul’s single, “My Love Is For Real,” Sisters of Mercy’s 1992 version of “Temple of Love” (sub-titled—”Touched By The Hand of Ofra Haza”), and the “Give Peace a Chance” video (1991).

Ofra Haza died in Ramat Gan on February 23, 2000 at the age of 41.

Selected Discography:

Ahava Rishona – First Love (1974)
Vehutz Mizeh Hakol Beseder – Apart from that All Is OK (1976)
Atik Noshan – Ancient Old (1977)
Shir HaShirim Besha’ashu’im – The Song of Songs (1977)
Al Ahavot Shelanu – About Our Loves (1980)
Bo Nedaber – Let’s Talk (1981)
Pituyim – Temptations (Hed Arzi, 1982)
Li-yeladim – Songs for Children (Hed Arzi, 1982)
Hai – Alive (1983)
Shirey Moledet – Homeland Songs (Hed Arzi, 1983)
Bayt Ham – A Place for Me (Hed Arzi, 1984)
Yemenite Songs (Shanachie Records, 1984)
Adamah – Earth (1985)
Shirey Moledet 2 – Homeland Songs 2 (Hed Arzi, 1985)
Yamim Nishbarim – Broken Days (1986)
Shirey Moledet 3 – Homeland Songs 3 (Hed Arzi, 1987)
Shaday (EastWest / Sire, 1988)
Desert Wind (Sire, 1989)
Kirya (Shanachie Records, 1992)
My Soul- Kol Haneshama (NMC, 1994)
Golden Album (Hed Arzi, 1995)
Ofra Haza (BMG Ariola, 1997)
Shirey Moledet, Pt. 3 (Hed Arzi, 1998)
Ofra Haza at Montreux Jazz Festival (1998)
Temptations (Hed Arzi, 2003)
Earth (Hed Arzi, 2003)
Broken Days (Hed Arzi, 2003)
Homeland Songs A+B (Hed Arzi, 2005)

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites and Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.


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