Her music, inspired by her love of her Yemenite Jewish culture, fused elements of folk, dance and pop. Combined with her being able to switch between traditional and more commercial styles, she became an instant local, then national success story. Later, she found international success in Europe and the United States.
Of Yemenite Jewish ancestry, Haza was born the youngest of nine children in the poor Hatikva Quarter of Tel Aviv. At the age of twelve-and-a-half, Haza joined a local theatre troupe, and manager Bezalel Aloni spotted her exceptional singing talent. He staged many of his productions around Haza as the centrepiece and later on he became her longtime manager and mentor. At the age of 19, she was Israel's first pop princess and retrospectively, music journalists described her as "The Madonna of the East".
By the time she had completed her military service in 1979, Aloni's protégé had matured as a singer and was ready to launch a solo career.
Her first album, entitled Al Ahavot Shelanu (About our Love), was released in 1980 and yielded a string of popular radio hits, including "Hageshem" (The Rain), "Shir Ahava La'chayal" (Love Song For The Soldier), "Kmo Tzipor" (Like A Bird) and what ultimately became her signature song in her homeland, "Shir Ha'frecha" (The Bimbo Song). The latter was written for the film Shlagger (1979) in which Haza played a leading role. At first, radio stations across the country refused to play the song due to its explicit lyrics but it quickly climbed the charts and reached #1, where it stayed for five consecutive weeks.
A second album soon followed, Bo Nedaber (Let's Talk), which included the hugely popular hits "Tfila" (Prayer) and "Simanim Shel Ohavim" (Lovers Signs).
Her third album, Pituyim (Temptations) came out in 1982 and enjoyed equal success with such hits as "Gabriel" and "Kol Yom Matchila Shana" (A New Year Starts Everyday). With this album, more well-known writers agreed to write her songs, including Tzvika Pick and Nurit Hirsh.
In 1983, Haza's career jumped to a new level of success and popularity. At the Eurovision Song Contest, she came in a close second (only 6 points behind) to the Luxembourg entry with the song "Khay" (Alive). Her popularity in Israel reached enormous heights. Her 1983 album, Chai, became her biggest-selling album to date and the title track was voted the #1 song of the year. Author and historian John Kennedy O'Connor notes in The Eurovision Song Contest — The Official History that Haza's performance of this song was highly symbolic as it contains the lyric "Israel Is Alive". As the contest was held in Munich, Germany, the scene of the 1972 Olympic's massacre, there was considerable patriotism involved with the Israeli entry.  Additional hits from the album included "Amen Lamilim" (Amen For Words) and "Sof Hakayitz" (End Of Summer). Haza was voted "Female Vocalist Of The Year" four years in a row, from 1980 through 1983. Later that year, Haza released Shirey Moledet, which consisted of her renditions of well-known Israeli folk songs. Public response was so overwhelming, she went on to release two more volumes (in 1985 and 1987).
Bait Ham (A Place For Me) was released in 1984 and included such hits as "Yad Beyad" (Hand In Hand), "Itcha Halayla" (With You Tonight) and the title track. The album quickly went gold. In December that year, Haza released what was to become the turning point of her career, a collection of Yemenite songs, simply titled Yemenite Songs. Despite lukewarm radio airplay, the album went on to become a best-seller, quickly reaching platinum status. This LP was reissued in the United States by Shanachie Records under the title Fifty Gates of Wisdom. The album Adama (Earth) followed in 1985 and saw the top writers in the country contribute to the album: Sasha Argov, Naomi Shemer, Ya'akov Orland and Ehud Manor, among others. The album produced the enormously popular hits, "Adama", "Goral Echad" (One Destiny) and "Mishehu Holech Tamid Iti" (Someone Always Walks With Me).
In 1986, Haza tried to update her sound and gathered with acclaimed producer Yizhar Ashdot to create what some consider to be her most interesting work, Yamim Nishbarim (Broken Days). The album had an edgy rock sound and the lyrics were deep and personal and written by Haza herself, a first. The album went gold and produced the hits "Kol Haklafim" (Open Your Cards), "Bo Ve-Nagen Oti" (Come and Play Me) and "Hake'ev Haze" (This Pain).
When asked about her musical roots in an interview on KCRW-FM radio (1993, Santa Monica), Haza spoke of her Yemenite Jewish parents, a childhood filled with music and singing and a passion for traditional Yemenite songs, picked up from her mother. Questioned about the theatre troupe, she spoke of poverty and the total neglect of successive governments for the Hatikvah region; and how, by way of protest, the community had rallied to create something positive and dramatic, which would make others sit up and take notice of a forgotten neighbourhood. Throughout the interview, Aloni can be heard in the background, adding information and correcting Haza about her age (by subtracting two years), when asked about her first album.
She was a mainstream international star and her greatest international recognition came with the single "Im Nin'Alu", taken from the album Shaday (1988), which won the New Music Award for Best International Album of the Year. The song topped the Eurochart (Europe's equivalent to the American Billboard charts) for two weeks in June that year and was on heavy rotation on MTV channels across the continent. For years to come, this song would be extensively re-released, re-mixed and sampled, for example on Coldcut's remix of Eric B. & Rakim's "Paid in Full." The single made only a brief appearance in the UK top 40 singles chart, but became a dancefloor favorite across Europe and the USA, topping the German charts for nine weeks. Subsequent singles were also given the dance-beat / MTV-style video treatment, most notably, "Galbi", "Daw Da Hiya" and "Mata Hari", but none quite matched the runaway success of her first hit. "Im Nin' Alu" would go on to be featured on an in-game radio playlist of the video game Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories, released in 2005.
Haza also received critical acclaim for the albums Fifty Gates of Wisdom (1988), Desert Wind (1989), Kirya (1992), Ofra Haza (1997) and for her collection of children's songs, L'Yeladim (1982).
Kirya (co-produced by Don Was) received a Grammy nomination.
In 1994, Haza released her first Hebrew album in seven years, Kol Haneshama (The Whole Soul). Though not an initial chart success, the album produced one of her biggest hits to date, "Le'orech Hayam" (Along The Sea). The song did not have any substantial chart success upon its release to radio but became an anthem after Haza performed it on the assembly in memorial to deceased Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, a week after he was assassinated. Radio stations around the country started playing it and people took notice. Its lyrics became even more symbolic following Haza's own death in 2000.
Collaborations and performances
Her collaborative work with internationally established acts included the single "Temple of Love (Touched by the Hand of Ofra Haza)", recorded with The Sisters of Mercy in 1992. Thomas Dolby co-produced Yemenite Songs and Desert Wind, where he was also a guest musician. Haza guested on Dolby's album Astronauts And Heretics (1992), singing on the track "That's Why People Fall In Love". She recorded "My Love Is for Real" with Paula Abdul in 1995 and on Sarah Brightman's album Harem, Haza's vocals were included on "Mysterious Days", thanks to an idea by Brightman's partner Frank Peterson (ex-Enigma), who produced both Harem (2003) and the album Ofra Haza (1997).
For the Kirya album, Iggy Pop, a friend of Don Was, performed the narration on "Daw Da Hiya" and Haza joined him and a host of other stars for the video and single release "Give Peace A Chance" in 1991. She also sang on the soundtracks of Colors (1988), Dick Tracy (1990), Wild Orchid (1990), Queen Margot (1994) and The Prince of Egypt (1998). In The Prince of Egypt, she voiced the small role of Yocheved, as well as singing "Deliver Us". When Hans Zimmer, who was working with Haza on the music for The Prince of Egypt, introduced her to the artists, they thought that she was so beautiful that they drew Yocheved, whom Haza voiced, to look like the singer. For The Prince of Egypt's soundtracks, Haza sang the song "Deliver Us" in 17 languages (including Czech — "Tak vyveď nás", Dutch — "Verlos ons, Heer", English — "Deliver Us", Finnish — "Johdata", French — "Délivre nous", German — "Erlöse uns", Greek — "Eleftheri", Hebrew — "Hoshiana", Hungarian — "Szabadíts", Italian — "Ascoltaci", Norwegian — "Befri Oss", Polish — "Uwolnij Nas", Portuguese — "Liberte Nos", Spanish — "Libranos", Swedish — "Befria Oss"; about half of these were sung phonetically). On the soundtrack of The Governess (1998), Haza is the featured singer on seven of the twelve tracks and worked closely with film music composer Edward Shearmur. In 1999, she performed (together with late Pakistani artist Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan) the track "Forgiveness", on the contemporary symphony album The Prayer Cycle by Jonathan Elias.
As a featured background vocalist, Haza's voice has been recorded, re-mixed or sampled for Black Dog's "Babylon" single, Eric B and Rakim's "Paid In Full (Coldcut Remix)" and for the M/A/R/R/S hit "Pump Up The Volume". The single "Love Song" has been re-mixed by DJs many times, its powerful vocal performance and comparatively sparse musical arrangement making it the perfect vehicle for a dance-rhythm accompaniment.
Covers of songs by other artists included the Carole King / James Taylor classic "You've Got a Friend", Madonna's "Open Your Heart", Gary Moore's "Separate Ways", and Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir".
There were many distinguished live performances and Haza spoke with fond memories of her visits to Japan and Turkey. Notable too, was her performance at the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony in Oslo, where she appeared alongside Irish singer Sinéad O'Connor. "Paint Box" was written specially for the event. Her 1990 live recording, Ofra Haza At Montreux Jazz Festival was released in 1998.
Haza shared duets and concert performances with Glykeria, Yehudit Ravitz, Paul Anka, Paula Abdul, Michael Jackson, Iggy Pop, Hoite, Buddha Bar, Ishtar, Gidi Gov, Whitney Houston, Tzvika Pick, Khaled, Prachim Yerushalaim, The Sisters of Mercy, Thomas Dolby, Stefan Waggershausen, Eric B and Rakim, Gila Miniha, Hans Zimmer, Hagashash Hachiver, Yaffa Yarkoni, Shoshana Damari and posthumously with Sarah Brightman.
At the fall of 1999, Haza recorded new material for a new album that she worked on with Ron Aviv, a music producer from Petah Tikva.
On 15 July 1997 Haza married businessman Doron Ashkenazi. They had no children together. Ashkenazi died on Saturday, 7 April 2001, of a suspected drug overdose., leaving behind a daughter from his previous marriage, and a 14-year-old adopted son Shai Ashkenazi.
Ofra Haza died on 23 February 2000 at the age of 42, the cause being widely reported as organ failure or pneumonia.
Although initial reports suggested that Haza was only suffering from pneumonia or an extended bout with the flu, The Jerusalem Post reports that her condition rapidly deteriorated after she entered the hospital. By the end, Haza was unconscious after suffering liver and kidney failure and was said to be receiving intravenous drug treatment. Administrators at Sheba Hospital said that Haza's heart finally stopped beating on Wednesday because of an abnormal increase in the amount of hydrogen in her body.
After Haza's death was announced, Israeli radio stations played non-stop retrospectives of her music and Prime Minister Ehud Barak praised her work as a cultural emissary, commenting that she also represented the Israeli success story — "Ofra emerged from the Hatikvah slums to reach the peak of Israeli culture. She has left a mark on us all".
She is buried in Yarkon Cemetery, Tel Aviv, Israel.
Bezalel Aloni, Haza's manager and producer of 28 years, published a book Michtavim L'Ofra (Letters to Ofra) in 2007. The book is partially an autobiography of Aloni and partially a biography of Haza, which also consists of compiled letters written by Aloni. In the book, Aloni mentions a conversation between Haza and one of her brothers, which took place when she was at the height of her career. Her brother criticized her life and career choices by saying: "Who the hell are you anyway? You're just an unmarried woman with no children!" Haza did not react. Aloni also describes how he tried to help Haza and protect her from those who, in his eyes, did not have her best interests at heart.
On 22 March 2007, the Tel Aviv Jaffa Municipality and the Tel Aviv Development Fund renamed part of the public park in the Hatikva Quarter to Gan Ofra (Ofra's Park) on the seventh anniversary of her death, in honour of Haza. The park is placed at the end of Bo'az street where Haza's childhood home was built. The designated area features a children's playground, symbolizing her love for children and the old quarter where she grew up and always came back to.
- Sodot (Secrets) 2005 — Aired on Israeli channel YES, this documentary in Hebrew and partly English is about Haza's life and attempts to answer questions surrounding her death.
- Dokoceleb Ofra Haza 2007 — Aired on the Israeli entertainment station HOT, 22 February 2007. This documentary in Hebrew focuses on Haza's career, achievements and marriage.
- 1974 — Ahava Rishona (with Shechunat Hatikvah Workshop Theatre)
- 1976 — Ve-hutz Mizeh Hakol Beseder (with Shechunat Hatikvah Workshop Theatre)
- 1977 — Atik Noshan (with Shechunat Hatikvah Workshop Theatre)
- 1979 — Shir HaShirim Besha'ashu'im (with Shechunat Hatikvah Workshop Theatre)
- 1980 — Al Ahavot Shelanu
- 1981 — Bo Nedaber
- 1982 — Pituyim
- 1982 — Li-yeladim (Children's Songs)
- 1983 — Hai
- 1983 — Shirey Moledet 1
- 1984 — Bayt Ham
- 1984 — Shirey Teyman (a.k.a. Yemenite Songs or Fifty Gates of Wisdom)
- 1985 — Adamah
- 1985 — Shirey Moledet 2
- 1986 — Yamim Nishbarim
- 1987 — Shirey Moledet 3
- 1987 — Album HaZahav (The Golden Album)
- 1988 — Shaday
- 1988 — Yemenite Love
- 1989 — Desert Wind
- 1992 — Kirya
- 1993 — Oriental Nights
- 1994 — Kol Haneshama
- 1995 — The Golden Album (Double Compilation(?) CD, Hed Arzi 15190))
- 1995 — Queen in Exile (Unreleased)
- 1997 — Ofra Haza
- 1998 — Ofra Haza At Montreux Jazz Festival (Live - recorded 1990)
- 2000 — Greatest Hits vol.1/Bemanginat Halev (Melody Of The Heart)
- 2001 — Music History
- 2004 — Greatest Hits vol.2/Bemanginat Halev (Melody Of The Heart)
- 2008 — Forever Ofra Haza - Her Greatest Songs Remixed (incl. previously unreleased track)
- 1988 — Colors
- 1990 — Dick Tracy
- 1990 — Wild Orchid
- 1994 — La Reine Margot (Queen Margot)
- 1998 — The Prince of Egypt
- 1998 — The Governess
- 1999 — The King And I (Hebrew version)
- 2000 — American Psycho: Music from the Controversial Motion Picture
- ↑ O'Connor, John Kennedy. The Eurovision Song Contest — The Official History. Carlton Books, UK. 2007 ISBN 978-1-84442-994-3
- ↑ Amit Ben-Aroya. "Ofra Haza's husband found dead, police suspect drug overdose", Haaretz, 7 April 2001
- ↑ Greer Fay Cashman. "Jerusalem Post Article about Shai Ashkenazi", The Jerusalem Post, 21 Oct 2007
- ↑ David Basham. "Israeli Singer Ofra Haza Dies", MTV, 24 February 2000
- ↑ "Find a Grave Memorial". http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=7505178. Retrieved 2009-11-04.
- ↑ Avi Shilon. "The double life of Ofra Haza", Haaretz, 11 July 2007
- Media related to Ofra Haza at Wikimedia Commons
- Ofra Haza at the Internet Movie Database
- Ofra Haza at Find a Grave
|This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Ofra Haza. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.|
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