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Ofra Haza
Ofra Haza
February 23, 2000
Age 41
AIDS 
 
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  Singer Ofra Haza Dies at 41

 By RON KAMPEAS Associated Press Writer  

 JERUSALEM (AP) - Ofra Haza, who melded ancient Yemenite Jewish devotional poetry with 1980s techno music to become Israel's first international pop music success, died Wednesday. She was 41. 

 Haza, who was admitted to Tel Hashomer hospital in Tel Aviv 13 days ago, died of massive organ failure, Dr. Zeev Rortenstein said. He refused to say why she was hospitalized or what led to the organ failure, saying that was her wish. 

 Haza, the youngest of nine siblings in a Yemenite Jewish family who lived in the Hatikvah slum of Tel Aviv, was discovered at age 12 by a talent scout. She attributed her full-throated voice to singing at home with her mother. By the time she was 19, 
 she was a bubble gum pop success. 

 ``She was Israel's first female pop idol,'' said Benny Dudkevitch, Israel radio's pop music editor. 

 Her signature song was the defiant 1979 hit, ``The Tart's Song,'' a celebration of being everything - funny, flirtatious, consumerist - a young woman of the time was not supposed to be, with the chorus declaring, ``I wanna shout out loud, `I'm a tart!''' 

 Later in her career, Haza was among the artists who distanced themselves from efforts to consolidate an ``Israeli'' sound and delved into their parents' ethnic roots. 

 ``Yemenite Songs,'' released in 1985 with a photo of her in full Yemenite wedding gear on the cover, was an instant Israeli hit. 

 Its signature track, ``Im Ninalu,'' (``If the Gates of Heaven were Locked'') expanded a devotional poem by 17th century rabbi Shalom Shabazi into a modern love song. The melody was pure Persian Gulf, a climactic assemblage of rising quarter tones; the beat was pure 1980s drum machine. 

 But it was not until 1988, when American rap artists Eric B. and Rakim sampled ``Im Ninalu'' on their dance hit ``Paid in Full,'' that Haza became an international phenomenon. 

 A savvy self-promoter, she rereleased ``Im Ninalu'' worldwide with English lyrics. It was an outstanding success. 

 The rerelease of ``Yemenite Songs,'' and her next album, ``Shaday,'' brought her worldwide attention - suddenly Ofra Haza was the byword for world music. Reviewers would describe other ethnic music phenomenons as ``the Bulgarian Ofra Haza'' or ``the Indian Ofra Haza.'' 

 ``For audiences in Europe and the Far East, this was something completely new,'' Dudkevitch said. ``In Germany alone, it was selling 15,000 copies a day.'' 

 Haza's insistence on privacy only stoked the Israeli public's interest in her life. She made headlines in 1987 when she survived a small airplane crash. She kept her marriage two years ago to businessman Doron Ashkenazi out of the public eye. 

 After a flush of attention that lasted into the early 1990s, her fame receded, although she continued to make high-profile appearances. She performed in Oslo when Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994, and she sang the role of Moses' mother in the 1998 film ``The Prince of Egypt.'' 

 In Haza's last days, fans gathered at the hospital, anxious for word of her recovery. After her death was announced, Israeli radio stations switched to retrospectives of her music. 

 Prime Minister Ehud Barak said she represented the Israeli success story. 

 ``Ofra emerged from the Hatikvah slums to reach the peak of Israeli culture,'' he said. ``She has left a mark on us all.'' 

 There was no word on funeral arrangements, or information about survivors other than her husband.  
 

Note from visitor/March 5, 2000
 
    Just thought you would like to know that the Israeli singer, Ofra Haza, died  
    of AIDS. The Israeli media has a lot of complaints on the way she, her  
    husband & the whole Haza family hid it for such a long time, even after she  
    died. They claim that the disgrace & shame are really what killed her. Lots  
    of people in Israel say that she could have been the Israeli Magic Johnson,  
    meaning she could have said so much by being the first Israeli celebrity who  
    has HIV & maybe could have helped preventing other people from dying of this  
    terrible disease as well...

    By the way: great site!!!

    Liat Shani
    Israel

 
 
NY TIMES
        
 Ofra Haza, Israeli Pop Singer Who Crossed Cultural Bounds, Dies at 41

          By JON PARELES 

               Ofra Haza, one of Israel's leading pop singers and songwriters, died 
               yesterday at a hospital in Tel Aviv, where she was admitted 13 
          days ago. She was 41.  

          She suffered massive organ failure, The Associated Press reported. A 
          hospital staff member, Dr. Zeev Rortenstein, refused to say why she had 
          been hospitalized or what had caused the organ failure, the report said.  

          Ms. Haza crossed cultural boundaries with her voice, a tender 
          mezzo-soprano that was equally at home with the finely turned ornaments 
          of Middle Eastern music and the phrasing of Western-style pop. She had 
          club hits in Europe, Asia and the United States, and sang the theme song 
          for the movie "Prince of Egypt."  

          Even as her audience became an international one, Ms. Haza proudly 
          asserted her background as a Yemenite Jew, performing in elaborately 
          beaded and brocaded traditional clothing. She sang in Hebrew, Arabic 
          and English, with a repertory that spanned traditional songs, pop anthems 
          and dance music.  

          Ms. Haza was born in the poor Hatikva district of Tel Aviv, one of nine 
          children. Her parents had left Yemen in 1949 to escape religious 
          persecution. She learned old Yemenite songs from her parents, while also 
          soaking up Israeli folk songs, the Beatles and Elvis Presley.  

          Israel's prime minister, Ehud Barak, said she represented the Israeli 
          success story. "Ofra emerged from the Hatikva slums to reach the peak 
          of Israeli culture," he said. "She has left a mark on us all."  

          Ms. Haza began performing in a local theater company, Hatikva, when 
          she was 13. As a teenager, she entered a national singing contest and 
          won; she also appeared in television variety shows and in Israeli movies. 
          She released her first album when she was 18.  

          After two years in the army, she returned to singing, releasing pop albums 
          that were best-sellers in Israel; in all, she had 16 gold and platinum 
          albums there. One of her early hits, in 1979, was "The Tart's Song," a 
          defiant assertion of a young woman's prerogatives. She won the Israeli 
          equivalent of the Grammy Award for best female singer in 1980, 1981 
          and 1986, and won second prize in the 1983 Eurovision Song Contest.  

          But in 1985 she decided to change direction. She returned to songs she 
          had learned from her parents, modernizing them for her album "50 Gates 
          of Wisdom: Yemenite Songs" (Shanachie), based on poetry by a 
          17th-century rabbi. "I wanted to do an album to make my parents 
          happy," she said. Dance-music remixes of the songs "Galbi" and "Im 
          Nin'alu" became international club hits.  

          The album was a hit in Europe and Asia, and was released in the United 
          States in 1987. Hip-hop producers discovered it; samples of her voice 
          showed up in the remix of Eric B. and Rakim's "Paid in Full" and on 
          Marrs's "Pump Up the Volume." On Feb. 3, 1987, she survived an 
          airplane crash on the Israel-Jordan border, and afterward celebrated the 
          date as a second birthday.  

          She toured the United States in 1988 as Sire Records released her album 
          "Shaday," which sold a million copies worldwide.  

          Her 1990 album, "Desert Wind," featured songs in English, and her 1992 
          album, "Kirya," included a guest appearance from Lou Reed. "Kirya" 
          was nominated for a Grammy Award in the World Beat category.  

          In 1994 Ms. Haza sang at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony for Yitzhak 
          Rabin, Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat.  

          She married Doron Askhenazi, who survives her, in 1997.  

          Through the 1990's, Ms. Haza performed on recordings by British and 
          American performers. 

 
       
 

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All-Music Guide
 
 Long one of Israel's most popular singers, Ofra Haza broke through to international recognition during the mid-1980s when her traditional music found favor on the U.K. club circuit, its success leading to a series of unlikely pop projects. Born in Tel Aviv on November 19, 1959, Haza was the daughter of Yemenite parents forced to flee from their native country's Muslim regime; at the age of 12 she joined the renowned Hatikva theatrical troupe, and with the group cut a number of award-winning records before serving a compulsory two-year tour of duty in the Israeli army. Upon her discharge, in 1979 she mounted a solo career, becoming a star not only at home but also in neigboring Arab nations; in 1983, her recording of "Hi!" placed second in the annual Eurovision Song Contest.  

 Inspired by the ancient melodies taught to her by her mother, in 1985 Haza recorded Yemenite Songs, which featured traditional instruments as well as lyrics drawn from the 16th century poetry of Shalom Shabazi; not only a major hit at home, the album was also a worldbeat smash in England as well. With 1988's Shaday, she turned away from traditional sounds to pursue more dance-flavored material, and the single "Im Nin'al" even reached the Top 20 on the U.K. pop charts, additionally becoming a club favorite in the U.S. Haza's music was also sampled on the Eric B. and Rakim rap classic "Paid in Full," and her vocals later found their way into M.A.R.R.S.' seminal "Pump Up the Volume" as well.  

 1989's Desert Wind was sung largely in English, and its release corresponded with Haza's first American tour. For 1992's Grammy-nominated Kirya, she teamed with producer Don Was, and welcomed guests Iggy Pop and Lou Reed; that same year, Haza also recorded the single "Temple of Love" with British goth-rockers the Sisters of Mercy. Despite her success, however, she was silent throughout the middle of the decade, finally resurfacing in 1997 with a self-titled LP issued on her new label BMG Ariola. -- Jason Ankeny, All Music Guide

 
 
  
 
 

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