Israeli Singer Hits International Dance Charts

Ofra Haza, a 30-year old Israeli who grew up in the poverty-stricken neighborhood of Hatikva in Tel Aviv, has become a world renown singer. Her songs, which combine melodies from her own Yemenite heritage, have hit the “Top 10” dance charts around the world. The songs often speak of peace and are sung in a mixture of Hebrew, English, Arabic, Aramaic and the Yemenite dialect of her parents.

Haza is the youngest of nine children born to Shoshana and Yefet Haza, who made the difficult trek to Palestine by foot from El Haz in Yemen in the 1930’s. Her mother was a singer in Yemen and often performed at henna ceremonies for brides prior to their weddings. She always sang Yemenite melodies to her children, Haza says.

Haza’s fame began to spread outside of Israel thanks to a dazzling performance at the 1983 Eurovision Song Contest. And when then-British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher heard Haza sing at the Israeli Knesset, she surprised everyone present by joining Haza in a Yemenite dance. Thatcher explained that she knew Haza’s songs from one of her albums, and that she was a fan of hers. Haza was also named the grand prize winner at the 1989 Tokyo Music Festival, and has fans from Tokyo to Rio. She records under the Sire label for Warner Brothers.