Ofra Haza started her career in Israel in a very early age. It was the late 70′s when her beautiful voice captured Israel, and Haza was nicknamed “The Nightingale from Hatikvah Neigbourhood,”a small and relatively poor neighborhood of Tel Aviv. Haza was the first Cinderella Story Israel had actually known.
Ofra’s first step to International success was when she made history, representing Israel at the Eurovision Song Contest in 1982 with the song “Chai” (‘Alive’) , symbolically singing “Am Israel Chai” (‘The Israel People Are Alive’), which received new meaning considering the fact that the contest was held that year in Germany, and Ofra performed the song only days after the Holocaust Memorial Day in Israel.
But Haza’s breakthrough to international recognition occurred 5 years later, when her traditional Yemeni music found favor on the U.K. club circuit, its success leading to a series of unlikely pop projects.
Inspired by the ancient melodies taught to her by her mother, Haza recorded Yemenite Songs in 1985, 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 became a worldbeat smash in England, as well. With 1988′s Shadday, she turned away from traditional sounds to pursue more dance-flavored material, and the single “Im Nin’Alu” even reached the Top 20 on the U.K. pop charts, additionally becoming a club favorite in the U.S. Concentrating on her international career, she released Desert Wind in 1989, which 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. Haza was the first ever Israeli to be nominated for the Grammy; that same year, Haza also recorded the single “Temple of Love” with British goth rockers the Sisters of Mercy and achieved another Top 3 hit, selling thousands of copies of the single in Europe, and was invited to sing in front of the Pope, as well as on other major and important occasions such as the Nobel Prize ceremonies and the peace deal signing inIsrael, etc.
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. Haza died unexpectedly of AIDS-related complications on February 23, 2000. Her last memorable performance in Israel was singing ‘Yerushalaim Shel Zahav’ at the official 50 year celebration of independence in 1998.
The Last song she recorded was “Forgiveness,” for the album “The Prayer Cycle,” of the Jewish musician Jonathan Elias, that is based on Psalms.