Friday, October 22, 2010

Music You've Probably Never Heard -- Ofra Haza

Hey y'all. It's time for some more music you've probably never heard. Y'know, when I pick music for this page, I generally choose artists who aren't mainstream to the normal audience. Therefore artists with their own popularity outside of the mainstream are still available for posting here. And that's why I'm picking Ofra Haza, someone who really deserved a lot more popularity that she got, and she did get a decent amount.

Ofra Haza was a Yemenite Jew, and she was discovered at the age of eight for her singing talent. Her voice has been described as nearly perfect. She sang mostly traditional Jewish songs, as well as eighties synthpop. During the nineties she drifted a little more into pop, but at the end of the day she was always better (in my opinion at least) at bringing out the wild sounds of the Middle East. Throughout the course of her career she released several albums, starred in a few films, and was offered to do concerts with Michael Jackson (which she turned down). She also provided vocals for the movie The Prince of Egypt, where she played the mother of Moses.

That's right, she sang River Lullaby: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_GbI2Tlt55w

That's the thing. People know about this song, but they don't actually realize that she's got plenty of other stuff that's well worth listening to. There's plenty of things on iTunes for her. Her most popular song is by far Im Nin Alu, a traditional song that was rearranged for her and to really connect with mainstream worldpop sensibility. I personally prefer the original version, which is a more relaxed song that's fun to sing with your friends. The first line of the song declares "if all the doors on earth are locked, the doors of Heaven are always open". It's a beautiful Jewish song that's really touching.

Im Nin Alu (original): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O2xNTzlFSk0
Im Nin Alu (Ofra version): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5px-ppcQDps

Ofra didn't start out popular. She starred in one film where she was the girlfriend of a very boring man, so the character burst out in song about how she is enamored of fashion, makeup and celebrities -- she's a frecha. Frecha is an arabic word that we don't quite have an equivalent to, but it basically means a shallow person only interested in the flashy things of life and having a good time. In certain communities this can be connotated into meaning "slut" or "loose", which is why the english title of this song is "the bimbo's song". It's kind of misleading, because that's not what the song is about and not something a girl like Ofra would stand for, but in any case the song itself is very fun. Though the movie has faded into pretty much obscurity, this song has remained Ofra's classic piece, one she is known for the most. I wish I had the outfit she wears in it.

Shir Ha'Frecha: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vqAr-tfjwJY
Lyrics: http://www.hebrewsongs.com/song-shirhafrecha.htm

One of my favorite albums is Fantasy, a very weird eighties album that iTunes doesn't have (darn you iTunes!). It includes tracks like Yad Anuga, Fighter, a version of Galbi (Heart), and the title song Fantasy, which has the trippiest music video you've likely ever seen. I'm also going to include a later version of Galbi, because I like it better. Trippy eighties for the win!

Yad Anuga: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ROoBR_WPxbg
Fighter: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z5DO6N5UKwk
Galbi: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1UnSh9N-qQY
Galbi (Sehoog Mix): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zgr0syGkR9I
Fantasy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EOpBWPBz5GE

Here are some other great songs by her. One of my favorite ones is where she's literally singing out of the Bible, in Song of Solomon. It has no background music, making it one of her most remixed songs. It's just called Love Song. I wish I could put up the best remix, but it's no longer on youtube. I haven't really been able to find a very good mix of it, though one of the iTunes mixes is half-decent, if rather mellow. There's also Mm'mma, one of the songs I first found when I started searching for her work. This really shows off the extremes of her voice. A great mix was done of her song Taw Shee, and if you really want to party to something of hers, that's a great example. I also like Ma Omrot Einaich, a quieter, poetic piece. Check 'em out.

Love Song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AnYV0WFpiCg
Mm'mma: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JFrxiCnXQnY
Taw Shee: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c1nFFP3yODg
Ma Omrot Einaich: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eoqR7_wDyr4

Oh hey, while I'm at it, check out Ya Ba Ye, a ridiculously awesome song about becoming famous and leaving home. Oh yeah, and here's this thing where she's hanging out with another Israeli singer, Aaron Amram. It's pretty awesome.

Ya Ba Ye: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8jg1FCTyOck
????: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3epMfijuxJ0

Her last album to come out was a self-titled album that came out in 1997 and drifted into more mainstream pop. I'll go into detail for this album, because I actually have the cd. This too they don't have on iTunes. Sheesh, what is it with iTunes and not having the albums I want? The first track is Show Me, a song referring to Jewish traditions. It's pretty good. A bit fluffy for me, but still a fun piece.

Show Me: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bjDWbwQLyZI

Track two is Amore, a melodramatic piece that's still wonky enough to really be interesting. It's a romantic song, and if you're a lovey dovey sort of person (I'm not really) then you'll like it.

Amore: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UShLFn6ldAs

Track 3 is the worst remix of Im Nin Alu ever. First of all, it's only a little more than her classic remix, secondly, what it does add doesn't enhance the song at all. Just for the sake of completion I'll post a link, but don't bother with it if you don't feel like. I'll throw in another remix for you, one that I don't know the artist's name. For that remix, just ignore all the disturbia crap and listen to the song. That's my favorite non-Ofra mix of the song, and I can only hope that someone else gets the sense to make a good music video of it. There's forty bajillion mixes of this song on youtube, but as is the case with overremixed tunes, most of them are meh at best.

Im Nin Alu 2000: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A0TKXyUbxPw
Im Nin Alu (ignore the video mix): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ie68bJ-T-JU

Okay, so now we get to a good song. Sixth Sense is a song about hearing from God, and how much of a mystery it is. This song saddens me because I've heard from God some, and it kind of implies that it's impossible. That annoys me. But that's a personal problem, so go ahead and listen to it anyway.

Sixth Sense: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OFK9W4iK5KE

My Ethiopian Boy is pretty good, but it annoys me with its pop-sensibility. It's just way too pretentious. As a demi-undergrounder, every time a celebrity sings or talks about foreign countries, I get dubious. I just don't trust famous most people to talk sensibly and realistically about different cultures. I mean, if you have a hard time going to the more country parts of the USA, then I don't trust you to take a logical stance about all people different from you. There's good and bad about all peoples, and glorifying more obscure peoples simply for the exploitation of it in your music just makes me sick. Okay, enough ranting. This song is....eh, decent, but it's way too pop. Ethiopian people are pretty pwn, though. Go google Saint Lalibela.

My Ethiopian Boy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-iJILHGFa5o

Ah, now this is the real crown of the album! Track 6 is Ahava, the wonkiest and best song on the cd. I love it so much! It reminds me of eighties movies, where the lead characters are going through the weirdest crap ever. Think Labyrinth or The Never Ending Story (the first one, not the sequels). It's weirdness for weirdness' sake, and I can't get enough. This is a song to really listen to and enjoy how bizarre and pulsing this gets.

Ahava: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s1Sjf779_XE

Next up is No Time to Hate, a song that I really should dislike more than I do. Honestly, it's silly celebrity lovey-dovey whatnot, and hate has its time and place. But once this song gets to the part "I hope you see as far as I see, I hope you see like I do", I just get all happy and silly. It makes me want to sing and twirl around like an innocent character in a weird movie who's trying to lighten up the lead character. If you're silly and/or pretentious, you'll like this song. No need to be uptight about it.

No Time To Hate: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-853aKmUJVQ

I gotta be honest, I always skip this next song. It's You've Got a Friend, just a remake of somebody else's work. This is way to tame for the great vocal range that Ofra had. I don't like it when artists do covers, unless that cover is basically a remix. There's no need to sing a song exactly the way the normal artist does, unless it's karaoke night or you're a celebrity impersonator. Trivia time: the way to say karaoke bar in korean is "noh-reh-bahng". Not that you needed to know that, but yeah. Next!

You've Got a Friend: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mVX5Dz7NV1c

When the customizable internet radio on Yahoo.com used to be free, I would listen to this song a lot. You is a really dramatic song, and now that I've matured as a person, it's too melodramatic for me. Heck, maybe you'll like it. It's mildly hard for an Ofra song, but...eh.

You: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ki_NH1G_ePY

Yay! Give Me a Sign is my second favorite song on this album, and it reminds me of my oldest nephew because he was born at the time I started listening more to Ofra. It's really a gem, and if you only listen to two songs of these, listen to Ahava or this one. This is more calm and warm than Ahava, and it's also more sad. Something about it is so darkly tragic, as if Ofra knew she was going to die soon and is saying goodbye. At the Hebrew bit at the end....man, it's so sad.

Give Me a Sign: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wGwz4p_ACuE

I think there's another song on this album, but I don't really remember it because it was too pretentious for me even in my pretentious days when I bought the cd. So yeah, none of that now. I doubt I'd find a link to it on youtube anyway. Honestly, I think if Ofra had lasted into the modern age of music, I wouldn't listen to her stuff. She was going the way of mainstream, and I personally dig her more eighties work. The pretentiousness was growing in her, just as it does with a lot of famous singers. People say you can't predict the future, but really there are some things that you should see coming. Like driving into a brick wall, for instance. People just tend to want what they want, and because they want it so bad they ignore all the warning signs and just go do that stupid thing, not regretting it until that stupid thing hits them in the face.
What are we talking about, again?

It was 2007 when I started searching for Ofra Haza's music. I was thinking about the movie Prince of Egypt, and I wanted to check out her singing again. That's how I noticed her other songs, and also how I found out she was dead. She died in April of 2000. There's some weirdness to her death, and you'll see it listed as the flu at some websites. It doesn't take a lot of investigation to find out more details. Apparently she had AIDS. Her husband that she married in 1997, Doron Ashkenazi, was not a good choice, to say the least. Ofra was not the sort of person to sleep around or do drugs, but Doron did them, and quite frankly I don't understand why Ofra married him. There's a lot there that isn't talked about and I can't say.

From what I have learned, apparently Doron didn't want her to get treatment because he was afraid of the stigma AIDS brought with it at the time. If only he knew that the stigma of being responsible for his wife's death would be so much worse. In interview with Ofra's sisters revealed that Doron was afraid to bring Ofra to the hospital even during her very last days, and that they were afraid of him. It's difficult to be mad at Doron, though, because after everything was over, it's quite obvious that he was deep in guilt. A year and a half later he was still very upset about it, and he died from heroin use. I'm almost willing to classify it as suicide.

Heck, this whole thing was a big case of people not turning away from the brick wall they were driving straight for. People, look at what you're doing now, and look at what the results of that will be. Don't just do something because you really want to do it. Think about how this will affect not only you, but other people. Your fate is not yours, but the fate of everyone you meet. You can either be light or darkness, a small bit of happy or slap in the face. Maybe you want to be mad at someone who wronged you, but what will that result in? Screaming at them won't gain you an apology. It will only result in bitterness and anger. Sleeping around will result in emotional turmoil, drugs will result in the loss of motivation and soul, and compromising principles results in a lack of backbone. You know when you're doing something stupid, so stop it.

The bridge of Shir Ha'Frecha says that the fate of every frecha is a good apartment and an ideal husband. If only that were true.

RIP, Ofra.

What is it with artists I like dying? I really need to stop liking people. I totally hate DJ Redlight. Yeah. He sucks.

1 comment:

  1. hello,
    I haven't the time to listen to all the songs... have you included Kaddish, Yerushalaim shel zahav and Elo Hi?

    Also I like very much Hageshem, Haya Hu Afor, and shney shonanim. Check them out.

    ReplyDelete