Author Archives: Nathan Shahar

About Nathan Shahar

Nathan Shahar first achieved fame as a composer, choir conductor and musical director of various radio and television broadcasts. The main area of his musicological research is the musical and social-musical aspects of Hebrew song: a topic on which he has published a series of articles in Israel and abroad. Shahar has taught for many years both at Bet Berl College and also at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

Naomi Shemer

Reprinted from Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia with permission of the author and the Jewish Women’s Archive.

Naomi Shemer was born in 1930 on Kevuzat Kinneret, where both her parents had settled after emigrating from Vilna–Meir Sappir in 1922 and Rivka Shostaliski in 1925. They married in 1925.

Naomi’s musical skill was evident during her childhood, when she began to lead community singing on the kibbutz. After completing school she was sent to study at the academy of music in Jerusalem and upon returning to the kibbutz taught music to the kibbutz children. During this period she wrote several children’s songs, including “The Short Tour,” “The Post Van,” and “Our Little Brother,” all of which appeared for the first time on an album by Yaffa Yarkoni, “Songs from Kinneret” (1958).

Naomi Shemer

Shemer began her army service in the Nahal, eventually joining its cultural department. During her military service she wrote several songs for a revue by the Central Command troupe, “A Raid in the Village” (1956) under the pseudonym S. Carmel.

After her discharge she married the actor Gideon Shemer in 1954 and had a daughter, Halleli (b. 1956). The couple lived first on Kevuzat Kinneret and afterwards in Tel Aviv.

Getting in the Groove

Shemer became well-known when the musical “Five-Five,” actually no more than an arrangement of her army revue “A Raid in the Village,” was staged. The songs “So Much Light and Blue” and “Song of the Grain,” which were recorded by Rika Zarai, and the very successful “Rely on the Rooster,” which was performed in 1959 by Ran and Nama (Ran Eliran and Nehama Hendel), became hits.

Upon the formation of the Green Onion troupe, most of whose members were former members of the Nahal troupe, Chaim Topol, one of its founders, commissioned several songs from Shemer. These included “Noa” and “Troubadour,” performed by Nehama Hendel when she joined the group in 1957, though “Noa” was taken off the program after several performances.

Shemer wrote many songs for musical troupes. “Hoppa Hey,” which was written for the Central Command troupe, won first place in the international song festival in Pisaro, Italy in 1960.

Ofra Haza

Reprinted from Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia with permission of the author and the Jewish Women’s Archive.

Ofra Haza was born on November 19, 1957 in the Hatikvah quarter of Tel Aviv to parents who had immigrated from Yemen with their eight sons and daughters. Her mother, already a singer in Yemen, would often perform at family celebrations. Haza herself sang from an early age and was a soloist in her local school choir.

Ofra HazaAs part of the neighborhood program of the Tel Aviv Municipality, the Hatikvah Quarter Theater Workshop was established under the leadership of Bezalel Aloni. Haza was accepted into the workshop at the age of twelve and it was through this program that in 1973 she sang the song “Ga’agu’im” (Yearning), which became famous, reaching first place on the hit parade. At the Mizrahi Music Festival of 1974, the song “Shabbat ha-Malkah,” performed by Haza, took third place. Following her army service, Haza decided to make singing a career.

Since Israel’s major songwriters initially rejected Haza’s requests to write songs for her, her manager Bezalel Aloni began composing works for her himself. In 1979, Haza appeared in the film Shlagger (Hit) performing the song “Shir ha-Freha,” written by Assi Dayan and Svika Pick. The song became a huge hit and Haza led the hit parades on all the radio stations, earning the title “Singer of the Year” four times from 1980 to 1983.

Breaking into the International Music Scene

In Israel’s “Pre-Eurovision” song competition in 1983 Haza performed the winning song, entitled “Hai,” by Ehud Manor and Avi Toledano. She traveled to Germany to represent Israel in the Eurovision Song Contest, where the song took second place. Her major international breakthrough came in the wake of the album Shirei Teiman (Yemenite songs), which she recorded in 1984.

Shirei Teiman consisted of songs that Haza had heard in childhood, using arrangements that combined authentic Middle Eastern percussion with classical instruments. The composer-arranger Izhar Ashdot, who remixed the album’s songs, added electronic instruments to the song “Galbi” (Libi [My heart] in Hebrew). Set to a Middle Eastern beat, the song became a “dance music” hit. A DJ from the Voice of Peace radio station passed along Ashdot’s version to friends in Europe, and the song was released by German record giant BMG, which distributed it throughout Europe, particularly in France and Germany. “Galbi” became a huge international hit.