Achinoam Nini aka Noa
It would be a crime to box up Achinoam Nini aka Noa as a world artist whatever that means. There is seldom a musician with more variety in their music, calling her roots at times, or just having a hint of them in the back of a song, but always first singing a song not a genre.
She sings fluently in English, Italian, French and Hebrew, goes from Folk to Pop through classical, does topical equally as well as romance, styles up poetical to prose, writes, sings and covers, knows her music well, wherever inspires her. She is adamant about what it is that she believes in, whether it is her controversial teaming up with Christian Arab Israeli singer and long-time friend Mira Awad as a Jewish Israeli for Moscow’s 2009 Eurovision during Hebrew-Arab conflicts with Arab friend in the wake of the Gaza conflict.
Born in Israel, she grew up in the US and returned home to serve a mandatory military service. Her influences are shaped around the melodies of the likes of Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen and her music education at Israel’s Israel’s largest, independent, professional music school for the advanced study of contemporary music, the Rimon School. There she befriended Gil Dor, a multi-instrumentalist (guitar, piano, percussion, etc.) who, from being one of her professors, would become her long-time musical collaborator. Noa actually stands for Not Only Achinoam, a team that has created a unique sound, combining Nini’s musical and lyrical sensibilities (she also plays percussion, guitar and piano), her Yemenite roots with Gil Dor’s strong background in Jazz, Classical and Rock.
Yet in all that variety of soils, this wild flower grows opinionatedly, uncaged, ascertaining who she is, lending her voice to some beautifully inspiring music, assisted by her musical partner and friend, the multi-instrumentalist Gil Dor and never hinting where she would be found next on the melodic wave.
Noa in 10 songs
1. Mischaela – Her third album, Noa (1994), was her first English-language and (possibly thereby) international release and as such, often thought, of as her first. Released by Geffen Records, the album was co-produced in New York by Jazz guitarist Pat Metheny, most of the songs are sung in English and feature Steve Rodby (acoustic bass) and Lyle Mays (piano) of the Pat Metheny Group. In spite of some beautiful English sung melodies including the single I don’t know and the amazingly rhythmics of Child of man which she once sung in duet with no less than Stevie Wonder, as well as an amazing interpretation of Ave Maria, my favourite tracks remain Mischaela and Uri both in Hebrew for the melodic delicacy and almost touch of escapism. The LP opens up the listener to the extra colour that Noa brings to the rainbow.
The Hebrew songs were also part of Noa’s all-Hebrew albums. In 1991, they released Achinoam Nini Gil Dor Live in 1991. Achinoam Nini Gil Dor came out in 1993 and showcases works by Leah Goldberg and Rachel, two well know Israeli poets. This record sold platinum and vaulted Noa and Dor to celebrity status in Israel and opened the doors for this musical duo to test the waters of Europe and the US and eventually sign with Geffen Records.
2. Eye in the sky (Alan Parson’s project reprise) Achinoam Nini says the next album, Now, produced by Gil Dor & Yoad Nevo for Universal Music and released in 2002 …
“… was written under the influence of my [first] pregnancy and birth, and during the first year of Ayehli’s life. It is a journey that has transported me from wherever it was I used to be (that place is fading fast…) to where I am now: a small island of hope in a vast sea of uncertainty.”
In this same internationally-released album, we note the Eurovision 16th-ranked duet There Must be another way and the poignant Hawk and Sparrow featuring Lokua Kanza and the beautiful reprise of Alan Parson’s Project’s Eye in the Sky.
3. Lama The album Calling on Geffen Records in 1996 contains another one of my favourite songs, Lama. Noa heard her calling early.
“At 18, I got this mortality thing,” she says, reflecting on her years in the army, “this perspective on how short life is, how there is absolutely no time to waste. You better do what you love in life because if you don’t, that’s it”
This is her fourth album, produced by Rupert Hine and also sung primarily in English and released internationally by Geffen Records. Unlike her previous recordings, it’s a passionately political album inspired by the despair she felt in the wake of Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination on November 4, 1995, during a massive rally for peace in Tel-Aviv at which she and Dor had performed. The album will gain mix reception.
4. Beautiful that way aka La vie est belle
Noa has sung for film and theatre and her work appears in a good number of film soundtracks. She collaborated with French composer Eric Serra on two songs for film: ‘the experience of love’ from the James Bond film ‘Goldeneye’, and the song ‘my heart calling’ from the Luc Besson film “Joan of Arc”, which she also co-wrote. In 1998, Noa recorded the part of Esmerelda in French for the original soundtrack of the multi-Platinum selling “Notre Dame de Paris”. Her song ‘Babel’, written in English, French and Hebrew as theme song for the Gerarad Pullicino movie of the same name, topped the charts in France the following year and was more famous than the movie. In July 2004, during Noa’s 8th month of pregnancy with her daughter Enea, Noa and Gil, together with Palestinian singer Rim Banna, wrote and recorded the theme song for the animated film Pace of Peace. The short film was awarded special notice in the 2005 Venice Film Festival. Beofre that, in 2000, Noa and Gil were asked to write lyrics for Nicola Piovani’s musical theme for Roberto Benigni’s Oscar award winning movie: Life Is Beautiful. The song Beautiful That Way was recorded and released as a bonus track with her 2000 album Blue Touches Blue, produced by Mike Hedges (U2, Manic Street Preachers, the Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and Lush) for Mercury records. The song became a huge hit for the song-writing duo, who wrote the lyrics for music composed by Nicola Piovani.
5. Santa Lucia Luntana / Napule ca’ se ne va
Her love and admiration for Italian songs is over and over demonstrated in the Italian albums she records, especially in these two tracks. The music is so very typical of Italian traditional Canzone and her voice rides so well above its Neapolitan waves in an impeccable accent. The Napoli-Tel-Aviv album released in 2006 reflects Noa and Gil Dor call their “romance with Napoli” and “as a type of gesture in gratitude to our Italian audience that has for years been accepting and embracing our music and ourselves with much love”. The album is a collection of Neapolitan songs, previously performed live and in quite perfect Neapolitan with the Solis string quartet, and now translated and sung in Hebrew. It follows the album Noa Live (2005). Both albums were recorded with the Solis String Quartet from Naples, Italy.
6. Les femmes 3.54
Noa has collaborated with many artists and been involved in numerous projects but time allows us to mention only a few. She has toured and sang with rock superstar Sting, performed her song “Child of man” with no other than Stevie Wonder for a CBS TV special in the US. On this collaboration she told me that when she heard that they were going to perform together, she learnt all of his songs to be prepared only to have him say to her, “I already know all of my songs, let us perform one of yours”. I can’t possibly imagine how exciting that must be to any human being but to a songwriter to be told such a thing by one of THE song writing legends… Noa I think took it with enthusiasm and professionalism. She also shared the stage and microphone with Carlos Santana, Sheryl Crow, George Benson, Johnny Clegg, Zucherro, Peter Maffay, Pino Daniele, Rita Marcotulli, Massimo Ranieri, Carlo Fava, Florent Pagny, Jean Jacques Goldman, Lokua Kanza, Jorge Drexler, Miguel Bose, Donovan, Maurane, Eric Serra, Pascal Obispo, Patrick Bruel, Mike Manieri and Bustan Avraham. Singing for Peace has been a major focus of her collaborations and she received the prestigious “Gemona Seminar” prize for artistic excellence and her contribution to peace and understanding.. The long list of peace concerts that she has participated include the Bono and Sir Bob Geldof’s “Live 8” concert on July the 2nd in Rome’s Circo Massimo to put pressure on the world’s leading nations to erase third world debts. With Gil Dor, she has frequently collaborated with Arab and Palestinian artists from around the world, including Khaled from Algeria, Nabil Salameh from Lebanon, Handallah from Nablus , Rim Banna from Nazareth, Amal Murkus from Kfar Yasif, and of course Mira Awad from Kfar Raameh who had been friends with Noa for over 10 years when they went to represent the Israeli colours at the 2009 Eurovision in Moscow with their song There Must Be Another Way. These collaborations enable the duo to express, musically, their belief in the power of communication and dialogue as a means of promoting peace and understanding. Noa also sang a song with Morocco-born French Arab singer Amine, one of these many successful collaborations. The song is called Les Femmes.
7. Happy Song Noa goes a little Jazzy on this number, one of the track of her July 2014 release Love Medicine which explores her music range further from the unique and multi-movement rendition of classic song Eternal Flame to the final track Love love love which is infused with the feel that curses through this LP. So a Jazzy number but her clear personal touch beyond just the voice.
8. Dala Dala 1 minute and 50 seconds of pure and simple Noa, from the 2008 album Genes & Jeans.
9. I don’t know Noa released Achinoam Nini (1997), her first album of self-penned Hebrew-language songs, and then the live album Achinoam Nini & the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra (1998). The whole album with the Orchestra embellishes her beautiful songs and is enchanting, the popular I don’t know particularly so.
10. Layla (night) Noa’ has performed in prestigious venues including the Carnegie Hall and Avery Fisher Hall in NYC, Olympia in Paris, Rome’s Coloseum, The Barbican in London, as well as numerous successful tours of major venues and festivals throughout Europe, the US, Canada, Brazil and Japan. Noa was also the first Israeli Artist formally invited to perform in Morocco. Her appearance in the Sacred Music Festival in Fez led to a 15 minute special on her as part of CNN’s popular music program, “World Beat”. The songwriting duo have sold over a million and a half copies of their current catalogue. So it is not surprising that she has been invitated by the prestigious Israel Festival to collaborate with the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra in the year she and Gil Dor celebrate their 20 years career. Layla is the introducing track of the album.
- http://www.eurovision.tv/event/artistdetail?song=24675&event=1480#biography )no longer accessible)
- www.fresh-lyrics.com/lyrics/eurovision-2009-song-contest/noa-&-mira-awad–there-must-be-another-way-5034.html (link no longer available)
- videos for “beautiful that way” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fAhSf4NKeLA
- video of live http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CXHuwuwvjgM
- Check out the full article by Michael Ajzenstadt on JPOST Archive 01.May.1997/)
- Eurovision Song Contest 2009 Final previously at http://www.eurovision.tv/page/history/by-year/contest?event=1482