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Thursday, November 19, 2009
Ofra Haza
7:06 AM
Today, Nov. 19, is the anniversary of Ofra Haza's birth. Since I'm sure most of my readers here know who she is, I won't go into much detail about her life (nor subsequent death due to AIDS-related pneumonia).

I will say, though, that discovering her music was a game changer for me. First off, finding Desert Wind on cassette when I was in college was my first real introduction to pop music in a non-European language. Though most of the lyrics are in English, much of it is in Hebrew and Arabic (and Aramaic, wiki tells me). I found myself loving the non-English parts a lot, and I think that began what has become a bit of an obsession with non-English language music, especially pop.

Here she is on The Tonight Show performing "Ya Ba Ye" from that album.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n18WeJ2ouAg


(Incidentally, I have been teaching myself Arabic, and I just for the first time caught a bit of the Arabic in the lyrics. She sings, "My mother always told me, / ya binti..." The word binti means "my girl", and ya is a word used when addressing someone. Not much, but hey, I guess it means *some* of the Arabic is staying in my head! )

Further investigation into Ofra Haza's music led me to Im Nin'alu, a song of hers using a centuries-old poem as the lyrics.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L6LMONLCmAk

This will of course sound familiar to many, as it was sampled by Coldcut in their seminal (and as I understand it, initially unofficial and unauthorized) remix of Eric B & Rakim's "Paid in Full").


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vDBeSszh8Ok


I missed the irony at the time, but "Im Nin'alu" is a song that says, "Even if the gates of the rich are closed, the gates of Heaven will be open". Kind of an interesting choice for a song about getting "paid in full".

Finding "Im Nin'alu" really solidified my love of sampling and sample culture. Its use in the "Paid in Full" remix is a perfect, textbook example of a sample which had nothing but a positive effect on the original source. This is the kind of thing that nowadays is often the casualty with constrictive copyright enforcement.

I'll leave you with my favorite appearance of hers: The Black Dog's "Babylon", remixed (or rather "infected") by The Scourge of the Earth, a.k.a. Jimi Cauty. The coming together of The Blag Dog (a group formerly containing the guys from Plaid), Jimi Cauty (who was half of one of my top 10 favorite bands), and Ofra Haza represents a lot of what I love about music, as well as being a sort of "Who's Who" of my cd & record library.

Enjoy.


"AK9 Ate My Pasty"

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