Friday, November 19, 2010

"Mata Hari" by Ofra Haza

Born on this day in 1957, Ofra Haza was Israel's first internationally acclaimed pop music superstar; of Yemenite Jewish ancestry, from the poor Tel Aviv neighborhood of Hatikvah Haza rose, and had already released four popular albums* when, in 1983, she was entered into the Eurovision Song Contest. Although she came second, behind the Luxembourg entry - Corinne Hermes, who sang Si la vie est cadeau - her showing vaulted Haza to fame throughout Europe.

This track - Mata Hari, from Haza's unreleased 1995 album Queen in Exile - was chosen to represent the singer's exceptional skills for obvious reasons; not only is it well sung, but regular readers of this blog will already know of my abiding interest in its subject, making it an all around ideal fit for the Pop Culture Institute.

Ofra Haza's life was made all the more poignant by two events: first, in February 1987**, Haza walked away from a plane crash*** on the Israeli-Jordanian border, a day she always celebrated thereafter as her second birthday; second, in February 2000 Haza died under mysterious circumstances. Conflicting reports say that either she died of AIDS - with which she was infected by her husband Doron Ashkenazi, who died of a crack overdose in April 2001 - or that she died following a massive beating, a rumour that had such validity it was later investigated by Israeli police.

Whatever the cause of her death her family has not been forthcoming with the details, out of respect for her memory...

*1980's Al Ahavot Shelanu (Our Love), 1981's Bo Nedaber (Let's Talk), plus 1982's Pituyim (Temptations) and Li-yeladim (Children's Songs).
**Coincidentally, the 28th anniversary of the so-called
The Day the Music Died in which Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. 'The Big Bopper' Richardson died.
***The first of two... The plane in which she was traveling - Flight 316 from London to Israel - was struck by lightning in April 1994 and was forced to make an emergency landing.

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