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World Music CD Reviews Middle East & North Africa


By Tom Pryor
Published March 2005

Yemenite Songs

The late Israeli singer Ofra Haza burst onto world stages with this stunning 1985 debut. Haza's parents were Yemeni Jews that had fled to Israel to escape religious repression at home, and the ancient Yemeni songs that she learned from her mother were the inspiration for this record. The album featured traditional instruments and melodies with lyrics adapted from the work of 16th century Yemeni poet Shalom Shabazi. "Lefelach Harimon" and "Im Nin's Alu" remain heartbreakingly simple and beautiful, in contrast to the dance-pop inspired material she would record later. Haza died of AIDS-related complications in 2000, and Yemenite Songs remains her greatest legacy.