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Noa seeks musical common ground for Arabs, Israelis

August 13, 1999
Web posted at: 3:48 p.m. EDT (1948 GMT)

FES, Morocco (CNN) -- When Israeli singer Noa goes on tour, she's not just promoting her album, she says she's also trying to promote peace. She recently performed in Fes, where she became the first Israeli artist to perform at a music festival in the Arab world.

Her music -- like her personal life -- is influenced by many cultures.

"My family originally comes from Yemen," Noa says. "I was born in Israel. I now live in Israel, and in between I was raised in the Bronx. So I grew up speaking two languages fluently, and I also speak a little bit of Yemenite.

"I think most art ... is a resolution of conflict of some sort or another, and I've had many trying to figure out my identity."

Noa's albums -- "Calling," "Both Sides of the Sea" and the self-titled "Noa" -- embrace American pop, jazz and the harmonies of the Middle East. The lyrics are often political, dealing with the subjugation of women of all cultures; exploring the grief of parents whose children are killed in terrorist bombings; and lamenting the pace of the Mideast peace process.

Her song "Legions of the Brokenhearted" despairs at the "silent majority" unable or unwilling to protest right-wing ultra-Orthodox sects holding back progress toward peace.


Noa performs "I Don't Know"

Audio clip: 170k MPEG-3
Audio clip: 230k WAV
Video clip: 1.3Mb QuickTime

'It tore me apart'

Noa was thrust into her activist role suddenly: She and Gil Dor, a noted Israeli guitarist, performed at the November 1995 rally where Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's peace efforts finally achieved official recognition. Their set ended 15 minutes before Rabin was assassinated by a right-wing zealot.

"It tore me apart," Noa says. "I couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe it. When he was killed, I was sitting in front of the TV screen and crying and crying. I felt my own family member had been taken away from me. And I think Israel entered the dark ages at that moment."

Noa's outspoken support for peace brought an invitation from the White House in commemoration of Rabin. It seems appropriate that Noa's real name is Achinoam Nini, which means "Sister of Peace." She says she believes that every opportunity must be taken to promote the peaceful co-existence between Arab and Jew.

CNN Correspondent Tim Lister contributed to this report.

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Noa on Geffen Records
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