Superstar for peace

Superstar for peace

Noa to pay tribute to Israel’s songs through the decades

Israeli superstar Noa — a performer for peace
Israeli superstar Noa — a performer for peace

Leading Israeli performance and recording artist Achinoam Nini — known to international audiences as Noa — will pay homage to some of the songs that have shaped Israeli culture and consciousness for the past 50 years at a community Yom Ha’atzmaut celebration.

The Israel @ 65 concert will be held on Monday evening, April 15, at Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in Short Hills.

Nini — who sings and plays percussion, guitar, and piano — will be joined on stage by her long-time collaborator, Gil Dor, on guitar and by the Yoed Nir String Quartet.

Nini, who was born in Tel Aviv to a Yemenite family, lived in New York City from age two until her return to Israel at 17. About her years in New York, she said, “Culture and music were everywhere, from the Yemenite songs my grandmother taught me at home to the Broadway musicals I adored, to my mom’s opera obsession and trips to MOMA.

“I was immersed in art and culture and drank it up with thirst and passion.”

After her return to Israel, she performed in a military entertainment unit during her two-year army service and went on to study music at the Rimon School.

Nini’s strongest influences come from the singer-songwriters of the 1960s, like Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, and Leonard Cohen. These musical sensibilities, combined with Nini’s Yemenite roots and Dor’s strong background in jazz, rock, and classical music, have created their unique sound, reflected in the hundreds of songs they have written and performed together.

The two have formed ensembles since their early days as an acoustic duo.

Nini has toured and sung with rock superstar Sting, performed her song “Child of Man” with Stevie Wonder for a CBS TV special, and has shared the stage with such notables as Carlos Santana, Sheryl Crow, George Benson, and Donovan.

On Nov. 4, 1995, Nini was performing for an audience of 50,000 at the historic peace rally in Tel Aviv just minutes before Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated. In March 1999, she sang for President Bill Clinton at the White House at an event honoring the late prime minister.

After Rabin’s death, Nini said, “I pledged to do my utmost, even at the expense of personal security, comfort, and commercial success, to carry the torch that had fallen from his hand that awful night and work for peace. That is what I have been doing, stubbornly, ever since.”

Nini and Dor collaborate frequently with Arab and Palestinian artists from around the world and have participated in programs dealing with the role of art and artists in the Middle East in furthering peace. Along the way, she said, she has become “a sort of informal ambassador for all those people in Israel who share my views of dialogue, compassion, and peace.”

Nini’s performances often signal her devotion to the possibility of peace.

She was invited to sing in Oslo for the anniversary of the Peace Accords signed there and was awarded the “Dove of Peace” by Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Israeli President Shimon Peres.

In 2002 she took part in the first Time for Life-A Tribute for Peace concert at the Rome Coliseum, and in 2009, Nini and Palestinian singer-songwriter Mira Awad together represented Israel in the Eurovision Song Contest, which had over 450 million viewers.

Nini has said that her art “is a study in the complexities of the diverse, ever-changing human spirit” and reflects her dream of “a world driven by kindness, compassion, generosity, empathy, sharing, creativity, respect, and love.”

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