April 22, 1999
Noa’s Universal Appeal
When Achinoam Nini was growing up in the Bronx with her Yemenite-Israeli parents, her different name, exotic looks and diverse heritage made her feel out of place among her schoolmates. Now the qualities that alienated her as a child give her good cause to say to them, "I knew you when..."
Not long after she settled in Israel as a teen-ager, Noa (as she is known outside of Israel), rose as one of that country's hottest stars. She has a large following both in Israel and Europe for her distinct sound, which combines American, Yemenite and Israeli music traditions; rich voice; and Middle Eastern beauty.
It's rare that Israeli artists cross over to the tough American market, but Noa has already made some headway. A few years ago, she signed with Geffen, an American label. She has performed with various American artists, including Stevie Wonder. Just last month, she entertained President Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton at a White House reception.
Noa realizes that it is still a challenge to attain the same type of following in the United States that she enjoys in Europe and the Far East.
"[In Europe], they're not afraid of something they're not familiar with," Noa said in a recent telephone interview. "On the contrary, they're quite fascinated. In the U.S., they are more suspicious of something new."
To the American ear, Noa's music is only partially new, which may explain her ability to win over American audiences with more ease. In her concerts and albums, she can go from singing soothing Hebrew ballads, to songs she wrote in English, to her rendition of a Madonna or Beatles hit. She and longtime collaborator Gil Dor experiment with different styles that showcase Noa's vocal talents and eclectic background.
When she's not touring, Noa actively participates in Israeli life. She volunteers at various organizations, and, last week, she performed with many other top Israeli artists, including Rami Kleinstein and Aviv Geffen, at a concert held in Tel Aviv to raise funds for the crisis in Kosovo.
"People are very concerned in Israel," she said. "There's great awareness."
Noa is currently working on an international album and will tour more extensively once it's completed. Amid her studio and concert work, she's anxiously awaiting the Israeli election results. She hopes they will give her cause to celebrate, as she continues touring in June.
Noa will be performing at the Alex Theatre in Glendale on May 5. For tickets, call Telecharge (800) 233-3123.