With the festivities of this year’s Eurovision contest in full swing, Tel Aviv is turning into a tourist hot spot. Visitors from Europe are heading to our small Middle Eastern city to be entertained by artists from around the world. Last year, Netta Barzilai’s Eurovision song “Toy” won over audiences for its quirky lyrics and funky beat. While Netta does have some clearly identifiable Israeli musical traits in her Eurovision-winning single, the music of this region is unique and waiting to be discovered. There are tons of other popular artists to learn about, from the old classics to emerging new artists. Let’s take a look at a mixture of popular Israeli musicians you should know about.
From 11 years old, Ofra Haza has been singing and entertaining. Hailing from a poor area of Tel Aviv, Ofra grew up in a Yemenite family. Her 1985 album, “Fifty Gates of Wisdom” thrust her into the spotlight. Ofra’s influence is so large in the region that she is often referred to as “The Israeli Madonna.” Her music is inspired by Hebrew culture and her Yemenite heritage, making her a pioneer among modern Israeli musicians. Her music brought together both Eastern and Western elements, and her particular sound became popular not only throughout Israel, but also in Europe and America.
Regarded as one of the most influential Israeli musicians of all time, Arik Einstein is often referred to as “the voice of Israel.” In his prolific career, he recorded over 500 songs and 34 albums. During his career, he collaborated with many other Israeli musicians and bands. In addition to his musical talents, he was also an actor and a screenwriter. He often wrote and performed songs tied closely to Israel’s culture and history. In fact, his influence in the country was so strong that a critic claimed that “Einstein is the real Israel himself.”
The beginning of Shlomo Artzi’s career is a bit of a rollercoaster. In 1975, he was selected to represent Israel in the Eurovision song contest. However, he did not win that year and the subsequent album he produced after Eurovision was a flop. However, he continued making music and a few years later gained significant popularity in the Israeli charts. His musical style is mostly folk rock, and throughout his career he sold over 1.5 million albums and became one of Israel’s most popular singers.
Another popular Israeli rock singer, Aviv Geffen is both a solo musician and was part of a band. His music often deals with popular Israeli themes, such as the army and regional politics, while he also covers other topics like love, peace, and death. He was inspired by artists such as Pink Floyd, U2, Nirvana, and John Lennon, and fans can definitely the influence in his songs. He was prolific and produced many albums, ingraining himself as a beloved Israeli musician.
After participating as a contestant on a TV show for singers, Omer Adam quickly gained popularity. In fact, he’s become one of the most popular Israel musicians at the moment, with his concerts selling out within hours. His style brings the traditional ‘Mizrachi’ style together with Western pop to create catchy songs that regularly land in the top of the Israeli charts. His song “Tel Aviv” became an anthem for the Pride festival in 2013, and now he has many more hits under his belt.
Balkan Beat Box
Fusing many different musical styles, Balkan Beat Box have become one of the few internationally-popular Israeli musicians. The band members, Tamir Muskat, Ori Kaplan, and Tomer Yosef met in New York and formed their sound by bringing together different musical styles. Their music is influenced by Middle Eastern and Southeastern Europe (Balkan) sounds, as well as punk, klezmer, reggae, and electronic music. The combination of it all makes for a funky upbeat sound. Their songs have even been sampled by Western artists. Jason Derulo used parts of BBB’s song “Hermetico” in his hit, “Talk Dirty.”
The duo formed in 2013 in Tel Aviv, and is know for their indie-vibe and melodic tunes. Their song “Sirens” went viral on Spotify in the US, followed not long after by their next viral hit, “You’re Mine.” Their sound is uniquely alt-folk, which isn’t a typical sound for Israeli musicians. Their first album came out in 2017, titled “Remember Roses.”
The multitalented Esther Rada is both an actress and a singer of Ethiopian decent. During her service in the IDF, she sang pop songs for an army band, and that is where she got her start. After the release of her EP, she gained notoriety on a tour in Europe, Canada, and the US. She claims her musical influences as female vocal powerhouses Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald, and Lauryn Hill, along with songs and melodies of Ethiopian jazz.
Like Shlomo Artzi, Sarit Hadad also got her start as a contestant on Eurovision in 2002. As a young child prodigy, Hadad started performing at the young age of eight. By the time she was ten, she was able to play the piano, organ, guitar, accordion, and darbuka. Sarit has had many pop hits in Israel. She was even named “the best female singer of the 2000s” by and Israeli music channel. Her music blends typical pop with Mizrahi tunes and occasional Arabic lyrics. She has become popular internationally: she was the first Israeli to ever perform in Jordan and even Madonna has professed to be a fan!
Composed of three sisters, Tair, Liron, and Tagel Haim, A-Wa is know for their mix of traditional Yemenite sound and electronic pop music. They were discovered by the lead singer of Balkan Beat Box. Surprisingly, after the release of their first single, “Habib Galbi,” the song went viral in Muslim countries. It then went on to become the first ever song sung in Arabic to reach number 1 on the Israeli charts.
There are so many more Israeli musicians we can write about, but we think this is a good start! One your trip to Israel, why not catch an Israeli concert and experience the magic of traditional Israeli music for yourself? Contact us to plan your perfect Israel journey!