TEL AVIV (Feb. 14)
Shoshana Damari, the singer who brought an Oriental flavor to Israeli folk music, died Tuesday. She was 83. The Yemeni-born Damari helped shape popular culture in Israel with nature ballads and patriotic tunes, putting on spirited performances until she was brought down by pneumonia.
“It feels good to know that I am leaving so much behind, that I made an entire nation happy,” she said in a recent interview.
Relatives said Damari passed away in Ichilov Hospital listening to a recording of her most famous song, “Kalaniot,” or “Poppy Flowers.”
“She went out with a bang, just like she lived,” said Damari’s niece, Havazelet.
Born in Damar, Yemen, in 1923, Damari was brought to pre-state Israel by her parents when she was 2. She studied drama and music in Tel Aviv, developing a distinctively husky contralto and giving her first solo performance at age 16.
Damari’s talents were recognized by national poet Nathan Alterman and composer Moshe Vilenski, who wrote several hit songs for her, including “Kalaniot,” “Hayu Zmanim” (“There Were Times”) and “Mul Har Sinai” (“Before Mount Sinai”).
Bringing out her first album soon after Israel’s 1948 War of Independence, Damari became one of the best-known singers in the country and beyond.
“She was the pride of all of Israel, not just the Yemenite community,” said Uzi Cohen, an Israeli politician of Yemenite descent.
Damari won an Israel Prize for Hebrew Song in 1988. She continued innovating into old age, recording two duets with Israeli world music star Idan Raichel last year.