Israeli song expresses the delicate tapestry of sounds and cultures that has been woven since the early 20th century, influenced by the abundance of folk melodies brought by immigrants, the landscapes of the developing land and the historical events that have accompanied the State of Israel since its inception. Thus, Israeli songs represent the Israeli melting pot itself.
In recent years, we have sadly said goodbye to a number of wonderful, noteworthy music artists who were among those who founded and shaped Israeli music, in all its creative stages: from the text, through the melody and the arrangement, to the performance. This stamp series presents twelve of the most talented Israeli music artists, whose styles and voices represent the multiculturalism, the differences and the similarities within Israeli music. Their creations reflect the deep connection between the Hebrew language, the Land of Israel and the Israeli people and sustain the constant development and innovation of contemporary Israeli music.
Zohar Argov 1955-1987
“The Flower in My Garden” – “You are the sweet fragrance, the flower in my garden”
Argov, the greatest of the Mediterranean singers, was nicknamed “The Nightingale” thanks to his unique voice. Despite a short musical career, he became the model of the Middle Eastern-style singer. His largest contribution to Israeli music is that he successfully broke through into mainstream consciousness at a time when Middle Eastern-style singers were not widely recognized. Among his hit songs were “Elinor” and “The Flower in My Garden”, which became classics of Israeli music.
Sasha Argov 1914-1995
“Lonely Street Light” – “Once upon a time there was a lonely street light at the neighborhood’s edge”
Argov was a pianist and one of the greatest Israeli composers, playing a role in Israeli music from the early days of the State. His main contribution lies in his work with military and civilian singing troupes and in the music he composed for the theater. He set more than 1,000 songs to music, some of which have become inalienable assets of Israeli music. The unique harmony that he created between voice and tune became the identifying mark of his melodies.
Meir Ariel 1942-1999
“Goldberg Fields” – “My girl, don’t walk alone”
Ariel began singing in the Kibbutz Mishmarot singing troupe and became known as the singing paratrooper during the Six Day War. After the war, he lived in the U.S. and was influenced by American folk music. His main contribution as a songwriter, composer and singer lies in his original and unique writing and in the way he used the Hebrew language in his songs.
Yossi Banai 1932-2006
“Me, Simon and Little Moiz” – “We were kids and it was long ago”
Banai began his acting career in the military “Nahal” singing troupe and in the Habima Theater. As a singer, his singing style and choice of songs were greatly influenced by French chansons. His unique style, deep voice and stage presence became his identifying mark as an actor, entertainer and singer. He was associated with his native city of Jerusalem, about which he wrote songs and stories.
Shoshana Damari 1923-2006
“Anemones” – “Reddish, ruddy anemones”
Damari’s powerful voice, theatrical personality and the songs she performed made her the queen of Israeli music, gaining recognition before the establishment of the State thanks to her song “Anemones”. The combination of her singing style with the words and melodies she sang made her songs a symbol of Israel’s developing culture, of Israel’s melting pot, of the integration of East and West.
Moshe Wilensky 1910-1997
“Lighthouse” – “He knew there was no lighthouse on the shore”
Wilensky was a pianist, a conductor and one of the greatest Israeli composers. He began molding the creation of Israeli music as far back as the early 1930’s as a theater musical director, as a composer for military singing troupes and as the conductor of the Kol Yisrael (Voice of Israel) Orchestra. He composed some of Israel’s most beautiful songs and accompanied the greatest Israeli music artists.
Uzi Hitman 1952-2004
“Lord of the Universe” – “Lord of the Universe who reigned”
Hitman was among the most popular and versatile artists and performers of Israeli music. He is recognized as a children’s artist thanks to his performances in children’s festivals and in the mythological television show "Parpar Nehmad" (Nice Butterfly), but he also wrote pop songs as well as Mediterranean, political and Hassidic songs, among them “Lord of the Universe”, “I Was Born to Peace” and “Here”, which represented Israel in the 1991 Eurovision song contest.
Ofra Haza 1957-2000
“A Prayer” – “Give us light and the joy of youth”
Haza began her musical career in the Hatikva neighborhood theater workshop and in the Middle-Eastern-style song festival, but gained national attention in the late 1970’s as she appeared in the film “Shlager” (A Hit) with her hit song “The Song of the Bimbo”. She quickly achieved a place of honor in popular Israeli music and launched a successful international career thanks to her musical talent, her unique voice and the warmth and ethnic quality of her songs.
Arik Lavie 1927-2004
“The Train Engine Song” – “A train engine stood in Beer Sheba Station”
Lavie began his splendid career as an actor and singer. His diverse work spread over half a century and included hundreds of songs, participation in musicals, plays, entertainment shows and films. His unique singing style crossed generational lines and joined the Hebrew language, the audience and contemporary music together, making him one of the pillars of Israeli music.
Ehud Manor 1941-2005
“I Have No Other Country” – “I have no other country”
Manor was Israel’s most prolific songwriter, whose diverse body of work includes play translations and the writing of over 1,000 songs for theater, cinema, children and popular music. His songs, among them “Next Year”, “If Only” and “I Have No Other Country” have become inalienable assets. His songs successfully expressed the public’s mood at different periods in time and became national anthems.
Yair Rosenblum 1944-1996
“Song of Peace” – “So, just sing a song for peace”
Rosenblum was a composer and arranger, mainly recognized as the musical director and instructor for the military singing troupes and as the person who discovered some of the greatest Israeli music artists when they were first starting out. Most of his melodies have become inalienable assets of Israeli music, among them “Song for Peace” which became a symbol after being sung by the late Prime Minister Rabin just moments before he was assassinated.
Naomi Shemer 1930-2004
“Jerusalem of Gold” – “Jerusalem of gold, of copper and of light”
Shemer is the most readily identified artist in the world of Israeli music following the establishment of the State. She wrote and composed hundreds of the songs that became Israeli classics, especially thanks to her wonderful integration of words and melodies, foremost among which are “Jerusalem of Gold”, “May It Be”, “The Eucalyptus Grove” and many others that determined her place as Israel’s national songwriter.
Eran Litvin, Series Editor