Voices, harmonies, rhythms and colors. A-WA, a group formed by three Israeli sisters of Yemeni origin, Tair, Liron and Tagel Haim, offers an explosion of sounds, influences and hopes.
ONCE UPON A TIME THERE WERE THREE SISTERS
Tair, Liron and Tagel were born in the small village of Shaharut, in the south of Israel, not far from the Egyptian border. However, their roots take us even further south, to the Arabian Peninsula, to Yemen. Their family history is indeed marked by the clandestine Operation Magic Carpet, carried out in 1949 : their great-grandmother, along with tens of thousands of persecuted Yemeni Jews, were flown from Yemen to the then newly created State of Israel.
Since their childhood, music and singing have been at the heart of the Haim sisters’ daily lives, thanks in particular to their mother who passed on to them the traditions and songs of Yemen, and their father who gave them lessons.
Our father used to play and sing at home. He gave us this taste for music. He always encouraged us to make music and to become musicians.Liron Haim on RFI musique, June 12th, 2019.
They then became accustomed to singing together, in trio, whether it be traditional songs or contemporary music.
A few years later, the three sisters decided to move to Tel Aviv, and were spotted by Tomer Yosef, from the American-Israeli group Balkan Beat Box. He offered to sign them to his label and helped them produce their first songs.
In 2015 was released their first album, Habib Galbi – a triumph that led them to tour internationally. The tracks on this album feature traditional Yemeni songs, reinterpreted in the A-WA style ; in contrast, their second and latest album to date, Bayti fi rasi (« My house is in my head »), released in 2019, consists of original songs, with lyrics and music written by the group.
FUSION & MODERN TRIBUTE
A-WA’s music is the result of several fusions, at once tribute, reinterpretation and modernization. The three sisters mix ancient Yemeni songs and lullabies, especially on the first album, with their own contemporary inspirations, such as hip hop and electro beats they heard on MTV during their youth.
They sing mainly in Yemeni Arabic, their three voices creating harmonies where each one of them keeps its singularity, and are thus in the lineage of the queen of Yemeni music, Ofra Haza, who made this type of music popular and who is one of their great inspirations.
However, their music is not limited in terms of genre. On the contrary, the Haim sisters are very open to eclectic sounds : from the reggae rhythms on Al-Asad, to their collaboration with the renowned electro music group Acid Arab on Gul l’abi.
The music and lyrics of A-WA’s songs exude a positive and demanding energy, militant sometimes. This contrast between committed lyrics and sunny, danceable rhythms is not so surprising : it is also inherited from their Yemeni roots, in which this apparent opposition is frequently found.
Just like the band, its music and its history, A-WA’s aesthetic is a total fusion of their influences and roots, for a unique result. The universe of the three sisters is thus immediately recognizable and honors colors and contrasts – as much in their visuals as in their outfits or their clips.
We embrace our identity with pride. […] We are women, Jewish, Israeli, Yemeni and of our time.A-WA in Toute la culture, April, 19th, 2019
Tair, Liron and Tagel like to wear clothes with very original and funky associations, and advocate the freedom to express ourselves fully through the outfits we wear.
They don’t hesitate to mix traditional clothing with hip-hop elements – Adidas outfits with a Yemeni headdress, or djellabas with sneakers on their feet. They also collaborated with Moroccan photographer Hassan Hajjaj for the cover of their first album, for which he even designed the colorful djellabas the sisters wear.
The group’s videoclips, meticulously directed by the Haim sisters, and mainly filmed in Shaharut, the Israeli village of their childhood, also present a rigorous work on colors and fashion. Once again, they merge worlds, with Yemeni elements sometimes diverted with a touch of humor. In Hana mash hu al Yaman, for example, a song that evokes the complexity of integration in a foreign country, they use jars normally containing food as fashion accessories, worn as headdresses.
Through these compositions, A-WA also carries the hope of the union of peoples. Indeed, their song Habib Galbi was the first song sung in Arabic to top the charts in Israel.
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