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Damari, Shoshana

DAMARI, SHOSHANA

DAMARI, SHOSHANA (1922–2006), Israeli singer. Damari was born in the town of Damar, in Yemen, and moved to Palestine with her family at the age of two. She showed musical promise from an early age, accompanying her mother's singing at family and social gatherings on percussion. When she was 13 she joined the Shulamit school of drama in Tel Aviv and starred in her first concert in Tel Aviv three years later. In 1943 she was among the founding members of the Li La Lo theater company, and, one year later, appeared in the theater's debut production, "The Barber of Tel Aviv." Damari's principle contribution to the show was her rendition of "Laylah ba-Gilboa" ("A Night on Mount Gilboa") and, although the song was not a hit, Damari's soft Yemenite-inflected tones and richly textured voice stood out from the efforts of her European-born co-performers.

Damari came to national prominence following her performance in the theater company's second show, Ra'ayon beli La Lo, in which she sang "Kalani'ot" ("Anemones"), which was a huge hit and became Damari's signature song. The music for "Kalani'ot" was composed by Moshe *Wilensky, who, despite being born in Poland and a graduate of the Warsaw Academy of Music, incorporated Yemenite motifs in the song and in other material he wrote for Damari in subsequent years. Damari and Wilensky maintained their creative and fruitful partnership into the 1950s, when Wilensky began presenting a radio program called Pizmon va-Zemer ("Chorus and Song"). Every show included a song Wilensky wrote specially for Damari and was performed by her. These included such hits as "Ha-Ro'ah ha-Ketanah min ha-Gai" ("The Little Shepherdess from The Valley") and "Le-Or ha-Zikhronot" ("For the Memories").

In the mid-1950s Damari enjoyed a brief movie career, appearing in some of Israel's first movies, such as Hill 24 Doesn't Answer and Be-Ein Moledet ("Without a Homeland"), which told the story of the Damari family's move from Yemen to Palestine in the 1920s.

In the late 1940s Damari embarked on the first of many successful tours abroad. In 1947 she appeared at the famed Village Vanguard music club in New York and later performed in Canada and Cuba. In the 1960s and 1970s she appeared at many of the world's most prestigious music venues, including New York's Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. Despite being closely identified with her Yemenite roots, and classic Israeli songs, Damari also performed in other languages, including Spanish and even Yiddish.

In 1987 Damari's career was revived when she joined forces with crooner Boaz Sharabi, whose family also emigrated from Yemen, and the following year she received the country's ultimate accolade when she was awarded the Israel Prize. Damari subsequently appeared and recorded with Israel's other senior diva, Yaffa *Yarkoni, and with singer-songwriter Matti *Caspi. In 2005, the 83-year-old Damari surprised many by contributing two songs to young ethno-rock star Idan Reichel's second album Mi-Ma'amakim ("From the Deep").

Throughout her long career Damari set the standard for generations of young performers, both for her stage presence and her unparalleled vocal delivery.

[Barry Davis (2nd ed.)]

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