NINI, ACHINOAM (1969– ), Israeli pop, jazz, blues singer; Israel's most successful performing artist on the international scene. Of Yemenite background, Achinoam Nini or, as she is know abroad, Noa, grew up in New York and returned to Israel at the age of 17. After completing her army service, she enrolled at the Rimon School of Music in Tel Aviv, where she met guitarist Gil Dor, who was on the school's teaching staff, and the two began to perform together. Their first concert, at the Jazz, Blues & Videotape Festival in Tel Aviv, was enthusiastically received. Nini's debut album, Achinoam Nini and Gil Dor Live, was recorded live in Tel Aviv and released in 1991. It included songs in Hebrew and reworkings of numbers by the Beatles and Madonna. The material was accessible to audiences both inside and outside Israel and Nini soon began to play at festivals and major venues – such as New York's Carnegie Hall and the White House. In 1993 Nini released an album entitled Achinoam Nini and Gil Dor with songs based on the work of two of Israel's most eminent poets – *Raḥel and Leah *Goldberg. This followed a highly successful appearance at that year's Israel Festival and the album sold well in Israel and abroad.
Nini's global profile rose significantly after she released Noa in 1994, her first foreign recording. The album, which was produced by acclaimed jazz guitarist Pat Metheny, included a rendition of Bach's "Ave Maria," with new words written by Nini. Following this she became the first Israeli artist to perform in the Vatican when she sang the song in St. Peter's Square, in the presence of Pope *John Paul ii. In 1997 Nini performed a program of specially arranged numbers with the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra, including some of her best-known songs and works by Leonard *Bernstein and by leading Israeli composer Sasha *Argov, as well as a traditional Yemenite song called "Yuma." The concert was recorded and released the following year as Achinoam Nini & the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.
Nini has maintained a very active career, both in Israel and around the globe, and was invited to perform "Ave Maria" for the state Italian television network after the death of Pope John Paul ii.
[Barry Davis (2nd ed.)]