Zehava Ben—The Solitary Star AND Sea of Tears

Two videos about Middle Eastern popular music in Israel. Ron Chachlili's Sea of Tears (1998), the first of a four-part series, implies that Israeli music was originally dominated by Ashkenazi Jews singing in Western styles but that the Sephardim later incorporated their own traditions into Hebrew singing. At a time when most Hebrew songs concerned “butterflies” or “a land of milk and honey,” the Sephardic performers introduced a greater sense of inwardness, singing about joy, anger, or sadness. But this video looks like it was made for Israeli music fans; the snippets of music and interviews with performers are far too brief for the uninitiated. The subject of Erez Laufer's Zehava Ben—The Solitary Star (1997) is a young Israeli singer of Moroccan origins who chooses to cover the songs of Umm Kulthum, once the most popular singer in the Arab world. Laufer follows her on a multinational tour as she sings for both Arab and Jewish audiences; her expressive and melancholy voice, paired with footage of streets in the towns where she performed, is the chief virtue of this otherwise routine video.

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