Outside the jukebox: Female sounds of the Middle East

To mark International Women’s Day, Café Gibraltar is proud to present ‘Bat HaMakom/Bint al-Balad,’ (Local Woman), a compilation of songs – some of them debuted here for the very first time – by the most innovative female artists making music in Israel today.

You can download the album for free, courtesy of the artists.

Click here to download the full album


Ester Rada – Nano Ney

One can recognize the melody of “Nano Ney” from Rada’s rather marginal role in Idan Reichel’s song “Mima’amakim.” In her version, Ester Rada gives the song its proper dues, with lots of energy, a groove that gets stuck in your head and an excellent rock out outro. The song, off of her debut album, is also the first ever song in Amharic to make it to Galgalatz’s (Israeli Radio) playlist.


Natalie Peretz – Ti Rashrash

Natali Peretz, one of the contestants on the first season of “Eyal Golan is Callng You,” breathes new life to one of Lebanon’s biggest hits in the last years. Peretz’s version takes Rami Hussein’s Debka and turns it into contemporary Mizrahi dance. Before Peretz, Hanin Zoabi’s Balad party used the song for one of its hilarious election campaign commercials.


Neta Elkayam – Bint L’Mnam*

Bint L’Mnam, or “daughter of dreams” in Moroccan Arabic, is the theme song from Hanna Azoulay Hasfari’s new film “Anashim Ktumim” (“Orange People”). Amit Hai Cohen brought his personal touch to the traditional-sounding production, and Elkayam’s voice works perfectly with the lyrics, which she wrote along with social activist Reuven Abergil.


Ilana Eliya – Eshet Hayil

In an interview with Café Gibraltar, Ilana Eliya said that all the melodies to the classic “Eshet Hail” were always so sad – she wanted to create an uplifting melody from a woman’s point of view. But behind it all lies something else: the fact that a woman sings it, perhaps about herself and to herself, overturns existing power dynamics: instead of men thanking women of taking over traditional roles in the home, it becomes a song about recognizing one’s self-worth, pride, creativity and power.


Yael Horwitz – Hasta el Final

This week we lost one of the greatest flamenco musicians of all time, Paco De Lucia. In Yael Horwitz’s new song, Hasta el Final, one can clearly hear De Lucia’s contribution, fusion, to the world of flamenco. Horwitz took the idea of fusion one step further, incorporating the Mediterranean music that surrounds us, while always staying connected to the music of Spain.


Nasreen – Ana Bahibak

It’s been many years since Mizrahi music has seen the likes of a singer with such a deep, virtuosic voice like Nasreen Qadri, one of two winners in the seconds season of “Eyal Golan is Calling You.” Kadri is a singer with both a unique approach to music, as well as one with a deep knowledge of the classics of Arab and Mizrahi music. “Ana Bahibak” was released as her third single in December 2012, followed by two more singles. A full length album, however, is still in the works. “Bahikbak” was written by the young, talented Rotem Cohen, who is responsible for some of the most beautiful Mizrahi music released over the last several years.


 Noa Ben Shushan – Ha’Ahat Sheli

Noa Ben Shushan puts a feminine spin on Yishai Levy’s hit. Blending French and Hebrew, both the song turns from a love song between a man and a woman into one between two women, and talks about the important place that women hold for one another in their lives. A real treat!


Liora Yitzhak – Pizmon L’Yakinton (from the “Baby Oriental” collection)

“Pizmon L’Yakinton,” Leah Goldberg’s classic lullaby, hasn’t lost any of its magic and power over the years, and the same babies who fell asleep to its sounds are now putting their own babies to sleep. Israeli-Indian singer Liora Yitzhak’s excellent version, which can be found on the “Baby Oriental 2” collection emphasizes Rivka Gvili’s melody through it’s Indian production and sounds of the bulbul tarang turn it into a universal melody that puts you in a dream state.


Ziva Atar – Tzlilim BaMidbar

The veteran paytaneet and artist Ziva Atar, who makes women’s music inspired by Spanish Moroccan sounds (especially Ladino and Haquetía, which she speaks) and works with the Andalusian Women’s Choir in Jerusalem.


Morin Nehedar – Lolayee*

Morin Nehedar uses a brush to paint the well-known Persian lullaby, breathing new life into the song with her version. Her velvety song hovers about, making the connection between a mother and her daughter, weaving emotions into a night prayer. The mom strokes her daughter’s hair, who refuses to go to sleep. In her exhausted voice she blesses her, my dearest, my soul, that you know only good things. Slowly, she puts her daughter to bed. My hope is to see you a hundred years, she whispers in her ear. And with motherly pain, she adds, I am raising you and you do not remember.


Victoria Hanna – Yonati*

Victoria Hanna’s debut song “Yonati” from her upcoming album. There new album will be composed of two “opposites”: half of the album will be made up of songs accompanied by a string quartet, while the other half will be upbeat and produced by Tamir Muskat. The lyrics are all based on ancient Jewish texts, with Hanna giving them a new, revolutionary interpretation.


Hiwot Mekonnen and Maya Donitz – Ethiopia, Ima Adama | Lama At Atzuva, Ahoti?*

Two songs by singer Hiwot Mekonnen and pianist Maya Donitz, were written by legendary pianist Emahoy Tsegué, who has lived in an Ethiopian monastery in Jerusalem for years. Tsegué is a classical pianist who wrote classical music with an Ethiopian twist, which turns the music into something extraordinary. A cultural festival paid tribute to the pianist last summer. The recording is taken from that show.


Meira Asher – Me Last Granny

Experimental vocal artist Meira Asher in a song dedicated to our mothers and grandmothers, from the album Spears Into Hooks. Meira is an artist that gets to the root of the lyrics, creating captivating analog sounds. Riff Cohen once told Café Gibraltar: “I think that the only person who did real Israeli culture was Meira Asher.”


HaAhayot Jamshid – Armon M’Hol

Shai Lee and Eden Jamshid bring a grain of beauty with Armon B’Hol (“Sandcastle”). They have been performing in Jerusalem for several years, and it will be interesting to hear their debut album. Hopefully soon.


Renena Hendler Neeman – Nekudat Archimides

Renena Hendler Neeman is a singer and harpist who recently released her debut album “Chanson L’Zion,” a jazzy cabaret affair with anti-establishment message. One of the things that makes the album unique is Renana’s gorgeous harp playing.


Maayan Simona – Alei Shalechet

Maayan, in her own, quiet way, will surely become part of our consciousness, with a voice similar to the look in her eyes – thoughtful, confident, clear.


Ecoute – Asui Tnua

This is how you put melody to text. “Bat HaMakom/Bint al-Balad” ends with the moving voice of Inbal Jamshid, the inspiring and thoughtful lyrics of Itai Akirav and the band’s on point, jazzy accompaniment.

*Denotes debut release

All rights reserved to the artists. Copying, distributing, making commercial use of or playing the songs in public without permission is strictly forbidden. Distributing the collection outside this page is forbidden.

Project team:
Editing: Ophir Toubul, Zohar Elmakias, Khen Elmaleh
Design: Eitam Tubul
Production: Gal Kadan
Texts written by: Khen Elmaleh, Ophir Toubul, Adi Even Ezra, Roy Hasan, Amos Noy, Edan Ring, Avi H Mottahedèh and Inbar Heller Algazi

This release was made possible with the support of Heart at East: The Coalition for Equal Distribution of Cultural Funds in Israel.

This article was first published in Hebrew on the Café Gibraltar website