There’s a special place where the Red Sea meets the Indian Ocean called Yemen.
Yemen served as a vital rest-stop for trade routes to the East and was a real melting pot of cultures. This is especially evidenced by its music. You can clearly distinguish influences from a broad web of supply lines from the time including Africa, India and Spain.
In a top secret military operation, known as Operation Magic Carpet, the whole population (49,000) of Yemenite Jews were transported to Israel by American and British transport planes. Previous to this Jews had lived in Yemen and its major port city Aden for over 2,500 years and although the size of population didn’t reflect this, their musical diversity did.
Im Nin’alu was originally written by the Rabbi Shalom Shabazi (Hebrew: שלום שבזי, Arabic: سالم الشبزي) or as Academia has coined him, ‘Shakespeare of Yemen’. He was a very prolific 17th century poet who composed some 550 poems in his Diwan. A great deal of his writing, including prayers and chants, hold a distinct melody which is learnt through repetition and has been carried with the people of Yemenite Jewish origin through the course of time.
Ofra Haza is an Israeli singer of Yemenite Jewish origin who carried on that same tradition by releasing songs first heard passed down to her in her childhood. Her album, Shirei Teiman (Yemenite Songs) earned her international success and the title track Im Nin’ Alu helped elevate and define the course of remix culture.
UK producers Coldcut got their biggest break when asked by Island Records to remix Eric B & Rakim’s Paid in Full. Their use of Ofra Haza’s Im Nin’Alu was groundbreaking for it’s time and became a worldwide classic overnight earning them a “Producers Of The Year” award in 1990 from the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) .
It has become a staple track for djs the world over since it’s initial release in 1987. That is 25 years ago now but the birth of this track actually traces back to the 17th century which is really amazing when you think about it.
Find out more about Ofra Haza here