After taking Israel by storm, A Wa sisters set their sights on Europe: We don't hide our identity

The Israeli band has managed to attract the admiration of Arab neighbors; 'Habib Galbi' is the first Arabic-language song to top Israeli charts.

November 5, 2015 14:27
3 minute read.

After taking Israel by storm, A Wa sisters set their sights on Europe: We don't hide our identity

After taking Israel by storm, A Wa sisters set their sights on Europe: We don't hide our identity

Three Israeli sisters have recently returned to their Yemeni roots after releasing their Arabic song 'Habib Galbi', which topped the Israeli charts, making it the first Arabic-language song to reach the number one spot in the country's history.

Singing in the Yemeni dialect of their grandparents, the sisters from the A Wa band, (Arabic for Yes), have so far received over one million YouTube hits for their song.

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The band, which consists of three sisters, Tair, Liron, and Tagel Haim, come from a small, isolated village called Shaharut, which lies near the Egyptian border in southern Israel, where the sisters say that the desert- like surroundings of their village helped them imagine and create things out of nothing.

The girls, along with three other siblings, grew up in a musically talented family.

Habib Galbi, which consists of 12 tracks, is A Wa's first album which was released in September 2015.

The oldest of three sisters, Tair Haim, explained the story behind the song, saying that she and her sisters were familiar with it since their childhood.

"We really love this song because it's very groovy and very emotional. It talks about a lover that went away, just disappeared without me knowing why, and so I ask, we all ask the neighbors and the people around, 'where did he go? Who will hear my cry now? Who will comfort me?," Tair said.

Describing the "Habib Galbi" Yemenite folklore song as a sad love song, Taim spoke of how it was inspired by Jewish women's determination for music.

"It's a song that was created by women, by Jewish women in Yemen, they couldn't read or write, and they weren't allowed to participate in the synagogue ceremonies, so they just invented their own songs and basically the folklore," Tair, oldest of three sisters, said Tair.

According to Tair, the song was passed down from one generation to another until it reached Israel through Yemenite immigrants during the 1950's and 1960's who had then recorded the songs.

The sisters combine old and modern music, wearing traditional Yemeni clothes and jewellery.

"So we took the Yemenite folk songs, and we combined it with other musical styles that we also really love and we're very influenced by such as hip hop and reggae, and that's it pretty much, we really love combining these musical styles," Tair added.

Soon after it was released, Habib Galbi became popular across Israel, bringing A Wa attention from from fans in countries like Egypt, Morocco, and Yemen, the sisters say.

"We hoped that 'Habib Galbi' would be very successful, and that people will love it and will feel sort of a connection to it and it actually happened, and we're very, very happy about it and very overwhelmed by its success," said band member Liron.

Speaking about the song's popularity in Israel, the songs Israeli producer Tomer Youssif said there are a number of factors that contributed to the track's success.

"I think that the Habib Galbi (song) is attractive to people mainly for two reasons first of all the performance, the fact that those three sisters are performing it with amazing vocals and the story behind it makes it very interesting," said Youssif.

"The second thing is the whole essence of it, is the combination between traditional roots music combined with electronics and modern approach and modern vibe," he added.

On November 6, the sisters will launch an EP (extended play) in Europe with three songs and five more remixes of the 'Habib Galbi' song. The band recently travelled to Berlin, on a tour that included Switzerland, France and  Hungary. Thought the music istelf is Yemeni, the sisters do not hide their Israeli identity. "People know we are from Israel because we don't hide it," Haim told Army Radio. "Ant it's also written on our posters. It's not something we hide. It's Yemeni music, and we tell people how our grandparents emigrated to Israel from Yemen."

The band says they're already working on their second album in which they might work together with other artists and musicians to combine Arabic and English language in their upcoming work. staff contributed to this report

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