A-WA

A pop trio of half-Ye­menite Is­raelis takes the Ara­bic world by storm.

Forward Magazine - - News - By Madi­son Mar­golin

A trio of sis­ters wear­ing hot pink hi­jabs piles into a dusty white Jeep and ram­bles across the desert. At home in the vil­lage, a man with a closely-cropped white beard shaded by his mil­i­tary cap whips a lash upon the cracked, sandy ground, while an el­derly woman with sunken eyes and gold-painted fin­ger­nails puffs idly from a hookah as she sits in a rock­ing chair. She watches a crew of young men in blue track suits bounce around to what looks like a chore­ographed hip-hop rou­tine, but re­ally it’s a type of folk dance known as the “Ye­menite Step.” Bright and col­or­ful, these scenes were filmed to ac­com­pany the somber un­der­tones of the Ye­menite folk song, “Habib Galbi” (“Love of My Heart”), re­cently in­fused with elec­tropop beats by A-WA — an Is­raeli band that has been gain­ing pop­u­lar­ity from Tel Aviv to Tang­ier.

Tair, Liron and Tagel Haim, the three sis­ters who make up A-WA, told me dur­ing a Skype con­ver­sa­tion that grow­ing up, their lives re­sem­bled an Is­raeli “Lit­tle House on the Prairie.” The sis­ters, ages 26 through 32, are the eldest of six chil­dren, raised in Sha­harut, a tiny farm­ing vil­lage, in the Arava Val­ley of south­ern Is­rael. As chil­dren, they would per­form at school con­certs, run around bare­foot, and “sing to the wind,” as one of the sis­ters put it. Their mother, of Ukrainian and Moroccan her­itage, used to give them pots and pans as per­cus­sion in­stru­ments. “We blos­somed at home,” said Liron. Four years ago, on a trip back home from Tel Aviv and Ra­mat Gan, where the sis­ters now live, they be­gan col­lab­o­rat­ing again and of­fi­cially started their band A-WA. It’s pro­nounced “Ay-Wah” and means “yeah” in Ara­bic slang.

The Haim sis­ters sing in what they call “Ye­menite,” a nearly ex­tinct di­alect of Ara­bic spo­ken by the Jews of Ye­men. “Our dad, who’s the Ye­menite one, was not sure at the be­gin­ning

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