Miri Mesika: Mother of Israeli pop


Stepping into Miri Mesika’s Tel Aviv apartment, it’s hard to tell she’s one of Israel’s most beloved singers. The design isn’t particularly modern or glamorous, especially by Hollywood standards, and it’s got the usual household clutter: appliances, books, furniture. Only a home studio decorated with album plaques in one corner gives away Mesika’s stature.

Her three albums are among the highest selling for any female artist in Israel. She has received Singer of the Year awards numerous times from Israel’s equivalent of the Grammys and from local radio stations. In Tel Aviv, a pop star could very well be the girl next door.

As she walks out of the kitchen where she’s just put food in the oven, Mesika apologizes for wearing no makeup. She says she’s used to having makeup artists dress her face — not that she needs much. She’s a natural Israeli beauty, with long, black, curly ringlets and a signature mole on her left cheek. Her complexion is darker than it looks in pictures, a testament to her half-Tunisian, half-Iraqi roots.

In the living room, Tamar, her 2-month-old daughter, is asleep in a carriage. Mesika’s record producer and husband of five years, Ori Zakh, is also at home. Tamar is the reason we’re conducting the interview in the family’s living room.

Next month, Mesika will leave her daughter and husband behind for four days as she makes her official American debut, at two events in Los Angeles. The first will be a landmark event: On Friday, Oct. 8, she will perform as the Consulate General of Israel and the Office of the Mayor of Los Angeles host a reception welcoming the Egyptian Consul to Los Angeles. It will be a historic moment, as Consul General of Israel Jacob Dayan and L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa officially welcome Consul General of Egypt Ambassador Dr. Hesham Elnakib, the first time in 20 years that the Israeli and Egyptian governments have “come together for a cultural showcase of unity and solidarity in peace,” according to a statement released by Israel’s Consulate General in Los Angeles.

She will also be a headliner of the Jerusalem Soul concert, Oct. 9 at the Ford Amphitheatre in Hollywood. She’ll perform alongside the L.A.-based Israeli American Keshet Chaim Dance Ensemble, the Israeli pop star and composer Rami Kleinstein and the multiethnic, interfaith Agape International Choir in a concert designed to build cultural and communal bridges through love of Jerusalem. Mesika will perform several songs, including her rendition of “Jerusalem of Gold.”

“I didn’t know it would be so hard to leave her,” Mesika said, looking toward the carriage. As Tamar wakes up, Mesika continues the interview in between cooing and breastfeeding. Being a new mother may have put a damper on some travel plans, but she says any fears of motherhood conflicting with her career have been unfounded.

“Something happens. Something opens. You get deeper and stronger. You get another perspective on life. Since she was born, only good things have happened to me. I had this fear, but I was sure if it’s my destiny to sing, I will sing.” She holds up Tamar and directs the next question to her: “Nachon?” (Right?).

Story continues after the break.

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