The Israeli-Yemeni sister trio known as A-WA – comprised of sisters Liron, Tagel and Tair Haim — make Yemenite folk music with electronic beats and hip-hop influence. NPR recently described the group as “Imagine the band Haim meeting the late Ofra Haza, with some EDM thrown in for good measure.” Its first album, “Habib Galbi,” earned them a #1 hit in Israel, the first-ever for a song in Arabic.
I had the pleasure of doing Q&A with three members of the band in the midst of their most recent European tour. There are currently plans for A-WA to make a U.S. return in the near future.
Jewish Journal: Who or what made you want to pursue a career as a professional musician? A particular album or concert experience?
A-WA: We inherited our love for music from our parents, who used to play a lot of great music around the house, from Yemenite chants to ’60s and ’70s progressive rock, from Greek music to classical music, from Motown to Egyptian music. Our dad was always singing to us while playing his guitar, bouzouki or darbuka, and his special taste in music had exposed us to great vocalist and performers from diverse genres. Growing in such a musical house, we’ve been singing and dancing around the house and dreaming of eventually becoming international artists.
JJ: Your band is very hard to pin down when it comes down to genres. Is there a way you like hearing A-WA described?
A: Recently we’ve been describing our music as “Yemenite hip-hop.” A-WA distinctly had a global hit in Arabic, which I believe was the first #1 Arabic-language hit in Israel. Yet the band also sings in English.
JJ: Are the songs always written in a particular language?
A: We mostly write our lyrics in Hebrew and then we translate it into the Yemeni dialect. We feel like we’ve approved our Arabic while making ״Bayti Fi Rasi”, and we’re already thinking of combining some English and Hebrew lyrics in the near future.
JJ: Is there a career accomplishment you are most proud of?
A: We’ve had many exciting milestones and great accomplishments throughout our musical journey, but if we need to pick one, in particular, that would be the making of our new album “Bayti Fi Rasi.” This album is very close to our hearts and is a great accomplishment to us, from writing a full original Yemenite concept album to creating the music videos and leading the art-direction. Putting out the incredible life story of our great grandmother, letting our voices blend with hers, drawing a line between the generations, this has been such an amazing and emotional process to us.
JJ: What does the rest of 2019 look like for A-WA?
A: We’re going to be touring all year throughout Europe, Israel and the U.S. with the new album and the new show. We can׳t wait to meet up with both our previous and new fans around the globe and to share this musical experience of “Bayti Fi Rasi.”
JJ: When not busy with A-WA, how do you like to spend your free time? A lot of artists will tell me “I like to spend time with my family when I’m not busy with music,” but your band is unique in your bandmates also being your family…
A: In our free time we love spending time with our spouses, family and good friends. We love reading books, going to museums, going to the cinema and art shows, spending time in nature and making hand-crafts like drawing and sewing. For relaxation, we love meditating and Pilates.
JJ: Finally, any last words for the kids?
A: Enjoy being kids! Let your creativity grow and develop and give yourself the freedom to express your artistic parts. We grew up in a small village in the desert and there’s nothing like being connected to nature and animals. Remember to enjoy simplicity in times when the world is developing really fast.
More on A-WA can be found online.