Rita Yahan-Farouz (English: Jahanforuz; Hebrew: ריטה יהאן-פרוז; ,Known Simply as Rita, b. March 24, 1962) is an Iranian-born Israeli pop singer and actress, notable for being one of Israel's most famous female singers. After becoming a professional singer and performer in the 1980s, she has appeared in numerous concerts, many being packed with fans, including members of government.
In 2011, she also became popular in Iran as an underground singing sensation after the release of various pop records which she sings in her native Persian language. Iran has tried to block Western-style pop music and filters the Internet. In 2012, her album "All My Joys," also sung in Persian, was popular in both Israel and Iran, going gold in Israel after three weeks. She has since been referred to as a cultural ambassador between Israeli and Iranian citizens, and states she hopes to "puncture the wall of tension" between their countries.
Rita Jehan-Forouz was born in Tehran, Iran in 1962. Her family emigrated to Israel in 1970 and lived in a suburb outside of Tel Aviv. She began singing professionally as a band member while in the Israeli Army during the 1980s, and rose to stardom quickly.
Musical and acting career:
Rita began her career in 1980 as part of a musical troupe in the Israeli Army. In 1982, she attended the "Beit Zvi" school of acting. Her first exposure to the general public in Israel was at the 1986 Pre-Eurovision Song Contest (known as the Kdam-Eurovision), which decided who would represent Israel in the upcoming Eurovision Song Contest. Rita did not win, but her song,"Shvil habricha", along with her provocative performance, garnered much interest. That same year, Rita starred in an adaptation of My Fair Lady and released her self-titled debut album, Rita, which went triple platinum, selling over 120,000 copies. In 1987, she released the English language album Breaking Those Walls under the name of Rita Farouz. That album contained a couple of English versions of her Hebrew songs from the first album as well as original material. Despite going gold (20 000 copies) in Israel, that album was not an international success.
In 1988, Rita released her second album, Yemei Ha'Tom (The Days of Innocence), which was produced by her then husband, Rami Kleinstein, and which included a song by noted Israeli playwright Hanoch Levin. In 1988 and 1989 she was chosen as Singer of the Year by Israel's national radio station.
In 1990, Rita finally got her chance to represent Israel in the Eurovision Song Contest with her song Shara Barkhovot (Singing in the Streets), but only achieved 18th place. After a brief hiatus, Rita returned in 1994 with her third album, Ahava Gedola (Big Love), which was also successful and led to a three-year tour around the country. Tahanot Bazman (Stations in Time) was released in 1996, consisting mainly of previously unreleased material.
In 1995, Rita voiced Pocahontas in the Hebrew dub of the animated film Pocahontas. She also sang singing parts in the film.
In 1998, Rita was invited to sing the Israeli national anthem Hatikvah (The Hope) as part of Israel's jubilee celebration Paamonei ha'yovel (The Jubilee Bells). There was a minor uproar concerning the amount of money she would be paid, which seemed exorbitant to some, but she was finally convinced to perform following a call from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. She reportedly donated her fee to charity.
In 1999, Rita released Tiftah Halon (Open a Window) which was also a great success, followed by Hamtzan (oxygen) in 2003 which was less successful. In 2004, Rita played the role of Roxie Hart in an adaptation of Chicago for the Beit Lessin Theater.
In 2006, Rita put on a new show called One (in English) which ran for a month at the Israel Trade Fairs & Convention Center. Directed by Hanoch Rozen, it was a lavish affair including lasers, flamethrowers, 3-D images, smoke machines and forty dancers, acrobats, and actors. Over 100,000 tickets were sold.
After five years during which she didn't release any new albums, Rita released her 7th album, "Remazim" (Clues).
In 2010 she performed in a special concert at the Presidential Residence in Jerusalem, in the presence of Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, and Israeli president Shimon Peres. She sang her musical version to Bialik's poem Hachanasini tachat Knafeh and an aria in Italian. She released her new Persian single, "Shane", on June 22, 2011.
Deciding to create a song in her childhood language of Persian, which she speaks fluently, she introduced the single, "Shaneh." The song is based on traditional Persian folk music, but modernized with a more pop and techno dance beat. Iranians of all ages have responded "overwhelmingly," including sending her positive emails and writing on her Facebook page.
Most Westernized popular music, including hers, is banned in Iran, which filters the Internet, however fans have nonetheless been downloading or buying bootleg copies of her latest albums. While Iranians living in other countries have "flooded" her recording studio with messages of admiration, especially after the release of her 2012 album, "All My Joys," also in Persian, likewise popular among Israelis which caused it to go "gold" in Israel within three weeks of its release.
She has been considered one of Israel's most famous female singers, effectively becoming a "cultural ambassador" between Israel and Iranian citizens. However, despite her popularity in Iran, their government declares her music merely a "plot" to win over the "hearts and minds" of Iranians, and part of Israel's "soft war" against Iran. Others in Iran have expressed "particular displeasure" at her for sending celebration messages to Iranians for Nowruz, the Iranian New Year.
Rita is part of an international female musical group called "Divinas" along with Irish singer Méav Ní Mhaolchatha and Yulia Townsend.
On March 5, 2013 she performed at the U.N. General Assembly and sang in Persian, English and Hebrew.
Rita was married to the popular singer, composer, and keyboardist Rami Kleinstein, with whom she has two daughters - Meshi and Noam. The couple performed together in 2001. On September 3, 2007, however, it was announced that Rita and Rami were separating.