You Say It's Your Birthday: Ofra Haza

Today is the 40th birthday of Israeli pop singer Ofra Haza. Wildly

successful in her homeland, Haza is best known to those in the west

as the enchanting vocalist sampled on both M/A/R/R/S' "Pump Up

The Volume" and the "Seven Minutes of Madness Re-Mix" of Eric B.

and Rakim's "Paid In Full." She was born the daughter of Yemenite

Jewish parents in a Tel Aviv ghetto designated for immigrant Jews

from Arab countries. She got her first taste of stage life when she

joined a theater troupe at age 12 and started her recording career

after finishing her two years of obligatory military service in 1979.

Her records quickly caught the ear of the buying public in both Israel

and its Arab neighbors, sending her to the top of the singles chart

again and again. Haza first made a name for herself on the

international world beat scene by winning second prize in the 1983

Eurovision Song Contest.

In 1985, she recorded Yemenite Songs, a collection of ancient

melodies that her mother had passed down from their ancestors,

with lyrics supplied by the poetry of sixteenth-century rabbi

Shalom Shabazi. New York re-mix artist Coldcut used the vocals she

supplied on Yemenite Songs' "Im Nin'alu" to put a mystical spin

on the "Seven Minutes Of Madness Re-Mix" of Eric B. and Rakim's rap

classic "Paid In Full." In addition to this, a sped-up version of

Haza's vocals were sampled on M/A/R/R/S' huge dance hit "Pump Up

The Volume." All this exposure led to a buzz about the birthday girl

and a series of releases designed for the western market. 1988's

Shaday was her first album released in the U.S. and featured a

mix of dance tracks with a middle eastern influence and straight

ahead pop ballads. 1989's Desert Wind came and went with

little mention and 1992 saw the release of her last album, the Don

Was produced Kirya. Later that year, she did a guest vocalist

slot on Sisters of Mercy's "Temple Of Love." Haza has seemingly

since retired from the music business, having recently married and

devoted herself to family life.

Other birthdays: Dave Guard (Kingston Trio), 63; Ray Collins

(Mothers of Invention), 60; Hank Medress (Tokens), 59; Fred Lipsius

(Blood Sweat & Tears), 53 and Joe Correro, Jr. (Paul Revere & The

Raiders), 50.