Noa, also known by her given name, Achinoam Nini, was arguably Israel's most internationally renowned singer around the turn of the century. Born in Tel-Aviv in 1969 to a family of Yemeni heritage, she lived in New York from age two until age 17, at which point she returned to Israel. After serving her two years of mandatory military service, she studied music at the Rimon School, where she befriended Gil Dor, a multi-instrumentalist (guitar, piano, percussion, etc.) who would become her longtime musical collaborator.
Influenced by singer/songwriters such as Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, and Leonard Cohen, Noa teamed with Dor for her debut album, Achinoam Nini/Gil Dor Live (1991), as well as its follow-up, Achinoam Nini/Gil Dor (1993). Her third album, Noa (1994), was her first to be released internationally. Released by Geffen Records, the album was produced in New York by jazz guitarist Pat Metheny, with whom Dor was acquainted; most of the songs are sung in English and feature Steve Rodby (acoustic bass) and Lyle Mays (piano) of the Pat Metheny Group. Her fourth album, Calling (1996), produced by Rupert Hine, was also sung primarily in English and released internationally by Geffen Records. Unlike her previous recordings, it's a passionately political album inspired by the despair she felt in the wake of Yitzhak Rabin's assassination on November 4, 1995, during a massive rally for peace in Tel-Aviv at which she and Dor had performed.
In the wake of Calling's mixed reception, Noa released Achinoam Nini (1997), her first album of self-penned Hebrew-language songs, and then the live album Achinoam Nini & the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra (1998). For her next international release, her self-declared masterpiece Blue Touches Blue (2000), she collaborated with producer Mike Hedges, who had an impressive track record of working with iconic U.K. bands such as U2, Manic Street Preachers, the Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and Lush. Now (2002), another international release, was a more intimate affair, written while Noa was pregnant with her first child; it was produced by Dor and Yoad Nevo. A pair of albums with the Solis String Quartet from Naples, Italy, followed -- Noa Live (2005) and Napoli-Tel Aviv (2006) -- before she teamed with Dor once again, this time for Genes & Jeans (2008), an album inspired by the Yemeni songs of her youth. In 2009 the duo of Noa and Arab-Israeli singer Mira Awad released the single "There Must Be Another Way," which was Israel's entry into that year's Eurovision Song Contest -- the song finished in 16th place. The two formed a strong friendship and, later that year, they collaborated on a full-length album, also titled There Must Be Another Way. Noa continued to work prolifically, releasing not just one, but two albums in 2011. Noapolis: Noa Sings Napoli saw her cement her longstanding connection to Italy by recording a selection of Neapolitan songs, while Eretz Shir: The Israeli Songbook was a collection of classic Hebrew songs recorded with the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra. ~ Jason Birchmeier