Noa, Achinoam Nini, dreams about a world of peace, she was born in Tel Aviv, but grew up in America, she uses music as a way of shortening distances between people and last summer she came to Città di Castello where we met her (she was a guest at the Festival delle Nazioni in a sold out concert). Noa is a free woman who’s keen on talking about herself and her ideas.
di Cristina Crisci
During the last months you said you don’t share at all Netanyahu’s actions: “ Israeli premier is not working for World Peace. We have to change things”. In this period is the situation getting better or worse?
«Things change every day now, it is impossible t say what will be. Yesterday i participated in a demonstration for peace in Tel Aviv, 10,000 people were there! The idea was to push our government into direct talks with the palestinians. This is a time of great tragedy, but it can also be a moment of opportunity…».
It is difficult to stop all the wars all around the world. What could the more powerful countries in the world do to support a peace project?
«Support the moderates in every society. Encourage dialogue, in every possible way. Fund education! Only education, (not religous education), humanistic education of universal values, literacy and the study of literature, history, music, science, etc. can stop the wave of extremism. We must work for a more balanced sharing of wealth, this is a big task but horrible poverty and desperation are food for extremism».
Your songs often deal with Middle Eastern diaspora, war, terrorism, and more generally human conflicts. But there are also hopeful messages. Do you think music could be a good vehicle to educate people to peace?
«My songs are mostly abut the human spirit, its complexity and beauty. My political staements are made on different platforms. Music is an instrument of communication and of emotional solidarity. It brings us all together on a higher level. Like birds, we see only the beauty of the tapestry beneath us, we do not see borders or skin color. We are taken with the wind, we are free».
You were born in Tel Aviv from a Jewish Yemeni family, then at the age of two you moved to New York, where you lived until you were 17 years old, what do you remember about your life in America?
«I was lucky to be raised in the US, to learn english, to be exposed to so much culture in NY city, the most amazing city i know. I also studied in religious jewish school, which was difficult but taught me a lot. I was a very introverted child, i read endless books, but my mind and soul were flourishing».
When you were 18, after your difficult identity crisis you decided to go back to your land, where you enorolled in the army for two years. How was Israel at that time?
«From the persepctive of a teenager, Israel was amazing. Sun and sea, freedom, people very warm and direct, light years away from NY. I totally left religion, i lived a very stimulating life, i was independednt (my family was all in NY). My mandatory military service was spent in an entertainment unit, i sang for two years. It was not easy but its part of beaing Israeli. Politics were very far from me then, i had only music in my head, and my love for Asher, my boyfriend (who becasme my husband). We had an old BMW motorcycle that we travelled with all over the country. It was a wonderful time».
Italy gave you important rewards; in 1997 you also worked together with Roberto Benigni who chose you to sing Beautiful That Way, the main soundtrack ‘s theme of “La vita è bella”: what experience did you gain from this useful artistic collaboration?
«I feel very honored to have had the chance to work with the great Benigni and Piovani. Writing the lyrics to that song and performing it really changed my life. The movie and the song are the epitome of my own philosophy: that the beauty and the strength of the human spirit can and will prevail!».
In 2002 the album “Now”, comes out. Here we can find a sophisticated reinterpretation of Alan Parsons Project’s “Eye in the Sky”, released 20 years before. Which kind of music do you like to listen to?
«I am most enamored of the music of th 60s, Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen. I also love jazz and classical music».
Many influencial artists have collaborted to your last album “Love Medicine” wich is rich in contaminations… which are your basic ingredients for Love Medicine?
«Love Medicine includes songs inspired by interesting people and places, like “Nothing but a Song” and “Happy Song”, inspired by Milton Nascimento and Joao Bosco, our Hebrew version of a Gilberto Gil song called “Shalom – A paz” (all three our tribute to Brazil and its great artists) and a gorgeous new tune by Pat Metheny that I wrote lyrics to (a poetic sketch of the man and his genius!), featuring his gorgeous playing. Thank you Pat, our one and only!
Gil and I are also honored to have a duet with the wonderful Spanish singer/songwriter/poet/philosopher/painter Joaquin Sabina, whom Gil and I admire greatly: the song “You” was written after an inspiring meeting with him at his amazing home in Madrid, where he has 30,000 books!! He translated my lyrics into Spanish, recreating the song in his own inimitable style. Gracias Joaquin!
The album also includes two additional covers: one is the great classic Bangles song “eternal flame”, co-written by (and dedicated to!) our friend Billy Steinberg. The other is a less known but absolutely lovely song by Bobby McFerrin, whom we had the honor of sharing the stage with last year.
In addition, you will find five songs that we wrote originally for a musical about the life of Pope John Paul II. The musical never made it, but the songs are some of the best Gil and I have ever written. Who could have guessed that a Jewish, Yemenite, Israeli girl from the Bronx would be called upon to write music depicting the life story of a young Polish priest who, almost despite himself, would become the most powerful leader of the Catholic World? I found many inspiring episodes in the life story of Karol Wojtyla: the loss of his mother at a young age (“don’t be afraid of anything”), an adolescent love with a Jewish young woman (“look at the moon”), many doubts about his future (“love as deep as your eyes”), and a traumatic experience in WW II where he lost close friends and helped save the lives of others… (“Little star”)».
You have been married for years to the pediatrician Asher Barak who you used to nickname “The pink stethoscope Angel” and you had three children with him. Describe one of your typical family days?
«We start very early, our kids leave the house at around 7:30, to school and kindergarten (ages 13, 10 and 4). I work at home in the studio. In the afternoon, the kids have different activities, homework, music, dance classes, tennis, beach (we love the sea), friends, outdoors in the yard on the trampoline, etc.. Asher comes home at around 7:30, we try to have dinner together at 8:00 (when i am not performing), then lots of books, and maybe a movie together (we love Charlie Chaplin!) and bed… except me, i always go to slee very late! Of course, all of this is accopanied by lots of beautiful chaos :)».
You are the guest star of this summer’s Festival delle Nazioni, which this year celebrates Armenia, a land to which you are deeply rooted …
«I have many Armenian friends, including Charles Aznavour, with which i sang on stage this year. I admire Armenian culture».
Assisi, Perugia, Città di Castello, Umbria often invites you, what do you think about people and places in this part of Italy?
«I love all Italian people wherever they are. For me, there is no country that can compare to Italy!!».