Iranian-born Israeli diva Rita will perform before international dignitaries at the UN General Assembly Hall next month for a first-of-its-kind event organized by the Israeli Mission to the UN.
The performance, titled “Tunes for Peace,” will take place on March 5, and Rita and her nine-piece band will perform her hits in Hebrew and English, as well as songs in Persian from her latest album, My Joys. The concert is set to be attended by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, President of the UN General Assembly Vuk Jeremic, ambassadors, diplomats, and leaders of the Jewish and Iranian communities.
“In the General Assembly, the voices that we hear are usually those of condemnation and criticism towards Israel. Rita’s concert will allow the world to hear different voices – those of peace, hope, and multiculturalism,” said Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor Monday. “These are the true voices of Israel. Rita’s beautiful melodies will echo from the chambers of the UN General Assembly to the hearts and minds of Iranians and Israelis, fostering better understanding between our two peoples.”
“Our country has a strained relationship with the Iranian leadership. I stress the leadership – not the people. I was amazed at how enthusiastically the new album was embraced by the people of Iran. Its success drew the attention of the media, which began referring to the album as a symbol of hope and connection,” said the singer.
Rita Jahan-Foruz was born in Tehran, Iran, 50 years ago. In 1970, at the age of eight, she migrated with her family to Israel, where she grew up listening to her mother sing melodies in her native Farsi.
Fifteen years later, Rita erupted onto the Israeli music scene as a one-named wonder — Israel’s Madonna, or Cher, if you will — and has gone on to become one of the country’s top recording artists and most recognized celebrities.
She’s such an Israeli icon that she was chosen to sing the national anthem in 1998 at the country’s main jubilee celebration, answering a personal plea from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Ten years later, as the country marked its 60th anniversary, she was chosen as Israel’s top female singer ever.
Still, she stayed close to her Iranian roots. Some 250,000 Israelis are of Iranian descent. Rita is perhaps the most famous of all.
In Iran, fans are exposed to her music mostly through foreign-based Farsi-language satellite TV. During a recent tour of eight music dealers in Tehran, an AP correspondent found two selling a Rita single, “Gole Sangam,” a remake of a famous Iranian song about yearning for a missing loved one.
Meir Javedanfar, an Iranian-born analyst who teaches at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya in Israel, said Rita’s popularity is hard to gauge, but it’s possible that her Israeli identity has helped lure listeners fed up with the hard-line Iranian government. “Whatever popularity she might have could be related to artistic capabilities. It could also be related to the backlash we see in Iran against the government,” he said.
AP contributed to this report