1985 – An Album With Na'omi Shemer's Songs
Na'omi Shemer is one of the most famous songwriters in Israel. In 1985 Ofra decided to record an album all based on her songs. "We had a plan to release an album based on the songs of Na'omi Shemer, that will be called 'Renewal', said Ofra. "I turned to her asking her for one song, and she said: 'why don't we make a full album?'. Since then we meet once a week and work hard. She want to get the best of me, because all the songs are new". In the end, the album was never completed; "We didn't have enough chemistry", said Ofra. In the album that did come out 'Earth' there was only one song of Na'omi Shemer - 'Renewal', along with songs of other songwriters.
1987 – A Book and Tape-Cassette of Songs for Children
All through the 80's Ofra had huge success among children. She recorded an album of songs for children, appeared on the Children's Song Festival and the Festigal (another Israeli children's song festival), had a special show dedicated for children called 'Magic Queen' and other projects.
In 1982 Ofra recorded 'Songs for Children' - an album of 30 children songs, which she chose after consulting kindergarten teachers and educators. The album was a great success among parents and their children. In 1987 Ofra decided to release a book and a tape-cassette of Songs for Children with various additions, such as the song 'Forty', which she sang on the Festigal, and other songs she sang on the Children's Song Festivals.
To the tape cassette she meant to add a book with the lyrics of the songs, which would be illustrated by childrens paintings from all around the world. The paintings are of children painting Ofra, which she got them from all the letters they sent her.
The project was never finished because of Ofra's recordings abroad.
1988 – New Israeli Ablum
Just before her huge breakthrough to an International career, Ofra decided to record another album in Israel; which just like as in 'Broken Days', would be based on songs she wrote. The album was meant to be released on New Year's Eve. In the album there were meant to be songs such as 'Forty', which she sang on the Festigal, 'Golden Apple Path' which she wrote and composed, and 'Hashana Insha'alah' which she wrote especially for Yardena Arazi - who was Israel's representative to Eurovision that year. One of the songs in the album was meant to be 'Re'uven the Oil Vendor'; "Re'uven was a wonderful person", says Ofra. "He was selling oil in Hatikva neighborhood, where I grew up. He really helped my family in times of distress, and to me he was like a saving angel. I wrote the song a few years ago, but until now I never saw it fitting to my previous albums. This time I'll use it".
The album was never finished because of Ofra's recordings abroad and tight schedule.
|1988 – Temptation Eyes
In 1987, after the success of her album 'Yemenite Songs', the occasional invitations to perform worldwide and the continuous interest in Ofra's music, she and Bezalel decided it was time to record a first international album.
Ofra, who was signed by Teldec (a huge recording company which at that time worked with Michael Jackson and Madonna), started recording songs for the album, which was ment to be titled 'Temptation Eyes' with an American producer that was hired by the recording company. Ofra and Bezalel wrote 6 songs for the new album, and 3 others were written by other songwrites broughtin by Teldec, including Giorgio Moroder who had previously worked with Donna Summer, and wrote the title track 'Temptation Eyes'.
By the end of 1987 the album was all finished, and was meant to be released in January 1988. They even decided that the single 'Eshal' would be the first to be released from the album. However, Ofra and Bezalel were not happy with the end result.
"One of the producers on the company told me: 'nothing of Israel ever succeeded, and trust me, you have to go with us'", says Ofra. "So we settled down, but even after we made 'our' half of the album - we didn't like the result. The album was finished, the covers were already on print, and me and Bezalel went to Teldec in Germany and told them: 'we don't want that album'".
What made Teldec agree and not release the album was the beginning success of 'Im Nin'alu', which in October that year was sampled by Erik B. and Rakim. As the song started to gain momentum, Teldec realised the ethnic route that Ofra and Bezalel were heading was better for her then the pop route they were planning for her.
After 'Temptation Eyes' project was put on hiatus, Izhar Ashdot was called to remix 'Im Nin'alu' and simultaneously - to work on Ofra's new international album.
Lack of time and the huge demand for Ofra's new material made Ofra, Bezalel and Izhar use some of the songs that were originally recorded for 'Temptation Eyes' including all the songs Bezalel and Ofra wrote for 'Temptation Eyes' which found themselves, sometimes with different production and even different lyrics, on the new album 'Shaday'.
The order of the songs on 'Temptation Eyes' was:
- Eshal (with different production and some different lyrics than on 'Shaday')
- Da'ale Da'ale (with different production and some different lyrics than on 'Shaday')
- Ready for You
- Take Me to Paradise
- My Aching Heart
- Temptation Eyes
- So Satisfied
- Face to Face
- Shaday (with different production then on 'Shaday')
1988 - New Book
In 1986 the book 'Ofra Haza' was published in Israel, which told the life story of Ofra; it included many colorful pictures of Ofra and even fan letters. Due to the success of the book, Ofra started working on a new book, that was intended to be published in 1988. Ofra even started to be photographed for the book in her garden and other places, but her international career didn't leave her time for this project. The same year a book of lyrics to her songs was released.
1995 – A Television Series of Bible Stories in Modern Versions
In 1995, after 8 years of recording and performing outside of Israel, Ofra got a suggestion to act in a new television series. She was supposed to act on the first chapter, Tefilat Haderech (Jewish prayer upon embarking on a journey) of 3 chapters of Bible stories in modern versions. Shay Adiram wrote the script and directed the series, he chose Ofra to play Hagar.
In the series, Hagar - a young Bedouin girl, falls in love with Avi - a young Israeli, and runs to Jordan in fear of her family after becoming pregnant by him. Avi gets married and raises a family but can't stop thinking of the day he'll meet Hagar and the son she gave birth to. Hagar is presented as insane, so that her family will not honor kill her. When peace between Israel and Jordan comes, she returns to her tribe in the Negev. Avi tries to unite his sons - Ben, son of Sarit, and Salem, son of Hagar.
"I wrote the script before the peace with Jordan", says Adiram. "It is almost a prophetic story. The wish of Avi to make his sons unite is a symbol of peace between the sons of Abraham". "This act really captured me", says Ofra. "I started rehearsing with Shraga Harpaz, and it really charmed me. The idea of a Biblical story in modern dressing is really fascinating. Also the character of Hagar, as an independent woman, rebeling, strong, sticks to her opinion and builds her own life despite all the coltural limitations - is something I really liked. She has innocence, quiet and power, things that maybe I also have".
The project was never finished.
1995 – Queen in Exile
In 1995, 3 years after the wonderful critical acclaim Kirya recieved, Ofra decided to record a new international album - 'Queen in Exile'. "We found the contradiction of the phrase Queen in Exile magical. On the one hand, it has power and gorgeousness, and on the other hand - poverty, sadness and alienation", says Ofra.
But Ofra was not happy with the end result. "I felt there was no need to hurry, that it is better to wait and do something I am 100% happy about. There is no need to release an album and then regret it".
"We spent a fortune on this album, and in the end it was not released", says Bezalel. "I wanted Izhar Ashdot as a producer, but the record company refused. They didn't care about his part in the success of Im Nin'alu, Ofra's greatest international hit. they said they don't know who we had. They wanted us to work with Chris Franz and Tina Weymouth of Talking Heads, which worked then under the name Tom Tom Club. Eventually, Izhar produces 5 songs, and the rest were recorded in the US with Chris and Tina. We didn't like their work. It was American Pop that didn't suit Ofra, and we already had a bad experience with Desert Wind. I told the company I decided not to go through with the album, and then they decided to release the album with the sketch recordings of Ofra and the playbacks, which were already finished. We turned to our lawyers and stopped this, and this is how our contract with Warner ended".
Only one single was released from the album - 'Mata Hari' - and a video clip of the song. Ofra started working on her next album.
1995 – An American Movie Based on Ofra's Life Story
In 1995 Ofra and Bezalel got a suggestion to make a movie based on Ofra's life story. The movie is about a young singer from Israel, that suddenly breaks through in the US, and is amazed by the intensity and magnitude of it. Ofra was supposed to act herself, and of course, sing in the soundtrack.
The project did not fully develop, and never got to the shooting level.
2000 – Gladiator Soundtrack
In 1999 Ofra got an invitation from the producers of the American movie Gladiator, starring Russell Crowe, to sing on the soundtrack.
The story of the movie takes place in Rome in the 2nd century. Commodus, son of caesar Marcus Aurelius, murders him and becomes the caesar. General Maximus Maridioas is dismissed, his family is murdered, and he is forced to work as a slave and a gladiator to revenge the murder of his family and kill the caesar.
The turn to Ofra was made by Hans Zimmer, who composed Deliver Us on The Prince of Egypt. Zimmer suggested Ofra for the soundtrack, and she was supposed to sing the theme song.
The sudden death of Ofra in February 2000 interrupted the project. The movie was released on May 2000.
The movie won 5 Oscar awards and 2 Golden Globe awards, including an award for the best soundtrack.
2000 – New International Album
In the fall of 1999 Ofra started recording a new international album, which she wrote and composed herself. She didn't record the album in a regular studio, but in the home studio of Ran Aviv, a 22 year old guy from Petach-Tikva, near Tel-Aviv. Ran was then released from the military band, where he met Inbar Algov, Ofra's niece, who contacted them. "Ofra told me she wanted to record her own album, that she has lyrics and ideas, and that she was looking for someone to consolidate them with her", says Ran about their first meeting. "It was clear to me she was looking to work in a private place, almost in secret. On one of the weekends of August 1999 I came to her house in Herzlia. We spoke, and I suggested she'll work at my home studio, especially because I didn't want to go each time to Herzlia with all the equipment. Ofra agreed, and two days later she came to my home studio in Petach-Tikva".
In the small room of Ran, on the fourth floor of the building, she wrote and composed new songs. "She was at her peak", says Ran about his working days with Ofra. "Breaking songs into pieces, looking for new ways. Everything that was expected - was out. For me it was far from the middle-of-the-road singer she used to be. She was happy, very charismatic, full of life. She always knew what she wanted".
The lyrics of the new album are mostly taken from the world of vows, prayers and testaments. Hamutal Ben Ze'ev helped with the writing of the songs. "She would call her and ask for her help with filling the words in a sentence, help with rhyming. Most of the help was done over the phone", says Ran. Ofra came to the studio with abstract ideas for music and lyrics, and together they made them into songs that were dedicated to Ofra's friends, relatives and her husband Doron. "She was very professional", says Ran. "She didn't need any practice or rehearsals, she just went into the studio and started singing". Ofra was looking for a new musical direction, and decided to shake off the pop genre, and go with the ethnic root genre.
On December 1999, After three and a half months of recording, Ofra flew to London together with her husband Doron, and played the new songs to producers Roger Armstrong and Ben Mandelson. The both of them sat and listened to Ofra's music on the headphones. Ofra was anxious. Their response was warm and encouraging. They were both convinced Ofra found her own special approach.
Ofra's new songs made them so excited, that a few recording companies, among them Universal and EMA, courted her in order to sign her for her next album. "I had a feeling she was auditioning me, instead of me auditioning her", says Gerald Seligman, the head of world music division on EMA. His company already began negotiating with Ofra over a new tour and other albums with symphonic ensembles. "She was thrilled", says Seligman, who separated from her with a warm kiss on their last meeting in London. Their next meeting was set in London a few weeks later, at the beginning of 2000.
On January 2000 Ofra got sick, and postponed the next meetings and recording in England. On February she was hospitalized and died a few days later. The new album never finished.