Known for her stylistically expansive sound, Noa is one of Israel's most internationally renowned singer/songwriters. Emerging in the early '90s, Noa came to prominence alongside her longtime collaborator, guitarist Gil Dor. Together, they gained acclaim for albums like 1994's Pat Metheny-produced Noa, and 2000's Blue Touches Blue, mixing '60s folk influences with jazz, classical, pop, and Noa's own Yemenite traditions. A truly international performer, Noa has recorded songs in a variety of languages including Hebrew, Arabic, English, Spanish, and Italian, the latter of which was the focus of 2006's Noapolis: Noa Sings Napoli. She has retained a global profile, often combining styles from various cultures as on her 2015's Love Medicine, which featured a Hebrew version of Brazilian singer/songwriter Gilberto Gil's "Peace," and 2019's Letters to Bach, which found her applying English and Hebrew lyrics to instrumental compositions by Johann Sebastian Bach.
Born Achinoam Nini 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 issued 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 1997, Noa returned with Achinoam Nini, her first album of self-penned Hebrew-language songs, followed a year later by the live album Achinoam Nini & the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra.
For her next international release, her self-declared 2000 masterpiece Blue Touches Blue, 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, another international release, arrived in 2002 and 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. In 2015, she returned with the Brazilian-infused Love Medicine, followed in 2019 by the Quincy Jones-produced Letters to Bach. ~ Jason Birchmeier