Israelis You Should Know: Shoshana Damari
The Fellowship | March 31, 2017
Lived: March 31, 1923 – February 14, 2006
Known for: A Yemeni-born Israeli singer, she became known as the “Queen of Hebrew Music.”
Why you should know her: Shoshana Damari was born to a Jewish family in Dhamar, Yemen. Because of growing anti-Semitic persecution, her family made aliyah (immigrated to the Holy Land) in 1924, settling in Rishon Lezion.
From a young age, Shoshana showed musical talent, playing drums and singing along with her mother, who performed at celebrations and gatherings of the Yemenite Jewish community in then-British-mandate Palestine. At 14, Shoshana’s first songs were played on the radio. She began studying acting and singing at the Shulamit Studio in Tel Aviv, where she met Shlomo Bosmi, who would become her manager and husband.
In 1945, Shoshana joined Li-La-Lo, an Israeli revue theater. She became known for her husky voice and Yemenite accent. Her first record was released in 1948, along with her best-known song, “Kalaniyot,” which you can listen to above.
Shoshana was especially popular with IDF soldiers, for whom she frequently performed. After Israel won its independence, she also embarked on an international career, singing in the United States, France, England, South Africa, Brazil, Cuba, Mexico, Argentina, Venezuela, Colombia, Canada, Scandinavia, and Japan. She was beloved by audiences both in Israel and abroad, earning the title of “First Lady of Israeli Song.”
Shoshana Damari received the Israel Prize in 1988 for Hebrew song.
She passed away at the age of 82 after a bout of pneumonia. Surrounded by family and friends, the “Queen of Hebrew Music” left this world as her loved ones sang her most famous son, “Kalaniyot.” May her memory be a blessing.