Musical detour: It all started when ticket sales for the Björk concert didn't go according to plan. The Icelandic star was quick to cancel her performance in Israel, leaving Israeli-French singer Yael Naim, Israel’s most interesting export to Europe and Björk’s opening act, hanging after a successful concert tour in the United States.
Naim realized she had only herself to count on, and booked at least three performance of her own.
Two of the performances, in the Tel Aviv and Herzliya Zappa clubs, have been sold out by now. The third one will be held at the Wohl Amphitheatre on August 2, and tickets are still available.
This is Naim’s first performance in Israel, if we overlook her career at the Air Force Military Band.
“I really wanted to perform in Israel,” said Naim. “When I realized Björk had a problem selling tickets we devised another plan, and we’re here after all, because it was important to me. I understand the tickets are selling well and I am very happy audiences are coming to see us, which is something we couldn’t foresee.
"Coming to Israel after a successful album in France and a year-long concert tour in different countries is a very exciting thing for me. Besides, Israel is still the only place where people understand what I am singing about, and that in itself is important.”
Her first album failed, but this past year has turned Naim’s career into a Cinderella story. Her second album, mostly sung in Hebrew, won the Album of the Year Award in the World Music category at the Victoires de la Musique annual French award ceremony that recognizes the best singers of the year. Her mega-hit “New Soul” has reached the top of the playlists in France and the US, bringing Israel great national pride.
“When I was 21, I negotiated with local (French) record labels and was invited to sing in a charity event in France. I met producers who invited me to record an album in Paris. A few months’ stay turned into nine years. One project led to another, and after four years I felt pretty detached from Israel.
"I feel like writing in Hebrew has reconnected me to Israel. I’m in France at the moment, creating, enjoying myself and that’s how it’s going to me. We are the only artists from France who have reached the sixth place in the Billboard Charts, which is a source of pride in a way for the French as well.”
Did you know the album was going to succeed?
“The last album was recorded after I completely stopped worrying about what people will say about my music. It’s when I stopped worrying that things started working out. In the first album I wanted to take a huge leap and was constantly worried about my surroundings. It wasn’t it.
"When you work like that, the music isn’t sincere. I was very confused. This time I thought about what I really wanted, met David Donatien, a percussionist who’s been workings closely with me, and together it worked.”
Do you listen to Israeli music?
“I listen to Israeli music a lot on the net; I heard Keren Peles and liked it. I am in close contact with Din Din Aviv, a good friend of mine, who may be a guest performer at my concert. In general, I try to stay in touch with everything that goes on in Israel. It’s a source of pride for me that an album almost entirely written in Hebrew has made it in France and in the United States.”
You’ve been compared to Mike Brant, who was a big star in France.
“He was amazing, but had a bad ending. So I should succeed a little, but not too much, to avoid having problems later (she laughs). Actually, I’m certain there won’t be any problems.”