In an exclusive interview esctoday had the special privilege of speaking to Noa and Mira, the Israeli representatives in the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest. In this interview we hear of the public reaction in Israel to their participation in the contest, their wish to promote peace and dialogue in their region as well as plans for a new album of duets.
esctoday.com: Noa and Mira, firstly thank you for speaking with esctoday.com. How do you both feel about representing Israel in this year's contest?
Noa: I am very nervous and excited. Fortunately I have a great artist like Mira at my side.
Mira: Some months ago, I got a call from my dear friend Achinoam (you know her as Noa), to ask me if I am interested to go to the Eurovision with her. It sounded to me like a good continuation of the long collaboration. I am going to be singing side by side with one of my dearest friends, a song about our yearning for peace and dialogue. Therefore, I am thrilled and proud.
esctoday.com: How would you best describe your song There must be another way?
Noa: The title is there must be another way. Not better necessarily, but different, being as what we’ve been doing up to now is obviously not working. I love the song. It is deep and beautiful in my opinion, with two key lines when I cry, I cry for both of us and there must be another way. Empathy for each-other’s pain, and a new road to follow.
Mira: Our song is called there must be another way, and it's about the urgent need to find a different path for our nations, a path towards life and prosperity. There is a line in the song that says When I cry, I cry for both of us, my pain has no name, having empathy towards each other, and recognising each others' pain and fears is the first step we have to take towards reconciliation in our region.
esctoday.com: What has been the public reaction in Israel to your participation in the contest and the message of your song?
Noa: Initially there were some who objected, very vociferously. These came from the right and left of the political map. Though some of their objection was understandable given the inopportune timing of the announcement that we had been chosen for the ESC (right in the middle of the Gaza war), we stood our ground firmly, believing that even in the most difficult times we must never stop believing there is another way.
Mira: The reactions were varied. There was the predicted opposition in the extreme right wing in Israel, people who don't agree to have an Arab and an Arab-loving-Jew (as they called Noa) as their representatives. But also there was opposition from the Left wing, who was enraged with the Gaza war, and called for me to step down from representing the country that has declared that war on my fellow Palestinians. But on the other hand, there is also huge support from all sides to our message, which we deliver as two individuals who still believe in the necessity for dialogue and reconciliation.
esctoday.com with a question for Noa – There were rumours that IBA had invited you on several occasions in the past to represent Israel in the Eurovision Song Contest. If this is the case, why did you decide to accept the offer in 2009 as opposed to any other year?
Noa: Yes, it’s true. The reason I accepted this time can be summarized in three points.
1. When I was a young and unknown singer, the Eurovision could have defined me musically. I was eager to define myself first, on my own terms, which I have.
2. The music industry has gone totally down the tubes. So today, an opportunity to perform for hundreds of millions of people is not something to turn down.
3. Mira! I love Mira and her music, I have known her for years. When I was approached this year, I called and asked her to join me. I knew that if she agreed, our performance in Eurovision would not only be musical but also meaningful in the political sense. I have dedicated my career, alongside songwriting and performing, to promoting peace and dialogue in our region and everywhere. Mira has done the same. The Eurovision stage is an excellent opportunity for us both to convey this message to scores of people internationally.
esctoday.com: Over the last couple of year's we have seen internationally acclaimed artists competing or about to compete in the Eurovision Song Contest. These artists include Patricia Kaas and Sebastien Tellier entering for France and Andrew Lloyd Webber for the United Kingdom. Did this help in your decision to represent Israel in the contest?
Noa: I was actually unaware of this when I decided to accept the offer. But I was happy to find out later on.
esctoday.com: The two of you have had the most wonderful music and entertainment careers. It may be a difficult question to answer, however what would do you consider the main highlight of your musical careers?
Noa: Longevity!! I am proud to say that I have survived 18 years of international career, with my musical partner Gil Dor, without ever compromising my ideals, with endless beautiful experiences and so many friends made along the way, and still going strong. I am so grateful to all the fans who have stuck with me on this long and unusual road.
Mira: Well, although I've been performing with my own music for a long time, it took me long years to be able to record my debut CD and finally it is about to be released, therefore I believe my musical highlights are still ahead of me.
esctoday.com: I understand that your musical collaboration stared over 8 years ago. How did the two of you get together?
Noa: My partner Gil Dor saw Mira on an Israeli talk show 8 years ago. He immediately called and said he had discovered something great. We met, had an instant chemistry, and subsequently recorded a cover of “We can work it out” for my 2001 release Now. Since we have performed and recorded on numerous occasions. Mira is extraordinary. In correlation with the ESC, We are releasing an album of duets that will be called, like our song, There must be another way.
Mira: I met Achinoam Nini (Noa) 8 years ago, when she asked me to record a duet with her for her international album Now, we recorded the Beatles song We can work it out, and performed it numerous times on various stages around Europe. Later on, we recorded a second duet called A word, it's a song I wrote for my debut album Bahlawan-acrobat.
esctoday.com: Noa, how would you best describe Mira, firstly as a person and secondly as an artist?
Noa: Mira is amazing. Smart, funny, talented as hell, brave, unique in every sense of the word. She is a real artist, and a great friend. I’m lucky to have met her.
esctoday.com: Mira, how would you best describe Noa, firstly as a person and secondly as an artist?
Mira: I was familiar with Noa's music before we met and had admired her work for its musical richness and accuracy of intent. When I met her I was amazed of the amount of drive, ambition and perfectionism, I enjoyed to see how much she cared for what she does, and how seriously she takes it. And as she continued to invite me to perform with her around Europe I also discovered an ego-less person, who is willing to share her stage and spotlight, and show unbelievable amounts of support. I love her as a sister, I've never met such a loving and generous soul, and I thank her for her endless support through-out these 8 years of friendship and collaboration.
esctoday.com: Moving on to this years contest, have you had a chance to listen to any of the other competing songs and if so which is your personal favourites?
Noa: I have heard a few songs. No favourites yet. I’ll get into it later on I suppose.
Mira: I have listened to a lot of the songs on the web, I can't pretend to bet on a winner, but I surely like the Denmark song.
esctoday.com: Can you tell me how you plan to present your song on the Eurovision stage? Will the presentation be very different from what we saw in Kdam (the national final for Israel) and will you sing in Hebrew, Arab and English?
Noa: the presentation will be different than the Kdam. We are still working on how exactly but it will be better. The song will have the same fusion of languages but we have improved the arrangement.
Mira: The whole idea was to present a song in three languages, and actually it is the first time in the history of the Israeli entry that it will include the second official language in Israel: Arabic. And we are thoroughly proud of this achievement. We are still working on the final look of the song, but it will not be entirely different from what you saw in the Kdam, because we intend to keep the focus on the message of the song.
esctoday.com: What will you main objective be for competing in the Eurovision Song Contest?
Noa: to pass the semi-finals!
Mira: The way I see it, I would like to give the best performance possible, and hopefully get to the finals, then…we'll see.
esctoday.com: Finally do you have a message for esctoday.com readers?
Noa: Yes. Please vote with your heart. Sending love to all.
Mira: Even when you think you've reached a dead end, there's always another way…
esctoday.com: Finally, I would like to thank you for talking with esctoday.com and wish you the very best of luck in Moscow.
Noa: Thanks and shalom.
esctoday.com wish to thank Alon Amir for arranging this very special interview.