Shoshana Damari moved with her family from Damar, Yemen, to Eretz Yisrael in 1924. As a child she performed at weddings with her mother, and at age 14 she began to sing on the radio. She studied acting and singing, started appearing in theaters later in her teens, and subsequently became famous as a singer. Her strong alto voice with its Yemenite intonation became well-known, particularly in her performances before and in the years following the establishment of the State. She is also famous for her performance of many songs by composer Moshe Vilensky, chief among them Kalaniyot (Anemones).
“Damari's first record was released in 1948,” according to the Jerusalem Post. “Over the following decades, her voice stood for the voice of a land in the process of renewal, full of optimism and hope. In the early years of the state, the singer - who was renowned for her beauty - first brought the flavor of Middle Eastern music and its guttural pronunciation to mainstream Israeli culture.”
Damari was awarded the Israel Prize in 1988 for her contribution to Israeli vocal music and continues to appear occasionally on stage.
Damari died of pneumonia in a Tel Aviv hospital on February 14, 2006. She was 83.
Following her death, the Knesset and Beit Hanassi also released a statement saying “Her voice unified the whole nation and spread optimism and hope.”
The Defense Ministry recalled how she accompanied many of Israel's wars by performing before many soldiers, raising their morale, saying “Her voice and songs will reverberate in the soldiers' ears for many more years.”
Sources: JTA, Jerusalem Post, (February 14, 2006), Jewish Agency