ARGOV (Urkavi), ZOHAR


ARGOV (Urkavi), ZOHAR
ARGOV (Urkavi), ZOHAR (1955–1987), Israeli popular singer in the Middle Eastern style. Born in the city of Rishon le-Zion into a Jewish Yemenite family, Argov was endowed with an innate musical talent and a naturally beautiful and expressive voice, and as a youngster started to sing in the local Yemenite synagogue. Lacking any formal musical training, he began to rise to stardom in the late 1970s and early 1980s, at a time when Middle Eastern singers were fighting for official recognition. Argov scored his breakthrough hit in 1982 with his song "Peraḥ be-Ganni" ("The Flower of my Garden"), composed by his close friend and supporter avihu medina . The song won first place at the 1981 Oriental Song Festival sponsored by the Israel Broadcasting Authority. Achieving resounding success, it has been regarded as a paradigm of the so-called zemer mizraḥi (Oriental song) in its broadest socio-cultural context. It was indeed one of the most eloquent expressions of the initial stage of what may be called the trend toward "Israelization" that emerged among Oriental musicians in the early 1960s. It expressed above all an attempt to realize the ideal of the "Ingathering of the Exiles" by assimilating traditional musical styles to the predominant Israeli folk music and making their grievances heard in mainstream society. Argov's musical style indeed reflected both his Israeli and Yemenite heritage, combining stereotypical musical elements of both East and West with the prestigious vocal improvisation (mawwal) which derives from Arab art music. On the heels of his meteoric rise to fame, Argov developed a serious drug habit that led to his premature tragic death by suicide in a prison cell. A play called "The King," as he was nicknamed by his numerous fans, was written and directed by dramatist Shmuel Hasfari, who describes Argov's life as the fundamental story of the struggle between two cultures. (Amnon Shiloah (2nd ed.)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.


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