It’s not every day that a worldwide rap star picks up an Israeli song and remixes it into a global hit. But that’s exactly what happened when Pitbull – the Cuban-American rapper Armando Christian Perez – took the Israeli A-WA (pronounced ay-wah) band’s electro-Yemenite track, “Habib Galbi,” and added his vocals to the harmonizing sisters.
The new audio track went live on YouTube and the iTunes store on December 1 and quickly scored tens of thousands of hits.
Pitbull has collaborated with stars including Jennifer Lopez, Usher, Christina Aguilera, Chris Brown, Kesha and Shakira. Producer Steve Greenberg, who heads the S-Curve Records label, is credited with making the A-WA-Pitbull matchup.
Greenberg told local media that legendary Israeli radio announcer Tony Fyne regularly sends him station Reshet Gimmel’s weekly hit list. One week, A-WA’s popular single, “Habib Galbi,” was on the list.
Greenberg – who is noted for “discovering” popular musical acts such as the Hanson brothers and Jonas Brothers – has since gone on to sign the family band made up of sisters Tair, Liron and Tagel Haim.
The Israeli Haim sisters hail from the small farming village of Shaharut, 40 kilometers north of Eilat.
— Tair Haim (@TairHaim) July 6, 2015
Their original hit single released in March 2015, first won over the Israeli audience, then the Arab world, then Europe, and is now rising up the charts in North America.
NPR music listed A-WA in its Best 50 Albums of 2016, alongside the likes of Radiohead, A Tribe Called Quest and Rihanna.
Their style is a mix of ancient Yemenite songs with hip-hop, reggae and electronic dance music. Balkan Beat Box’s Tomer Yosef produced their debut album, also called “Habib Galbi.”
Now, the Pitbull-Mr. Worldwide remix adds American rap on top of the oriental sounds.
“The remix was done in the US by Pitbull’s people with him rapping over the music. There will also be a music video that they’ll work on together and it will be a big hit,” Greenberg told Calcalist.
Greenberg, who once worked for the Israel Broadcasting Authority, was recently in town for the TechnoArt conference at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. The event focused on how the digital landscape is changing music, art and technology.
— steve greenberg (@steviegpro) December 13, 2016
It’s anybody’s guess if he was also looking out for new Israeli music talent to introduce to the worldwide music community.