July 1, 2011
Israeli makes history
Ben-Ari will play at Miss Universe China.
She pioneered “violin hop-hop,” has risen to become an international musical sensation and, now, Grammy Award-winning artist Miri Ben-Ari will be bringing her music to households all over China.
Born in Tel Aviv in 1978, Ben-Ari was considered to be a child prodigy, playing violin from the age of five. Now based out of New York, Ben-Ari has reached millions of people with both her music and involvement with several charitable organizations. Recently, she was invited by U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama to perform at the White House and, over the past few years, she has performed at concerts and music festivals around the world as a solo artist and alongside some of the most famous popular music acts today. Musical scores by the violinist can be heard in such films as Freedom Writers and The Fantastic 4, and she has collaborated with fellow artists including Alicia Keys, Jennifer Lopez, Kanye West and Maroon 5, fronted by Jewish lead singer Adam Levine.
However, possibly her biggest stage yet awaits her in Beijing later this month. Yue-Sai Kan, considered to be the most famous woman in China and known as the “Chinese Oprah,” is national director and host for Miss Universe China 2011, and has personally invited Ben-Ari to perform at the July 10 event. The pageant will be broadcast on the country’s national television network, China Central Television, and a vast majority of the population will tune in. That’s a significant audience considering there are 1.6 billion people in China.
“I have never before performed for Miss Universe or in China, [but] going to China has been my dream, and being invited by Yue-Sai Kan has made my dream come true,” Ben-Ari told the Independent. “This will be different than anything I have ever done before. I have traveled the world with my career but the China experience should be different.”
Ben-Ari describes her music as “universal and not limited to speakers of any particular language.”
She added, “I cannot wait to perform and share [my music] in China. I hope to connect with the local audience and become a name they recognize, and I again thank Yue-Sai for giving me this opportunity.”
Kan first met Ben-Ari in New York, when the former was honored with the Global Special Ambassador award by Sheba Medical Centre in Israel, and Ben-Ari performed at the benefit.
“I thought she was really spectacular,” said Kan of Ben-Ari. After this first meeting, the two became friends, and Kan has watched Ben-Ari perform on a number of occasions, including at Kan’s New York home, when she invited the violinist to play at an event she hosted in honor of Quincy Jones.
Being so familiar with Ben-Ari’s style and talent, Kan felt Ben-Ari would be perfect to perform at the pageant for a Chinese audience. “In a program like Miss China Universe, we want to give this feeling of internationalization and also have a variety of artists,” said Kan in an interview with the Independent. “She is a violinist, which is a good mix with other singing performances, on top of which, she is also a very beautiful woman and a very, very good artist.
“We would not choose her if we did not think she would be good!” she added jokingly.
The Chinese population has become accustomed to Israeli performers, and recognizes Israel as a musical “powerhouse,” said Guy Kivetz, spokesman and director of communication and public diplomacy at the embassy of Israel in Beijing. “We deem culture as an important tool to bring societies and people from different countries together, and our embassy during recent years has brought a lot of Israeli musicians to China, ranging from classical to rock. Recently, David D’or has been two times in Beijing, singing together with the famous Chinese singer Liu Yuanyuan, and he is becoming a star here in China, while, last month, we had Achinoam Nini,” he said.
The embassy was pleased to hear that Ben-Ari would visit the country, Kivetz continued. “It is really important that Miri is coming without invitation by the embassy. This is a really important development that she should be invited by the industry,” he stressed. “This is something we are trying to promote for other artists, so this is really good news.”
With just over a week remaining before the Miss Universe China broadcast, contestant auditions are wrapping up across the country, and Kan and her event management staff are tying together the loose ends for the night’s program. This mega-broadcast will undoubtedly bring all eyes upon the nation’s capital, well known to the international community for its historical spots, including the Great Wall and the Forbidden City, and for hosting large-scale events like the 2008 Summer Olympics.
“I plan on touring Beijing for the must-see [attractions], and much more,” said Ben-Ari. “I’ve read a lot about China and its history, and cannot wait to visit some of the places.”
Eva Cohen is a Canadian freelance writer currently in China working as an English foreign expert.