As a hip hop violinist who has collaborated with the likes of Kanye West, Wyclef Jean and Alicia Keys, Miri Ben-Ari transcends stereotypes.
Breaking the mold seems to serve her well: her 2007 single, “Symphony of a Brotherhood” became the first instrumental single to land a top spot on Billboard’s R&B/Hip Hop charts. Then there’s the Grammy nod, which the Israeli native won in 2005 for co-writing the song “Jesus Walks” with Kanye West.
“Winning a Grammy was very humbling, it opened the door for me in every sense,” Ari said.
But life wasn’t always beautiful for the 29-year-old classically trained violinist. When Ari first came to America in pursuit of a jazz career, she was broke, homeless, and couldn’t speak a word of English.
It was with the help of jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis that Ari signed a recording contract with Half Note Records in 1999. She then went on to record three albums in less than three years.
“I thought I was doing jazz, but I was never really doing jazz. I was improvising my own sound, and I was writing my own music and it had a hip hop sound,” the violinist explained.
Ari wasn’t the only one to notice a hip hop flavour in her music. Wyclef Jean saw it too.
“Wyclef endorsed me as ‘the hip hop violinist,’ it’s a title he made for me, and it’s still my title to this day,” Ari said.
Last Thursday Montreal played host to Ari at club 1234 for the ONE event, presented by Hillel Montreal and the Africa isREAL organization.
All proceeds from the event went to Save a Child’s Heart, which sends children from third world countries to Israel for heart operations.
“I read about the foundation and I was so touched. I fell in love,” said Ari.
Miri Ben-Ari is currently working on her upcoming album.