The duet “Kan Le Olam” (“Here Forever”) recreates the voices of the late singers Ofra Haza and Zohar Argov.
Business entrepreneur Oudi Antebi spent 18 years in the United States and 20 years in the high-tech space before returning to his native Israel to launch a new venture, Session 42, a music production that harnesses the growing global power of AI technology.
“I was reading about how artificial intelligence was just changing everything and I decided that I wanted to start a company with a focus on creating music, a company that combines technology and music,” says Antebi.
“I knew I wanted to find the best technology and AI and use that technology and AI to unleash creativity.”
To manifest this vision, Antebi, CEO of Tel Aviv-based Session 42, joined forces with music industry veteran Amit Shine, who serves as the company’s COO, and a trio of hit-making Israeli music producers: Tal Forer, Yinon Yachel, and Stav Berger.
This month, Session 42 released their most ambitious project to date: a duet featuring AI songs titled “Kan Le Olam” (“Here Forever”). The song and accompanying video, recorded using the magic of technology to recreate the voices of deceased Israeli music legends Zohar Argov (a pioneer in the arena of Mizrahi music) and Ofra Haza — referred to in music industry circles as the “Madonna of Israel” — dropped last month in honor of Israel’s 75th anniversary. The song instantly became a viral hit.
“I knew we had to start with the families of Zohar Argov and Ofra Haza because of ethical issues,” says Antebi. “I said, let’s let the families decide if that’s what they want to do. So we went to them and told them that we have a special song about Israel’s independence and we want to use these two icons. We told them we wouldn’t release the song unless it was credited to the artists. They could veto the song at the end if they didn’t like it. And they agreed.”
It took the AI machine they’re working with about 4 weeks to learn how to imitate and reproduce Argov and Haza’s vocals.
“We had to train him,” Anteby says. “There could be musical instruments in the background and it had to be the highest possible sound quality to extract from the artists’ original recording. We then used a second AI solution to remove any effects done on the original vocals. And then we used a third AI process to make the device learn Argov and Haza’s vocals.”
According to Antebi, what makes the song, written and composed by Forer, Roy Machluf and Ron Biton, have a lasting impact is that it combines a wistful sense of nostalgia with cutting-edge technology. And this largely reflects Israel’s societal dichotomy. It is a country with thousands of years of cultural and religious history, but it is also a bastion of high-tech innovation.
“The voices in the song are unique, outstanding and easily recognisable,” says Antebi. “These two artists and their vocals give off a very nostalgic feel.”
In real life, Argov and Haza never recorded together. But “Kan Le Olam” was not created to bring these artists together in the afterlife, but a way to bring the people of Israel together as they celebrate 75 years of nationhood.
“It’s kind of a song between Israel and its people,” says Antebi. “It’s amazing how popular it has become. It’s played in restaurants, on the radio. It plays all the time on different channels, every news station. Everyone is talking about it. I knew we would get attention. But it was shocking how much. But I knew what we were doing. I knew we would be the first in the world to release an official song based on AI technology. And we did.”