Miri Ben-Ari, a.k.a. "The Hip-Hop Violinist," performs in Israeli President Shimon Peres's residence.
When she was a child growing up in Israel, Miri Ben-Ari’s parents couldn’t afford to buy her a decent violin so she could study classical music.
These days, the 29-year-old Ben-Ari performs with distinctly more bling: Her current violin was “iced up” with diamonds by a renowned Hollywood jeweler known as the “King of Bling.”
But it’s not the diamond-adorned violin that has established Ben-Ari as the Grammy-winning “Hip-Hop Violinist;” it’s her distinctive style.
While serving her mandatory military service in the Israeli Army String Quartet, Ben-Ari was already making plans to set out for New York City to study jazz.
After studying with Betty Carter and others, Ben-Ari was signed to a small jazz label and put out three CDs. Hip-hop proved to be more alluring.
Ben-Ari funked up her style and caught the attention of hip-hop pioneer Wyclef Jean, who invited her to take part in a showcase at Carnegie Hall in 2001.
Jean introduced her as the “hip-hop violinist” and the moniker stuck.
Soon, Ben-Ari was performing with Jay-Z and on “It’s Showtime At The Apollo.”
Her big break came two years later when she was asked to arrange and record the strings on Kanye West’s breakthrough debut CD, “The College Dropout.”
Soon, Ben-Ari was putting out her first hip-hop CD, which could only be titled “The Hip-Hop Violinist.” Kanye West put in an appearance on the CD. So did John Legend and Akon.
That year, she won her first Grammy for co-writing Kanye West's hit single “Jesus Walks.”
But it was a visit to Atlanta the led to one of her biggest breakthroughs so far.
While performing in Atlanta, Ben-Ari stopped by Martin Luther King Jr. memorial where she picked up a CD of the civil rights leader’s speeches.
After listening to King’s historic 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, Ben-Ari had an epiphany: She decided to transform one of her songs into a soundtrack for King’s words.
When it was released in 2006, “Symphony of Brotherhood” became the first instrumental single to ever hit Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop charts, where it spent 10 weeks in the Top 10.
You can she her stylish video below (or here):
“Everything about that song was a miracle,” Ben-Ari said today during her latest visit to Jerusalem where, on what would have been MLK's 79th birthday, she received a special award for "Symphony of Brotherhood" from a religious group called the Fellowship of Israel and Black America.
At the event, hosted by Israeli President Shimon Peres, with the video playing on two screens behind her, Ben-Ari performed the song for the first time in Israel.
“We all have that dream of, one day, not having racism in the world,” Ben-Ari said before receiving the award. “It’s a dream for all of us, especially the Jews.”