The classification of traditional Ashkenazi melodies into clearly defined genres is a difficult, perhaps impossible task, since the same melody can function as a liturgical melody, a zemer for the Sabbath, a Hassidic niggun and a Yiddish folksong. In addition, some Ashkenazi tunes were reincarnated as Zionist songs, becoming Israeli folk songs and folk dances in both secular and religious contexts.
Song of the Month
Rabbi Yisrael Najara (1550?-1625), a poet and a composer, was born to a distinguished family of Jews from Spain. He lived and worked in Damascus, Safed, and Gaza. He was one of the greatest Hebrew poets in the period after the expulsion from Spain.
Debbie Friedman, the Composer
Although the song Hatikvah became the emblematic lyrical signifier of Zionism, other contemporary songs of Hatikvah contented for that spot in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Today these songs are only remembered by a small hardcore of old Hebrew songs’ enthusiasts.
Celebrating Passover, the Song of the Month is dedicated to “Ehad mi yodea” the famous serial folksong added to the Passover haggadah. This article, following the extant substantial scholarship on this subject, will focus on the history of this song within the haggadah, the question of its origins and source, and will examine a few versions and adaptions focusing on changes introduced to the text and the music within different historical contexts and local Jewish traditions.
In honor of Tish'a Be'av, this month’s Song of the Month is Eicha Yashva Badad lament. Megilat Eicha (Eng. Book of Lamentations) is read in the night of Tish'a Be'av and in some traditions also in the morning after. Eicha Yashva Bada is the first out of five chapters of Megilat Eicha. It has an acrostic, as all the first letters of each verse create a sequence of the Hebrew alphabet.
One Yemenite Jewish Song and its Modern Reverberations
On the eve of Passover, our Song of the Month for April 2014 is dedicated to Had Gadya (Aramaic: One only kid [young goat]), one of the most popular songs sung at the Passover seder in some of its contemporary Israeli versions.
As Purim, “the Jewish carnival,” arrives, we dedicate the Song of the Month to a very popular Eastern European Ashkenazi melody that, in the early 1920s, was set by the poet Levin Kipnis to the lyrics of his song “Hag Purim” (The Purim Festival). This setting soon became one of the canonical children songs for Purim in Europe and in the Jewish settlement in Palestine/Israel where it remains alive to this day among Israeli children.
In the last Song of the Month we introduced the song for Purim ‘Haint Iz Purim, Brider’ (Today is Purim, Brothers). Our research led us to several versions and variants of this song, reflecting once again the intricate ways in which Jewish repertoires were constructed by diverse agents in the modern period. One of the recordings of this song that we were able to excavate from the archives is the subject of this second (and probably not last) chapter on ‘Haint Iz Purim, Brider.’
Singing the Hanukah Blessings while lighting the candles is a well-established Jewish family practice that is usually performed by the head of the household according to traditional patterns...
Hay ram galeh is a rather recent example of the extensive practice of contrafactum that has characterized the composition of new piyyutim in the Middle East for many centuries...
Hayrana Laih is an Egyptian song that was and still is popular in the Arab world, but also has connections to Jewish musical contexts and musicians. The lyrics of Hayrana Laih were written by Ahmed Rami (1892-1981), the popular Egyptian poet who was the main songwriter for Umm Kalthoum. Daoud Hosni (1870-1937), an Egyptian composer of Karaite Jewish origins composed it in 1932 for the Egyptian singer of Jewish extraction, Leila (or Layla) Mourad (1918-1995).
A Yemenite Shira.
In honor of May Day, this month's song of the month is a Yiddish song about the political struggles of Jewish socialists, communists, and even anarchists, in Russia and Poland since the ending of the 19th century until the beginning of the 20th century. The song is actually a combination of two songs, arranged by Zalman Mlotek, musician, conductor, arranger and an authority in Yiddish folk and theater music.
I am still living the life of those times… Theodore Bikel
*The notes sample is taken from the collection "Shirei Eretz Yisrael" of Jacob Schoenberg, where the melody appears in the song Shehav Beni, Shehav Bimenuha, with lyrics by Emanuel Harusi.
As clay in the hand of the potter,
Who expands or contracts it at will,
So are we in thy hand, gracious God;
Heed thy pact, heed not the accuser.