Monday, September 29, 2008

Can You Top This?

Like whirling dervishes, the New York Voices spun into town last week to record a stunning version of one of Israel's most celebrated Hannuka songs, "Sivivon, Sov, Sov,Sov" (Dreidle-spin like crazy!). In a new arrangement by the Voices' own Darmon Meader, the melody takes on a quiet, nostalgic feeling, and the English lyrics make the song accessible to all. The Voices' harmonies are stunning, as usual...
"Sevivon, Sov, Sov, Sov has become one of the best known Hanukkah songs in Israel and in the Diaspora, despite its having two sets of lyrics. Levin Kipnis (1894-1990) was responsible for the original text, which he set to an anonymous folk melody. The poet had made aliyah from his native Ukraine in 1913, and immediately achieved some success as a writer of children’s literature, to which he turned upon realizing that no one in the yishuv was writing original material for the youngest Hebrew speakers. Kipnis studied at the Bezalel Art Academy soon after arriving in Palestine, but in 1922 he traveled to Berlin to take additional classes in art and craftsmanship. Several of his first books of children’s songs were published there, in Hebrew; Sevivon appears in the collection titled “Machrozet” (The String), published by “Omanut” in Frankfurt am Main in 1923. The spinning tops made in eretz yisrael bear letters that stand for the words “Nes gadol hayah po,” a great miracle happened here. In the Diaspora, the phrase -- and the tops - is retooled to say “Nes gadol hayah sham,” a great miracle happened there. Adaptations to accommodate the different rhyme schemes were made as the song became popular outside the Jewish homeland, but this is only one of many songs for which the poet achieved renown. In 1978 Levin Kipnis was awarded the coveted Israel Prize for ''devoting his life to the development of children's literature in Hebrew.'' (MBE)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Hands Down, A Touchy Subject

Kohane of Newark, in partnership with indie icon J.D. Foster has completed a wonderful new setting for the enticing old song, " Yad Anugah". Ofra Haza was fond of this piece, but our rendition, with an incredibly rich new arrangement, and new English translation is bound to heat things up a bit.

"Yad Anuga has an interesting history. Its text comes from a poem, “Et Kol Liba Masra Lo” (She Gave Him All Her Heart) by the peripatetic Zionist writer Zalman Shneur (1887-1959), which first appeared in a London periodical called HaMe’orer (The Awakener) in 1906. The poem became known throughout the Jewish communities of Europe, and it was apparently in Vilna, during the first decade of the 20th century, that it was first sung -- to an entirely different melody. Meanwhile, the poem made its way to Palestine where, like so many other texts, it “acquired” its present tune, attributed to the Bedouin folk tradition. When the “new” version made its way back to Europe it replaced the “original” melody, and became well known as a “song of the pioneers.” It has appeared in print with the present tune since the 1920’s." (MBE)

Kohane of Newark introduces listeners to the aural landscape and lyric mythology of an American-Jewish middle class experience in a way that David Byrne might appreciate. This is highly subversive stuff…

Don't Just Take My Word For It...

We are proud to introduce our newest team member: musicologist,historian and champion of Israel's music, Dr. Marsha Bryan Edelman. 
Marsha Edelman
Singer, choral conductor, full professor of Jewish music (and education) at Gratz College in Melrose Park, PA., Marsha is director of the only non-Seminary-based program conferring an MA in Jewish Music. She is the administrator of the Zamir Choral Foundation, and author of a variety of articles and liner notes. Her latest book is Discovering Jewish Music, [JPS, 2003 ISBN: 082760727X]. She also works with Matthew Lazar to coordinate the annual North American Jewish Choral Festival.

Marsha will be writing background pieces for all of our pioneer songs, and will be featured on this blog as well, with an "MBE" credit at the end of her contributions. I can't think of too many people who know as much about the music of Israel, surely she is bound to enlighten and entertain.