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Mixtape: Sounds from the 'other' Israel 1967-1978

Maor Anava is a 28-year-old DJ and record collector from Tel Aviv. He helped found the Fortuna record label, which specializes in reissuing rare, 60s and 70s Middle Eastern psychedelic music on vinyl. Anava sat down with Café Gibraltar to talk about the high demand for Middle Eastern music among record collectors, and how his biggest customers don’t even live in Israel.

By Khen Elmaleh

Tell us a bit about the mixtape

I put together some of the rarer things I’ve collected over the years. What unites them is that they were recorded in Israel between the years 1967-1978 and somehow were relegated to the margins and did not receive their dues during those years. These are the songs I’ve been playing for over the past year and are potentially going to be reissued under Fortuna, expect for the Tsvia Abarbanel song, which was reissued last year.

What was your first encounter with music?

At home. My father is of Syrian descent (from Aleppo) and we always listened to Egyptian music like Farid al-Atrash and Mohammed Abdel Wahab. We also listened to Samira Tawfik and Sabah, two Lebanese singers that he loved and was always played at our house. I also got a lot from my Moroccan side – one day I found a pile of records at my grandmother’s house who lived in Haifa’s Makhane David neighborhood. When she saw that I was becoming interested in music, she began talking about and showing me photos from the musical gatherings that took place in the neighborhood, which were organized by her neighbor at the time, Suleiman Almaghrabi, a phenomenal Moroccan singer.

What came next?

Black music. Mostly reggae, calypso, rocksteady – everything that comes from the Caribbean. Hip hop, funk and Latin groove.

Plastic or digital?

Obviously, I have a special place for vinyl. Taking care of plastic, together with the packaging, the design, the credits – I see it as an added value. However, we’re in 2013 and I’m not trying to knock the digital format. Half of the things I love most and play come exclusively from digital.

Where do you buy your music? 

A website owned by a French guy named Victor, he’s a vinyl collector who sells his stuff through his site. We connected over the last half year, and in one of our conversation I discovered that he is Jewish, and the son...

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Umm Kulthum in Vogue: Manipulations in visual media

‘Manipulation,’ an exhibit that opened this past Thursday as part of the annual Jerusalem Design Week, brings together the country’s top graphic designers to examine whether the field of visual communications is itself nothing more than that – a manipulation.

By Eitam Toubul and Shira Glick

Designer Daniel Mouktel, who is known for his previous graphic work for the “Arisa” line, criticizes the fashion world using his work “Fashion Force” to show how the world is “dictated by trends that decide what is right and what is out of fashion.” At the head of the pyramid sits Vogue, which serves as a bridge between fashion corporations and consumers. The magazine dictates what is considered fashionable, though it often ignores whole cultures, populations and figures whom it views as not worth its time.

We must ask: why is it that Umm Kulthum, one of the most well-known singers and a fashion icon in the Arab world, cannot appear in the magazine along with other singers? And for that matter, what counts as superior and what counts as inferior? The exhibit takes headlines from actual Vogue covers, replacing the images with new ones in order to raise questions about the superior-inferior binary. Moukatel critiques the edicts of the fashion world using cover photos, and the alternative he presents leaves the responsibility in the hands of the editor, who ensures that the manipulation permeates the designer in charge of the front page.

Studio Zifim, on the other hand, offers an alternative for a different cover, a musical cover, if you will, and broadens the question. The studio will present three “limited edition” albums of three artists – Avi Biter, Moshe Cohen and Tamir Gal. According to the artists, the project will make use of original visual elements from movies that tend to be considered “inferior.” The 90s were the height of what is known as “Musikat Dikaon” (“Depression Music”). The giants of the genre – Ofer Levi, Avi Biter, Tamir Gal, Moshe Cohen, Liat Banai and Reuven Hamalach – sold hundreds of thousands of records with almost no exposure in the mainstream media, which generally ignored them. The albums were released independently, thus their covers, similar to the music, relate to their audience at eye level. Presenting...

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Black humor: These Mizrahi comedians will make fun of you too

By Rafael Balulu

The Mizrahi discourse has its own set of eloquent speakers. Although varied, one can say that it seems that in 2013 there are many voices who are speaking in the name of this complex identity. Comedy has always been a subversive tool that made it possible to get away with poking fun of the holiest of holies. Galit Hoogi and Tom Aharon are two new, sharp stand up comedians who are challenging everything we know about stand up that deals with Israeli culture and Mizrahi identity.

From the days of Avner Dan’s imitations of different ethnic groups to Shalom Asayag’s caricatured grandmother, Mizrahim and other cultural minorities were always ridiculed. Aharon, a computer programmer who grew up in Ra’anana and lives in Tel Aviv, enjoys taking jabs at the Israeli mainstream cultural and economic conversation, with no boundaries nor a shred of political correctness. Hoogi, on the other hand, is a film researcher and graduate of the Sam Spiegel Film and Television School whose stand up comes from a personal place. Mostly, she tries her best to make fun of herself. In this way, she is able to connect with her audience while planting the seeds of social critique. Both of them are hilarious, talented and vastly different from the world of Israeli stand up comedy. I met up wit them for a short discussion in the days leading up to an evening dedicated to Mizrahi humor in Tel Aviv.

Tom: I enjoy telling jokes in a specific context because my identity or origin allows me to do so. When I talk about Ashkenazim, it’s different than Ashkenazim talking about Ashkenazim. It’s a tension I really enjoy. I try to look at it from a new angle, since the topic has been talked about to no end. The world of standup only has room for new angles, the kind that no one has ever paid attention to. Lets just say that it’s not academia and we also want to laugh at those who are part of this discourse.

Galit: What does it mean to laugh at them? I’m not trying to do something new – that’s less interesting to me. I feel like an immigrant in the many things I do in my life. I’m not from Tel Aviv, I’m not a man, I’m not a lot of essential things. I felt that I never had anything...

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Mixtape: DJs make music to break down borders

DJs Ophir Toubul and Gal Kadan are in the business of making music to break down borders. Culling sounds from all corners of the world, the duo (known as Laissez-Passer) strings together everything from Mizrahi music to Jamaican dancehall to Kanye West. Most of all, they just want you to dance.

By Ophir Toubul and Gal Kadan

Playlist:

Diblo Dibala – Laissez-Passer (Excerpt)
Stromae – Papaoutai
Major Lazer – Watch Out for This (Bumaye)
Eyal Golan – Hazak Mimeni
Mahendra Kapoor & Suresh Wadekar – Sada Vasda Raje Punjab (Uproot Andy RMX)
Rima – Sidi Mansour (feat. Rayan)
M.I.A. – Y.A.L.A.
TYP feat Omer Adam – Meshuga
Kanye West – New Slaves (Brenmar Club Edit)
Fnaïre – Z’Waq
Omer Adam ft. Arisa – Tel Aviv

Tell us a little bit about the mixtape

Ophir: This is the fifth mixtape to be put out by Laissez-Passer (not to be confused with the blog that deals with issues surrounding asylum seekers, foreign workers and refugees). The idea behind our mixes is to combine all kinds of different music from around the world. We chose to include ten new songs that we both love and think that represent the spirit of what is happening in the world right now. We put together a mix which includes M.I.A. from London by way of Sri Lanka, Major Lazer with a Jamaican tune, Stromae with a song about missing his Rwandan father, the Moroccan hip hop ensemble Fnaire, Kanye West and his brilliant song “New Slaves,” and of course the two most interesting artists around in Israel today – Omer Adam and Eyal Golan.

What was your first encounter with non-mainstream music?

Gal: It’s 2004. A friend puts on a Gogol Bordello album in the car, and my world just explodes. Gogol Bordello, at that point, was the epitome of “immigrant music” – political, heavy, ass kicking.

What kind of music did you grow up on?

Gal: I grew up on all kinds of rock music. From poppy things like Aerosmith to metal. Afterwards I moved toward electronic stuff – today it’s much more fluid. Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of synth pop and new wave from the 80s. Last week I happened across Etnix’s “Kiturna Masalla” and fell in love. I look...









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Longing for Zion, dreaming of Kurdistan

More than 80 years after first immigrating to Israel, Kurdish Jews still maintain ties to their traditions and culture, as well as to their non-Jewish ethnic kin. The Israeli government has ignored efforts to preserve their language and music; but now, the younger generation is taking matters into its own hands. 

By Hagar Shezaf

All liberty-deprived nations share one common feeling: a longing for home. The Kurdish nation, which lives primarily in the region situated between northwest Iran, northern Iraq, southeast Turkey and the northern corner of eastern Syria, is one of those same nations striving for independence and waging a lengthy war for the right to self-determination in its historical homeland. Their struggle comes in many forms – from hip hop songs which describe the longing for freedom to armed struggle, which has taken the lives of countless Kurds and others.

The Kurdish struggle began at the end of the First World War, when the Kurds were promised that they would be able to establish an independent state on the ashes of the Ottoman Empire. But because the areas populated by Kurds were rich in oil, they were quickly conquered by the new Turkish ruler, Mustafa Kamal Ataturk, and the land was divided between the new Turkish state, Iraq and Syria. The promise to grant the Kurds self-determination was forgotten among the thicket of political and economic interests.

Today, most Kurds are Muslim and live in the Kurdistan region. In the past, however, there were approximately 150,000 Jewish Kurds who lived in the area. They were considered the oldest diaspora community. According to several holy Jewish literary sources, the first Jews arrived in the mountains of Kurdistan during the days of the First Temple.

The majority of the Kurdish community in Kurdistan lived in Iraq and Iran and spoke various dialects of Aramaic. The synagogues were the center of the community’s spiritual life. The Kurdish piyutim (ancient Jewish liturgical poems) – which were cornerstones of Kurdish-Jewish culture – are mostly based on well-known Jewish texts, but their music melodies are based on maqams (Arabic musical scale) and often on popular Kurdish music. The saz and the baglama (stringed instruments), the zonra (from the oboe family) and the dahol (bass drum) are the main instruments found in Kurdish music. It is the singer, however, who gets to shine – as he/she is traditionally in charge of writing the music...

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Radio Ramallah: The cultural bridge that was

Between 1949-1967 there was a radio station that united West Bank Palestinians and Jerusalem Jews. It wasn’t interested in propaganda or demagogy, only playing the most popular Western and Arabic music. A brief history of Radio Ramallah and the legacy it leaves behind. 

By Niros*

Last Saturday night, while walking on Tel Aviv’s Ha’aliya Street, a man from Ramallah turned toward me and my partner. He and three of his friends were a little drunk and in a good mood. It seemed that they had just returned from some Tel Aviv club. He spoke to us first in Arabic before switching to broken Hebrew and asked how they get to Jaffa Gate, before immediately correcting himself and asked how to get to the Tel Aviv central bus station. We gave him directions and he walked off with his friends.

Al-Qaws (“The Rainbow”) is the umbrella organization for the Palestinian LGBTQ community. Its office is located in the Jerusalem Open House, but its parties – which are attended mostly by LGBTQ Palestinians from both sides of the wall, as well as queer Jewish Israelis who dig the scene – are held in different Tel Aviv clubs. The DJ spins both pop and Arabic music, drag shows and belly dancing take place, people enjoy circle dancing and grinding, men walk around without shirts while women wear hijabs – the atmosphere is somewhere between a hafla (Arabic for “party”) and a gay Tel Aviv party. From what I remember, the organizers claim that gays from the West Bank cannot hold their parties there out of fear of harassment, and that Jerusalem, I assume, is just boring. This is how Tel Aviv became the center of the queer Palestinian parties.

I have never visited Ramallah, but I have read several interviews with Ramallah residents who talk about the queer scene in the Palestinian cultural capital, and claim that it is only ostensibly underground – bars, clubs, meeting points, etc. Different heterosexual interviewees stated that Ramallah needed its own pride parade in order to bring tourism and promote business. Jerusalemites, on the other hand, consistently describe their city as lacking culture or nightlife. If a Jewish Jerusalemite is interested in night life, he or she goes to the coast. If a Jerusalem Palestinian is interested in night life or culture – cinema, theater, shows, parties – he or she goes to Ramallah.

My grandmother and...

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Sex, drugs and the 'Mizrahi sound'

Silsulim, the most common feature of what has come to be known as ‘Mizrahi music’ doesn’t just have its origins in Israeli rock – it is Israeli rock in its most basic sense. After years of being suppressed, ignored and reviled by Israel’s elite, it has become a symbol of pride.

By Hagai Ozen

They were the bad girls of conservative Israel, the ones who did it wherever they could – especially in dark clubs. In order to breathe, they got up on whatever stage they could to spread their youthful spirit, the kind that the establishment refused to recognize. These were the “lehakot ketsev” – the Israeli “rhythm bands” that played real rock n’ roll. It is highly unlikely that this kind of music would be recognized as rock today. Some might call it “Mediterranean,” “pop” or even “Mizrahi.” But that’s how it is when the singers were comprised of Boaz Sharabi, Nisim Seroussi, Avner Gadassi and Shimi Tavori – the founding fathers of Mizrahi music in Israel.

No matter how we look at it, Mizrahi, Mediterranean, silsulim (the vocal trills that characterize much of Arabic, Mediterranean and Mizrahi music) or however we call it, is a form of Israeli rock. First of all, musically, a rock band is made up of guitar, bass and drums – the same instruments that were used by mythological groups such as “Tzlilei Ha’Kerem” (Sounds of the Vineyard) or “Tzlilei Ha’Oud” (Sounds of the Oud). For years, guitarist Jackie Keissar and bassist Jackie Asoulin performed in neighborhood haflot (parties), as did Moshe Ben Mosh and Daklon. Guitar-bass-drums. They played Greek and Arabic songs as well as Elvis Presley and Cliff Richards tunes. Margalit Tznani sang Aretha Franklin numbers in the same breath as Fairouz’s “Habaytak.” It was the most natural thing in the world. And let’s not even talk about Aris San, a real guitar hero, and the first Greek-Israeli that influenced the knight of Israeli rock, Berry Sakharof. The influence went the other way, too. Yehuda Keissar often said that Danny Sanderson (of Kaveret fame) was the person who influenced him to want to play guitar. It was because of Sanderson that Keissar bought his first guitar (the same kind Sanderson played). And even if the sounds that came out of that guitar were different, they reflected the same youthful spirit – the main characteristic...

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Israeli rock legends' reunion signals end of an era

Over the past several months, legendary Israeli rock band Kaveret (‘Beehive’ in Hebrew) reunited to hold what is likely to be its final round of performances. For many, the group – which skyrocketed to global popularity in the 1970s with its clever songs and absurd skits – is part and parcel of Israeli identity. But a closer look at the hysteria surrounding the reunion reveals an Israeli identity longing for the days when white culture was the rule, and Mizrahi and Arab culture existed on the margins.

By Edan Ring

It seems that lately it has been impossible to ignore the excited responses to what seems to be the final reunion of the mythological Israeli rock band Kaveret. All at once, Facebook pages were full of people desperately searching for another ticket for one of the band’s final performances in Tel Aviv’s Yarkon Park, while What’sApp groups exploded with photographs of the huge stage filled with tiny figures. And once more, you couldn’t pass by a water cooler in a hi-tech or advertising company without hearing names of the band members such as “Sanderson,” “Gov,” or “Rechter.”

Yedioth Ahronoth dedicated a good portion of its front page, as well as the entire third page to the final concert. Journalist Raz Shechnik wrote that “it could be that yesterday we witnessed the final days of history,” and that “Kaveret is our Beatles – proof that high quality music has a common denominator across the entire population.”

Ironically, Kaveret’s final concert coincided with the showing of Amnon Levy’s controversial, new documentary series on Channel 10, which deals with the silence around and suppression of the Mizrahi experience in Israel. Many of those who flocked to Kaveret’s concert are the same ones who fumed over Levy’s show, claiming that it is full of cheap populism that only serves to resuscitate a phenomenon that no longer exists in order to make money. This, they claim, only causes friction between different groups in Israeli society. In response to the show, many also stated that there is no more Ashkenazim and Mizrahim – that these are a part of the distant past, and that today everything is mixed. They believe that when Mizrahi Jews try hard, they are able to make it to high-level positions, and that we mustn’t forget that some Ashkenazim were also oppressed, and had to...

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Arab-Jewish hip hop group challenges Israeli 'melting pot'

System Ali, a ten-piece hip hop outfit which raps in Arabic, Russian, Hebrew and English sits down with Café Gibraltar to talk about the power of the genre, normalization, revolutionary Arab street poetry and the need to struggle for justice in their home city. 

By Hagar Shezaf

How did it all start?

We started playing in a local bomb shelter in the Ajami neighborhood of Jaffa. The shelter belonged to the Sadaka-Reut organization, and some of us had previously started the Jaffa Youth Center, which was a center of education and arts for Jaffa’s teenagers. The center focused on photography, theatre, writing and mostly music. That’s where we met, some of us as scouts and some of us as counselors. We started developing a permanent group of musicians, rappers and songwriters that met every week to jam, with everyone bringing their own material. This is how the newer shared material was created – as a response to one another. The meetings included a lot of inspiration as well as lots of clashes.

In 2006, around the time of a wave of expulsion and demolition orders for homes in Jaffa, we decided that it was the time to perform together as a group. We had our first performance on the roof of the shelter, as part of the popular struggle for housing. Since then we have been together, and are continuing with our musical endeavors as well as with our educational work with youth in Jaffa, Bat Yam, Lod and south Tel Aviv. Our new album is also our first one, after six years of hard work, performances and recordings. During this time we also established the “System Ali House” in Bat Yam, which is a rehearsal/recording studio which houses us, and is used as the center for all our educational projects for youth.

How many members are in the group today?

We are ten musicians, some of us play instruments, she of us sing, while others do both. The members are: Amneh Jarusha (vocals), Enver Seitibragrimov (vocals and percussion), Muhammad Aguani (vocals), Muhammad Mugrabi (vocals and percussion), Yonatan Kunda (vocals and guitar), Liba Neeman (vocals and violin), Yehonatan Dayan (Bass), Moti Ben Baruh (drums), Luna Abu Nassar (vocals and guitars), Neta Weiner (vocals and accordion).

What were your musical influences from home?

Enbar Seitibragrimov: In Uzbekistan, where I grew up, we listened to two things: songs...

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A new 'home': Building a future of multicultural belonging

By Inna Michaeli and Zohar Elmakias

In his film “Once I Entered a Garden” (2012), Israeli director Avi Mograbi documents a series of meetings with his Arabic teacher, Ali Al-Azhari. Mograbi shares his dreams with Al-Azhari, along with biographical details about his Jewish-Lebanese family; together they imagine possible scrips about return and their intersection histories. The movie incorporates love letters in French written by a woman in Beirut to a Jewish lover who immigrated to Tel Aviv.

Inna Michaeli viewed the film in Berlin, where she lives. Zohar Elmakias watched it in Jaffa, where she lives. And then they had a conversation about it.

Zohar: Let’s do it.

Inna: It’s been a while since I saw the film, so I suggest a retrospective experience. I think I remember telling you that I didn’t really like it.

Z: What was your criticism?

I: Maybe I’ll start with what I liked, which were the letters in French. It isn’t clear from the film whether there they are authentic, but it doesn’t matter, because they are really the most fantastic part of the movie. It isn’t a coincidence that it is a love-based text, and that a woman wrote it (although it is impossible to know – maybe Mograbi or some screenwriter wrote them for the film – this is a different question altogether, about the possibility of a woman subject and feminine subjectivity outside of male authority).

Z: The letters are fictional. But they really were placed in the most pure moments in terms of feeling, which is why their effect was significant. As opposed to the rest of the film, which I felt was too manipulated.

I: I also felt that it was embarrassingly manipulated. By someone who thinks that he is inside the occupation, but is actually talking about how the occupation is passé, as if he already has one foot in the future. And he doesn’t. It’s embarrassing because he cannot speak from a radically different position from the one he finds himself in, and only does so because it fits his film. It’s on the border between subversion and changing reality on the one hand, and pretending as if reality does not exist on the other hand. It’s too close to the other side of that border, in my opinion.

ֿZ: I feel that the Jewish-Arab discourse...

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Searching for song and identity, from the Maghreb to the Negev

Neta Elkayam, an upcoming artist and musician based in Jerusalem, tells the story of her multi-faceted identity and presents her own personal mixtape. Café Gibraltar sat down with Elkayam to discuss her experiences growing up in a southern Israeli development town, her life-changing trip to Morocco, and the power of North Africa’s female singers.

By Hagar Shezaf and Khen Elmaleh

Where are you from?

I was born in Netivot, Israel. My experience has been one of a “southerner,” although I spent the second half of my life wandering. I lived in Be’er Sheba’s Dalet neighborhood, and then in the Hatikva neighborhood in Tel Aviv, before finally moving to the Katamon neighborhood in Jerusalem. I’ve lived in all the poor neighborhoods in Israel. I have also traveled – I spent time in the United States, France and I’ve visited Morocco. Today I feel like a Jerusalemite. I feel like this place suites me and I have no desire to go elsewhere.

When did you start becoming interested in music? When did it become part of your life?

I remember myself as a girl, being placed on the table – the guests arrive and I am doing impersonations of [Israeli singer] Rita and Whitney Houston. When I was young I had one foot in popular Israeli music – old Eretz Israel songs that we learned in school or in my choir, and the other in Israeli music that was played on the radio. I grew up with rock n’ roll and Fender alongside the Moroccan music that was played at events – weddings, Mimouna and piyyutim on Shabbat and during holidays. Moroccan music was played in the background every morning as I was driven to school, but there was also Efi Netzer, Haim Moshe and Yehoram Gaon for instance.

When I was in elementary school, I was the soloist in our choir which was called “Kibbutz Galuyot” (“the ingathering of exiles”). There were new immigrants from Russia, Ethiopians and me. No one in Netivot wanted to join this choir and all the rest of the people went to the cooler choirs, but I had a really interesting time there. Actually, after the wave of Russian immigration in the early 90s, my music life changed significantly. I met Marina, my keyboard and vocal pedagogy teacher. We had a crazy connection. From my...

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Palestinian's 'Arab Idol' victory is a reminder that there's nothing to fear

Muhammed Assaf’s victory on ‘Arab Idol’ should be a reminder to Israelis that there is nothing to fear. On the contrary, when it comes to our Arab neighbors, there is plenty to be proud of.

By Noam Shaul

I only discovered Mohammed Assaf, a contestant on the “Arab Idol” reality show and resident of Khan Younis refugee camp in the Gaza Strip about a month ago. Last Saturday, Assaf won the competition after hard work that was visibly accompanied by the support and veneration of much of the Arab world. I happened upon him after a friend of mine posted a link of him performing “Ya Rayat Fi Habiya” (“I Wish I Could Hide Her”). When I saw Muhammed’s image – a young man of 22, handsome and modest, with an infectious and enchanting smile – and heard that voice, I understood that I had a new favorite to whom I’d be listening for quite a while. And I wasn’t alone – ever since he took to the stage on “Arab Idol,” he turned into an overnight celebrity and a symbol for Palestinians everywhere.

I had never watched the show before, nor did I know which channel it was on or how I would watch it. Luckily, I was able to find what I was looking for on YouTube. I must admit that I don’t really know the other contestants, since most of my delving into the show had to do with Muhammed, whose voice had me glued to my seat. For me, that voice feels like something whole – its richness and precision, its power and emotion.

“Arab Idol” is based on the British “Pop Idol,” and began airing in 2011 across the world. The show is filmed in Beirut, and continues the pan-Arab trend of its predecessor, “Superstar,” which ran for five seasons.

The concept of Arab Idol is similar: after many auditions, 20 contestants are chosen from across the Arab world, and must present one song in front of the judges on every Friday. Over the next 24 hours, one can vote for their favorite, and the winner (and loser) is announced on Saturday. The panel of judges is made up of singer and songwriter Ragheb Alama, the singer Ahlam, producer, musician and singer Hassan El Shafei and Lebanese chanteuse Nancy Ajram.

Over the past few weeks, I listened to Assaf’s songs...

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Hasidic music: Pushing the boundaries of the Israeli comfort zone

Why don’t most of Israelis know this music that has been passed down from generation to generation? How open are we to a culture that seems so far away from us, despite the fact that it is just across the street? 

By Merav Livneh-Dill

He dances like Madonna, dresses like Lady Gaga and has more glasses than Sir Elton John. He’s Lipa Schmeltzer. Heard of him?

Lipa is the outlier who proves the rule, and the rule is very simple: the non-Haredi public in Israel is almost entirely oblivious to the music that Haredim (ultra-Orthodox Jews) listen to, or as it is archaically and non-representatively called, “Hasidic music.” We’ve heard music from the faraway jungles of Bolivia, know well the history of reggae and record new versions of piyutim (Jewish liturgical poetry usually sung, chanted or recited during religious services) whenever we get the chance. But there is an entire musical culture here, two streets away, that is hidden from our view and our consciousness.

What is “Hasidic music?” There is a certain logic in the name. The music became a central part of the Hasidic community, out of an entrenched belief in the healing power of music and its ability to influence the world. For the first time since the days of the Levis and the Holy Temple, music was given a place in Judaism. Among the Hasidic Jews, the melody is imbued with a central religious significance, as opposed to the lyrics (and opposed to the Mizrahi community in which new piyutim were continued to be written). If in the Mizrahi communities, the lyrics were central and the music could have been lifted from an Arab-language movie, in the Hasidic community, the “nigun” (largely improvised Jewish spiritual songs), took center stage.

It is a bit difficult to speaks of “Hasidic music” today. The music heard in the streets of the haredi community, in the yeshivas and the radio stations are rooted in different and diverse genres. The classic genre, less well-known among the non-haredim, are the Hasidic nigunim from the Hasidic dynasty itself. These are original nigunim that were passed on from generation to generation, and today are being rereleased in Haredi communities, in piyut festivals and by the artists that perform them. These songs are the Ashkenazi piyutim, and one can definitely classify them as Hasidic music.

The “Ka Echsof” piyut, by Hasidut Karlin:Read More

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