Monday, January 21, 2008

Musical Interlude: Intersecting Cultural Vectors

This Israeli song is dedicated to Bob from Brockley.

We had some discussion on his blog, about Barenboim's new citizenship. One thing led to another and we found ourselves discussing Jewish identities in Israel. Is there or isn't there such a thing as an "Arab Jew"?

At one point I mentioned Israel's "poet laureate", C. N. Bialik, who wrote Hebrew poetry in an Ashkenazi intonation*. Israeli Hebrew is spoken in Sephardic intonation. I found this song on youtube, sung by a famous Israeli singer Yehoram Gaon. Gaon is a sephardic Israeli (like me) who (unlike me) grew up in Jerusalem and speaks fluent Ladino.

Here he is, performing a song, written by Bialik, probably at the turn of the twentieth century, in Russia and singing it in its original Ashkenazic intonation. It is a love song: "Kumi Tze'ei", Come away with me, my beloved, my bride...

I think Bob is one of those rare individuals who has an appreciation for all these cultural vectors intersecting in music.

In order to compare this performance with what Israeli Hebrew would sound like, here is this song: (Ken, Ken...Yes, yes, please say yes).

And here is a bonus for myself, one of my most cherished Hebrew songs: Two roses

Here is another: The song for you

____________

* Take Me Under Your Wing/ C.N. Bialik


Take me under your wing,
be my mother, my sister.
Take my head to your breast,
my banished prayers to your nest.

One merciful twilight hour,
hear my pain, bend your head.
They say there is youth in the world.
Where has my youth fled?

Listen! another secret:
I have been seared by a flame.
They say there is love in the world.
How do we know love’s name?

I was deceived by the stars.
There was a dream; it passed.
I have nothing at all in the world,
nothing but a vast waste.

Take me under your wing,
be my mother, my sister.
Take my head to your breast,
my banished prayers to your nest.

(Translated by Ruth Nevo)

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