Songs of Praise

I’ve been trying to remember to blog about any project that highlights the culture of non-Ashkenazi Jewish communities. I’m sure we have some readers from those communities, and we also get a lot of readers in families of Ashkenazi Jews married to people from other cultures. It feels good when you’re raising a child in two (or more!) cultures to know that there were already Jews from the “other” culture. Plus it’s just good stuff, and I look for excuses to link you to good stuff.

[float=left][/float]My husband surprised us this weekend with two CDs produced by Jewish Records in London, one called Shbahoth and one called Shir Hodu. He thinks he learned about them from klezmershack.com, a great source for Jewish music news.

Shbathoth is an album of restored recordings of Jewish music from Iraq from the 1920s—the title of the CD is from the Iraqi pronunciation of the Hebrew word for praises—and Shir Hodu is an album of restored recordings of Jewish music from Bombay in the 1930s. Shir Hodu means both song of praise, and song of India. (It’s a pun in Hebrew.) If you live in London, you can attend a CD launch for Shir Hodu this Thursday, January 14. Our CDs actually came hand-addressed by Sara Manasseh, the musicologist who put the albums together, which made us really happy.

We had a listening session for Shir Hodu on Sunday, and wow, that was pretty cool. There are actually several different Jewish communities native to India, though most Jews of Indian descent now live in Israel or the English-speaking countries. The album has songs from four musical groups from different Indian Jewish cultural traditions, and feature Western instruments (violin, mandolin), Middle Eastern instruments (‘ud, qanun) and Indian instruments (sitar, jal tarang, dilruba, bansuri.) It’s always great to hear Jewish liturgical music sung in different traditions, especially songs that Ashkenazi Jews sing in a minor-key-sounding musical mode and other communities sing in a mode that sounds like a major key.

For copies of these CDs and Dr. Manasseh’s other musical project, Rivers of Babylon (which we’re going to buy later, I think!) go to her website.

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