A very moving work in this category is the " Ballad of Matthausen " by Mikis Theodorakis, based upon the experiences of the Greek Jewish playwright Iakovos Kambanellis. The first song, " Asma Asmaton " [Song of Songs] recalls the theme of the Biblical love story: "Have you seen my love?
Research about songs in the Holocaust is just now gathering momentum. There are a few helpful sites, the most detailed of which is " Music during the Holocaust " still in the process of development. Other references are listed below. Paraliturgical songs are those which are sung at the very many events associated with Jewish religious life. They include songs associated with life-cycle events — birth and circumcision, childhood and adolescence, betrothal and wedding, death and mourning; with Jewish festivals — family table songs, and songs associated with particular festivals such as the Pesach seder or the Purimspiel ; with hillulot [festive rejoicing] associated with the tombs and communities of holy rabbis as well as Hasidic songs sung at the rebbe's tish [table].
They encompass songs of different genres which often cut across the division between synagogue and non-synagogal songs, they are sung in Hebrew as well as Jewish languages of the diaspora, and they encompass different styles of performance — men's and women's songs and songs with or without instrumental accompaniment. These are liturgical poems in Hebrew, which are included in regular synagogue services, e. Piyutim are sung as zemirot table hymns by the family on Shabbat and festivals as well as at family lifecycle celebrations, and are thus regarded as both a paraliturgical as well as liturgical genre.
Rabbi Israel Najara — has been mentioned above. He was particularly gifted at adapting Hebrew texts to the Turkish, Arabic, Spanish and Greek folk music of his time. In very general terms, piyutim sung by Sephardic and Eastern communities follow the makam modal system, while Ashkenazi melodies are governed by shtaygers. Nowadays, piyutim are entering the sphere of popular music and an Israeli musical style exemplified by Shlomo Bar or Eti Ankry is slowly evolving.
I highly recommend the website " An Invitation to Piyut ", at which you can read information about particular piyutim and about religious song in general, and, most importantly, listen to multiple melodies of a particular poem. In the Sephardic synagogue tradition, the term zemirot also refers to the preliminary section of psalms and biblical verses recited during the Shacharit [morning] prayers.
On Shabbat, there are three sets of zemirot for the corresponding three meals: those sung for the Friday evening meal, the Saturday noon meal, and the third meal just before sundown on Saturday afternoon. The zemirot are mostly in Hebrew, but there are also a few in Aramaic. Melodies are often borrowed from the surrounding musical environment, as is illustrated in the first lecture whereby the melody for the zimrah " Tsur mishelo achalnu " [Rock from whose food we have eaten] comes from the Ladino cantiga " La rosa enflorese " [The blossoming rose] or "Los bilbilikos " [the nightingales].
Hasidic dance tunes and Jewish melodies serving other functions have also been used.
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Altogether, singing zemirot is a popular activity, and new tunes are constantly being composed. References: Shelemay, K. University of Chicago Press. Shiloah, A.
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Jewish Musical Traditions. Detroit: Wayne State University Press. Stylistically, the coplas are strophic poems following a few set patterns. They are basically a male genre, initially because written collections of poems were inaccessible to women who were generally illiterate; women who did sing coplas attributed their knowledge to having heard a male member or close friend of the family. Besides the written collections, the coplas were also passed down orally by singing original melodies or ones borrowed from earlier Hebrew piyutim the melodies of which in turn were borrowed from Turkish songs.
References Refael, S. I will tell a poem. The 18 th century Hasidic movement, founded by Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov the Besht, believed in the supreme importance of the nigun [melody] as a form of prayer: "There are gates in heaven that cannot be opened except by melody and song" attributed to Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liady, founder of Chabad. The nigun was believed to lead to devekut [communion with God], and singing and dancing were the means of spiritual elevation accessible to ordinary folk as well as the most spiritual tsadikim [saintly people]. While many of the nigunim were sung at the Rebbe's tish [table] as Shabbat zemirot or brief texts from the prayerbook, a large number were sung without words at all.
There are many musical versions of this story: here is Chava Alberstein singing a Hebrew version ; a Yiddish version is entitled " An alter nign " [An old melody]. Hasidic melodies have influenced Israeli music from the earliest days of the chalutsim [pioneers]: read Yaakov Mazor's very interesting article in Hebrew on how Hasidic melodies entered the early Hebrew song repertoire.
Nowadays, the term "Hasidic music" conjures up such songs as " Yisrael Yisrael ", " Esa einay ", " Am Yisrael chay ", and countless other songs based upon the prayer book and Bible, particularly the Psalms. These are folk songs in the truest sense: Jews around the world, whatever their age or standard of religious observance, know the words or at least can hum along to the melodies. This genre of "Hasidic folksongs" developed from the annual Israeli Hasidic Song Festivals , held from to in the wake of the surprisingly enthusiastic reaction to the musical " Ish hasid haya " [There was a pious man] A follower of Chabad Rabbi Schneerson, his repetitive, catchy settings of short religious texts laid the foundations for a neo-Hasidic style of popular song and prayer.
Have a look at the Nigun Project for a modern, secular recontextualization of the traditional nigunnim. The Hasidic niggun as sung by the Hasidim. Regev, M. Popular music and national culture in Israel. University of California Press.
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Reb Shlomo: Jewish soul man. Moment , Weiss, S. Carlebach, Neo-Hasidic music, and current liturgical practice.
Journal of Syangogue Music , v. Do songs sung in a particular language have a raison d'etre when that language is no longer the vernacular, and do songs which grew out of an environment shaped by the Diaspora have a place in a Jewish homeland? The lectures, and this site, refer mainly to songs in Yiddish and Ladino, but the questions are relevant to songs sung in any language of the Jewish Diaspora. The answers differ with respect to language, country and community.
It is a truism to say that all Jewish folksong genres are in a state of flux; more meaningful questions relate to the type of changes being made and the degree to which songs today are different from — or similar to — songs in the past. Here are online articles dealing with the vast and vibrant culture of popular songs in Hebrew a subject which is not dealt with on this site.
In Israel, both Yiddish and Ladino as well as other "ethnic" music are coming to life after being completely suffocated by the explicit national policy to create a hegemonical "Israeliness" of language and culture. Here, and probably in the rest of the world, there are both conservative and generative forces at work. Here's an article with video in Hebrew about the workshop.
Betty Klein sings well in both languages, mostly in Ladino. The general orientation of the avant-garde in Israeli Ladino music is to seek connections with roots in the East. This is in line with what is happening with other branches of Israeli music which, since the 's, have thrived in the legitimation of eastern musical influences. A singer-dancer worth following who is constantly searching for new ways to perform Ladino and eastern music is Esti Kenan-Ofri, who sings with the Kol-Oud-Tof trio.
Two singers of Ladino music who make a great effort to study and replicate an authentic sound are Ruth Yaakov and Orit Perlman. Orit works in conjunction with Shoshana Weich-Shahak, an Israeli-based musicologist who has done extensive research into Ladino music all over the world. An Israeli singer looking for a new sound who has achieved world-renown is Yasmin Levy , daughter of song-collector and singer Isaac Levy. Yasmin has been " brought to task " for attempting to bridge Ladino with Flamenco, a musical style which is only tangentially connected with Sephardic culture, and, in her latest CD, has since returned to her Ladino roots.
Which language is older: Yiddish or Ladino? Which is spoken by more people? How many people speak Jewish languages today, and how many used to? How many Jewish languages are there? Is "Jewish English" a language or a dialect? Here is a brief definition of Jewish languages.
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For a fascinating look at the history, linguistic descriptions, and status of Jewish languages today, I highly recommend the Jewish Language Research Website. In addition, Omniglot provides intriguing accounts of the writing systems of these languages. If you enjoy reading tidbits about language, join me in my weekly visits to Philologos. Popular writing in and about Ladino seems to be less dynamic than the Yiddish scene at present, but I suggest you look at the American Sephardi Federation for updates or at sites listed in the Hebrew or English links.
This is a moot point: people are always arguing to which extent they're still alive or whether or not they're already dead! There's no question, however, that songs in both languages are definitely undergoing a revival. References Fishman, J. Can Threatened Languages Be Saved? Multilingual Matters. Kafrissen, R.
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Yiddish: the living language of the Jewish people. Steinhardt Foundation for Jewish Life.