Monday, November 19, 2012
Cochin Jew composed popular 'Ma Navu' song
'Ma Navu' is sung wordwide by Jews - on the festival of Simhat Torah, for instance - and by non-Jews alike. Point of No Return thanks Bala Menon, who blogs at the Jews of Cochin, for reminding us of the song's origins in the Jewish community of Cochin:
It was Elias (Babu) Josephai (pictured here), the ebullient caretaker of the Kadavumbagam Synagogue of the Cochin Jews in Ernakulam, who first told me about the enchanting Hebrew song Ma Navu. Josephai asserted that the music was composed by a member of the Kadavumbagam congregation. (The Kadavumbagam synagogue is not in use today).
Josephai's claim is true. I have come across many articles where the credit for the uplifting composition is given to 'Jews from Cochin'. This Sephardic song in Aramaic (it sounds like Hebrew to me - ed) is sung by every Jewish person from Kerala. Josephai says it was popular during the Simchat Torah celebrations in Cochin - because the lilting tune made all participants dance with abandon.
Today, Ma Navu is sung worldwide, and in the United States it is popular at various dance festivals, including the Universiy of California and with church choirs across the country. A search on YouTube will show the many variants of the original Cochin tune, with dancers going round and round in circles, holding hands.
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