Tuesday, April 02, 2013

How Passover has inspired Maghreb Jewish singers

Another seasonal gem from Chris Silver of Jewish Morocco blog. Make sure you listen to the audio-clips that Chris has painstakingly uploaded for our enjoyment (with thanks: Michelle):

Passover, the Jewish holiday commemorating freedom from bondage, resonated loudly with singers and songwriters from across the Maghreb. While relegating themselves to a single benediction or portions of the Pessah haftarah (a selection of Bible chanted in synagogue on the holiday) on the 78 rpm format, the move to the LP allowed these artists to record the Passover seder in its entirety, complete with instructions on how to lead the ritual service!

Nathan Cohen. Undated photograph.
Over the last few weeks I have been revisiting these pieces. Two LPs in particular stand out: Samy Elmaghribi’s La Haggada and Nathan Cohen’s Haggadah de Paque. What is remarkable about the former is that Samy recorded this with his children. Ses enfants play the role of reciting the Passover instructions in French and Samy dutifully performs the requisite rituals when prompted. Nathan Cohen’s Tunisian version is similarly stunning. His record gathers a number of Tunisian Jewish musicians around him to contribute to his sacred sound.
What I’ve done essentially is cut, spliced, and remixed portions of these two LPs together to make what I hope is an enjoyable aural experience. You will hear French instructions and an entertaining play by play of what the holiday is about at the beginning of the track and then back-to-back versions of the Passover classic Dayenu. Dayenu, meaning it would have been enough for us, is a fifteen-stanza piece about gratefulness to God (If He had only brought us out of Egypt…Dayenu. If He had only given us Shabbat…Dayenu). The track ends with Samy appropriately imbibing the fourth cup of wine.

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