Apr 15, 2008

Percussion'- Kobi Hagoel

Kobi Hagoel (The literal translation of his name is "Jacob the redeemer . . .") is a magician of oriental percussion instruments. He is one of Yoel’s teachers and a professional creative musician who plays a wide variety of exotic instruments.

Have ever heard of a Zar? Rik? Kanjira? We tried a variety of drums and percussions in order to find what fit with every track. We discovered that the kangira, which is the tiniest, actually has the broadest sound.

For many tracks, Kobi recorded several different instruments so that we will mix to get a rich texture. As he was playing some of the fast -paced tracks it looked like he has 20 fingers . . . amazing!

In this video, Kobi is getting ready for Yoel’s Lecha Dodi. He is humming his original interpretation from what he remembers as the tune, not what Yoel wrote . . . This immediately raised our suspicion that he grew up in a prayer environment. Our investigation revealed some interesting reminiscing about the Salonika shul he frequented as child. He had no idea we are videoing him.

For those of you who don't happen to speak Hebrew, Kobi told us how at the age of 6 he was taken to shul with his friends and given a glass off arak. He can still feel the hit in the back of the throat to this very day – a good training, he said, for learning how to down alchohol . . .

It is common to record a few takes before achieving a good result. Nevertheless, we were surprised to do “Shalom Aleichem” in one take - the Angels were present!

Studio work is not all nice and dandy. There are challenges and tensions at times. However, the pictures capture the good moments!

Even Zacharia has moments of nachas.

What’s a “Guide”?

The guide is like an initial stitch or a pencil sketch that you erase when the final product is ready. It is an initial recording of lesser quality that follows the outline of a track. Accompanying musicians, like the drummer, base player, or other musicians can listen to it on their headset while they play and record their parts.

As a first step, we recorded Yoel playing the basic chords of every track.

At the second stage, we recorded simple singing over the chords. I shot this brief video from the technician room that is separated by a double glass from the wood-lined studio. Daphna is singing the song “Shaamea Vatismach Zion.” Yoel is pointing to the right place on the notes using a Yad. You can also see Father Zechariah's image, in which he seems to be conducting and singing with her, reflected in the glass.

This one is a line from “Hod Ve-hadar.” Ruth's image is reflected in the glass, which tells you its nighttime.

Apr 9, 2008

Into the Studio

The purpose of this blog is to include you, members and supporters of the Nava Tehila community, in the production of the Kabbalat Shabbat music CD. This week we have entered the studio. We have sent everyone an initial fundraising letter. The process of a musical production is a bit like pregnancy - hidden from the eye! We want to share the process with you!

Don’t expect deep musings in this blog . . . this will be a real time report on what is happening behind the studio’s closed doors!

For starters a bit of history:

We started gathering for Kabbalat Shabbat on Shabbat Shira, 2005, at the home of Rabbi Ruth Gan Kagan. We wanted to create a space were prayer would be moving, relevant, and connected to the Shekhina. After a while we adopted the name Nava Tehila. If you are still not familiar with us you can visit our web site

Reb Ruth's vision was to create a place where we could experiment with different modes of prayer that would be grounded in a deep understanding of the flow of the traditional Kabbalat Shabbat

Over time, she was joined by few musicians and our Kabbalat Shabbat gravitated toward the musical aspect of prayer. In the past two years, we composed numerous niggunim for Kabbalat Shabbat. These niggunim add up to a spiritual journey that changes every time according to the parsha and to the season

A prayer facilitation team (Baalei tefila) emerged from this work that includes Rabbi Ruth Gan Kagan, Daphna Rosenberg and Yoel Sykes

Meanwhile other things were happening. People started inquiring about ways of listening to the music outside of our time together. Visitors from overseas brought those niggunim to their home communities and we started receiving emails requesting a CD.

In mid-December we felt a push to produce a CD that came from the Holy Blessed One.

“Nu” He said in our hearts, “ How long are you going to wait?”

We prayed on the matter.

“We can’t carry this project alone. We need a producer, a producer who is spiritually connected to our work, professional and fun to work with!”

Our prayers were answered that same day. That evening Reb Ruth received a phone call from Father Zechariah, a regular member of our group and a monk in the Beatitudes Order. The Beatitudes are a Catholic group whose monastery is located in Emmaus near Latrun. They emphasize the Jewish roots of Christianity by celebrating Shabbat. They pray Kabbalat Shabbat using Jewish tunes. They have participated in our prayers since the beginning of our community.

Father Zechariah was calling to tell Ruth that there is a demand for new Shabbat tunes in their international Order. He asked whether they could do something with our music.

You can imagine our joyful amazement!

Shortly thereafter we learned that Father Zechariah, who had been playing his fiddle in our services, used to be a performer of Irish music. He produced music, conducted choirs, and he had even put out a number of CDs. We received all that we asked for and more because, like the rest of us, Father Zechariah is doing this work for the sake of Heaven.

In this video you can see Father Zechariah writing down comments for our Lecha-Dodi during the first rehearsal he attended. Later he could not hold back and pulled out his fiddle.

Since January we have been meeting three times a week to arrange the niggunim. Listening to a CD is a different experience than praying in community.

In mid-Adar A we went to the monastery in Emmaus for a three day retreat to complete the arrangement. The monastery is located in the heart of “Canada Park” and the natural environment was a delight in and of itself..

We completed the arrangements and had the merit to see Father Zechariah in his Shema Israel robe.

Eventually, the big day arrived and we entered the studio.

We work in a “Studio 1” which is located in the Talpiot Industrial area. The owner and technician is Leo Doron, fondly thought of as Leo the Calm!