May 28, 2008

Waltz

We learned from our teacher Rabbi Zalman Shachter-Shalomi that every part of Shabbat has its own flavor and rhythm. Friday night is linked to three-quarters rhythm, which is the rhythm of a waltz. It has circularity and tenderness like mama.

When we, Daphna and Reb Ruth, sat three years ago to plan Daphna's first Kabbalat Shabbat we wanted to follow this energetic direction and looked for a waltz tune for Lecha-Dodi. In order to grasp how a waltz and Lecha-dodi fit together we sang the Yiddish melody known as Tumbalalayika. That led to Daphna composing the melody we jokingly nicknamed “Advanced Tumbalalayika” AKA Daphna’s Lecha-dodi. This is the same tune that gets you up from your seats many Friday nights and fills our davvening space with many dancing couples, triads and circles.

As we went about recording more and more layers of this track, we found out that we just couldn't stay seated. Those of us who were not bound by the headset cables had to get up and dance . . .

This first clip is arguably the first sign of this malady. It was shot in February during our stay in the monastery. We were sitting among the wild flowers arranging our niggunim when Zechariah showed up with his warm brown winter cloak. It looked so majestic we couldn't resist trying it on.

Daphna put it on and simply had to whirl . . .

video

As far as we can recall (Father) Zechariah and (Rabbi) Ruth also danced on several occasions. However, none of these dances were ever captured on tape. Is this a plot meant to protect their respectful status in the community? Or maybe the reason is that the camera woman is usually Ruth???

Unfortunately for them, Daphna and Yoel did not merit such luck! Here they are during one of the early recordings:

video

The next clip captures a rare and unprecedented event. The Klezmer band (whom we will cover in another post) are recording in the studio. Daphna invites Leo, the technician, to dance. Leo, as you may have figured out by now, is not as crazy as we are - but after a moment of hesitation, he said yes!!!

Initially Leo attempts a Russian dance in honor of our Russian-Ukrainian Klezmer musicians, but eventually, he is also taken by the waltz.


video

Do try this at home!!!

Alon Paner -Base Guitar


Some of you may know that this blog is originally written and published in Hebrew. Our friend Nachshon took upon himself the task of translating it into English. We have just realized that one old post – from before Passover - was not uploaded. So here is the story of the bass guitar – the second layer that was recorded after the percussion.

As Zechariah phrase it, the base is like a compassionate father who hugs all the Niggunim and supports them. Many people can’ t hear these low sounds but the base guitar is the roots.

We use a base in all nigunim except our two Pillars of Smoke (BeAmud Anan…).

After hiring Alon Panner to play we found out that he is considered one of the best in the country. One person put it in these words: "your guest musicians are too good for you"! Needless to say that after openly expressing this opinion he himself was NOT asked to come aboard…

To give you a taste of the base here is the niggun “Arbayim Ahana” . You will hear only the base with no vocals or percussions.

video

Few things we learn about Alon:

His family had been secular for a long time, probably since the Era of the Enlightment.

He had never been to a Kabbalat Shabbat and never heard of Lecha Dodi.

He is familiar with Shalom aleichm but not from home.

He is getting married this summer with a chupa and the whole ceremony.

He willingly joined us for our prayer circle with which we open every session.

The most amazing story Alon shared with us is that after seven years of working as a professional musician in weddings, recordings and bands he decided to choose an easier career path, one that will allow him to spend more time at home.

And what is this easy path he chose?

Medicine…

Alon went straight form 4 hours of to an exam at Haddasah Medical School. If he can sustain the calmness and concentration we experienced with him in the studio we predict he will make a fabulous doctor.

In this clip Alon plays the bass and Yoel provide the sounds that what will, in the future be played by the oud (or in the case of this blog, in the past... see the last post abput the oud).


video

And here you can hear the base on Yoel’s Lecha Dodi


video

May 22, 2008

Oud, Nay, Gilad and Tiran, A Desert Dream Comes True

One of our earliest dreams was to produce the chant, “Arbaim Shana,” with an accompaniment of a nay and an oud. Long before we found Zachariah, we started rehearsing for an independent disc production. For several weeks we soaked in Arabim Shana, wandering in the desert, experiencing the loneliness and despair of this chant. In the desert wind, we heard the sound of a nay. Yoel even sang those sounds out loud. The nay appears at the distance with the oud, the Israelites tired and covered with dust appear right after in a sand cloud. Oy, "they did not know my ways . . ."

Today, the dream came true!

When Tiran plays the nay, the soul pours out with longing. They nay strikes the tired soul, yearning . . .

video

In this clip, the nay answers Yoel in “Ki Ata YHVH Elyon.



Tiran Bublil, just like like Kobby Hagoel, grew up in a synagogue – this time Tunisian. His father, who is turning eighty these days, is a chazzan and performer of sacred Jewish music. As a child, Tiran was surrounded with Arabic music and Jewish - Tunisian sacred music. In this clip, he tells us about growing up in the synagogue choir, and of his father who worked as a leather cutter in a shoe factory to support his family. Tiran’s father is surprised that his son can make a living from music. He wished for that himself but could never afford it.



video

Gilad Hazzan, our oud player, is a Breslav chassid. As you can see he wears a typical big yarlmaka and tzitzit with techelet. In his tiny car, you can find side-by-side two children’s safety chairs, an oud, a kannun and Likutei Moharan, a book of teachings from Reb Nachman of Breslav. Check out the sticker on his oud case!














Gilad plays the oud with great devotion and sweetness as if he is playing a lullaby to his own baby. Gilad and Yoel both study in the Center for Oriental Music in the Musrara neighborhood of Jerusalem.

In this clip, Gilad offers improvisations for “Arbayim Shana”.

video

During the break in the studio, Gilad drew us into a conversation about the fiery lion that emerged from the Holy of Holies after the destruction of the Temple. We moved to talking about the nature of passion, creativity, good, evil and overcoming our inclination to do G-d’s work.


Following Kobby’s advice, we invited Tiran and Gilad to play together. It was the first time we used two separate recording rooms at the same time. In this way the musicians could maintain eye contact through the glass and ear contact through the headsets while every instrument was recorded on a separate track that can be edited separately.




video

Leo Goes to Mexico and his Brother Abe Doron Snaps us to Ireland



The Doron brothers:
Leo - the studio owner and our recording technician always surprises us by his ability to stay calm. Studio life is full of tensions. Musicians are late, failed recordings have to be repeated. There are disagreements . . . yet somehow in the midst of it all he manages to keep a smile.
However, even Leo needs a break. One day, Leo packed his bags and went to visit the family in Mexico. It happened just as we were looking for a percussionist for our Asher Lo Hayam - the Caribbean-style children's song, and for our beloved reggae Anan Vaarafel. A few days before he left, we learned that Leo’s brother is the famous percussionist Abe Doron. Well, we thought, maybe Abe can do the job. But then Leo left and we had no phone no for Abe. We surfed the web and found him on myspace, on Utube , you name it – fully featured but not a single phone number!
Eventually, we located the missing brother who was busy establishing a percussion music school. Abe is well known worldwide as an percussionist, no less then an ex-Riverdance player! After we finished working on the two songs we planned for him to drum we begged him to play the bodhrán for us. Watch this!

video

After this delightful tutorial we could not resist! We asked Abe on the spot to add a bodhrán to our "Irish" Shameava Vatismach Zion. Our own Father Zachariah, who, in his previous incarnation had been an Irish fiddler, barely agreed to arrange this song as if it was truly Irish. His main complaint was that traditional Irish tunes are written in a different key. We would hear nothing of that and we stayed on Zachariah's case until he gave up and wrote an amazing Irish fiddle solo piece for this tune. And now we were going to "Irish" it even more by adding the bodhrán.
Here Abe is playing over Zecharie’s recorded solo piece. However, Zechariah is not happy… Apparently Abe was playing in a modern style, to go with our wrong key, I guess!

video

And then Zechariah asked Abe to play the bodhrán the old way. Listen to him describe his wishes to Abe. When Abe finally came up with “Old-style” drumming Zechariah relaxed – this is it, this is the real thing!!

video

May 11, 2008

Shiviti

The Shiviti is a Jewish art form that is based on the verse from Tehilim: "I equate G-D before me at all times."(Psalms 17 verse 8). It functions as an aid for meditation or contemplation.

The studio is a place of action - not always a place intended for prayer. We wanted to bring prayer into the studio and to maintain our awareness that we are singing to G-D, not to the microphone, the technician or the producer. Thus, we brought to the studio a Shiviti created by Reb Zalman who is the spiritual Zeide of many of us.

In this Shiviti, G-D's name Y-H-W-H is written downward as a reflection of the human silhouette.

In Kabbala, these four letters parallel the archetypical order of father, mother, son and daughter. The upper Yod represents Chochma, and is associated with the archetype of the father. The upper Hey is associated with Bina which represents the mother. The vav is The Holy Blessed One and the lower Hey represents the Shekhina.

We had not noticed until yesterday that metaphorically we represent these four faces. Father Zechariah sits in Chochma. He is the mind behind this project. Reb Ruth sits in the position of Bina. She is the translator and mediator between everybody making sure they eat and rest and know their role.

Yoel and Daphna, the young artists, sit for the Holy Blessed One and Shekhina. They express themselves through their creativity - writing the music, playing their instruments and singing.

BTW, without planning it, we have found perfect balance between the two of them. The disc includes 8 tracks written by Daphna and an equal number written by Yoel.

Yesterday, we consciously and humorously accepted upon ourselves these roles and painted the Shiviti together. Each one painted their letter and its corresponding background.

And here it the Shiviti in it's place in the Studio!