Two House Parties
This has been a wonderful week for music. I was too tired to attend the KlezWoods Christmas Klezmer Special (hint: holding me to attend events that begin at my bedtime is iffy), much as I would love to see them back where it all began, at the Atwoods Tavern in Cambridge. But they have neat shows planned for January (see the KlezmerShack world Jewish music calendar) so I am sure to see them soon.
But, this past Saturday night, motzei shabbes, I was treated to a rare local performance—the week's first house party by Alicia Jo Rabins. With her husband, Aaron, she presented a wonderful, midrashic evening full of "Girls in Trouble," including some very new stories that will be featured on a third album in the series. For those unfamilar with "Girls in Trouble," it is a program that grew out of a Masters Thesis at JTA in which Rabins tells the story of women in the Bible. Her use of both literal text and midrash to explicate the lives of women, both well-known (e.g., the prophetess Miriam) and obscure (Tamar), coupled with very American music make for a delicious concert To listen to midrash about Biblical women during this season of lights is also very special. Nah, the truth is, Girls in Trouble give good concert. The rest is just, um, midrash. You can find out more about the project at the Girls in Trouble website.
Wednesday night, we hosted Canadian ethnomusicologist Judith Cohen at our own home. As usually happens, people from all walks of life attended, and the event was just as lively for the conversations that took place after the lecture/performance as people discovered new connections amongst themselves, as for the event itself, which extended long past the scheduled stop time. Cohen reflected on her work in North Africa, Israel, Europe, and back home in Canada, gathering songs and stories. We followed the same song through several languages. We spent a lot of time on variants of the "guy goes off to war, comes back seven years later, and what happens when he tests his wife's faithfulness and feelings." Alas, in all of the variants, there appear to be none in which the woman says, "fuck you for abandoning me for seven years and then having the gall to test my fidelity get lost." There are, however, some in which she says, "well, too bad. I'm married with four kids now. Shoulda stayed home." It's a start.
As tends to happen when the speaker has done field research around the globe, she was also able to dig up songs from town and regions whence came several members of the audience. There were also some singalongs, and, happily, no performance of "Cuando el rey nimrod" (or other chestnuts). Cohen did point out that a song about the birth of the founder of the Hebrew people that refers to the "Jewish Quarter" does lack a certain amount of credibility, overall--but does reflect the song's own origins outside of Jewish tradition.
This morning, Henry Goldberg sent a list of links to follow up on some of the discussion. I post them here for those who were (or weren't) there, for following up further.
- "Judith mentioned the National Authority for Ladino and postings on youtube—if you search for: Autoridad Nasionala del Ladino i su Kultura you will find many postings
– some are interviews with Sephardim (in Judeo-Espanyol); – some are songs, including the singalong songs
- if you search for: שרים בלאדינו you will get those most directly, but they have a number of other videos that are songs with lyrics that one can sing with. This one: www.youtube.com/watch?v=szYhwb8mq0g is a long posting with 8 different songs.
- Judith also mentioned the songs collected by Susana Weich-Shahak—and there are a number of examples posted on youtube. You can search for: Susana Weich-Shahak or שושנה וייך-שחק those come up.
Judith did recover from her travels, and adds to the above:
Here's a link to one of my general articles on Sephardic music—most of my articles aren't online (or maybe they are and I just don't know—it happens.) This one is from the SIbE online journal TRANS (SIbE is Sociedad Iberica de Etnomusicología): www.redalyc.org/pdf/822/82220947013.pdf