Divahn

Album cover: Colored pencil drawing of the band Divahn, 2002
Web: www.divahn.com
E-mail Divahn

One would not think that an album that gives such a prominent role to didgideroo on the opening numbers would sound so traditional. Drawing from both the Mizrahi (descended from Jews who first went to Babylonia after the destruction of the first Temple) and Sephardic (Jews descended from those exiled from Spain in 1492, or centuries earlier, when the Almohades ended the Golden Age) traditions, this Austin, Texas-based quartet of women manages to sound traditional and wonderfully new at the same time.

Thus, the quartet's treatment of traditional melodies, such as that of "Dror Yikra" also features the sorts of harmony and interplay more common in a capella women's folk groups. This, too, is traditional, in its own way, especially in the way it draws from the melodies local to Austin, Texas. It is also delightful and opens possibilities to singing and enjoying the song that are revelatory. For those of us who have been most influenced by the versions of this song, or of "Shekharkhoret," as sung by Israel's "Ha-Breira Ha-Tiv'it", these melodious, less rhythm-driven versions are a delightful change.

The repertoire chosen for this album reflects both familiar folk songs from both traditions, and prayers and piyutim (religious poems, set to music - often to the tunes of popular songs in the host culture). At the same time, the group's "Yigdal" will infuse new life into a song that most of us know from a very standard, often-tired sounding melody common in American Conservative or Orthodox synagogues. Similar compliments can be paid to "Yah Ribon". Although these tunes are familiar to Mizrahi traditions (the banjo on "Yah Ribon" might be less familiar), that admixture of traditional Sephardic and Mizrahi music with very American folkways yields something fresh and compelling. "Yodukha Rayonai" is divine, especially when Dardashti begins vocal improvisation with the band.

Divahn have achieved the rare balance between sounding traditional and embracing the sounds around them. At the same time, because the band members are so familiar with the traditional forms of these songs, the overall impression is of an album far more traditional than one gets with most "Sephardic" music with its overdone Spanish guitar or lush generic orchestral arrangements. Here, instead, once has the perfect recipe for lovely new music. It is lovely new-sounding music, for traditional music, or even on its own terms. It is also an album that celebrates women's voices and women's music. The liner notes, although relatively short, are also highly informative and well-done. Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Ari Davidow, 6/6/03

Personnel this recording:
Galeet Dardashti: lead vocals, guitar, 2nd doumbek
Lauren DeAlbert: tabla, doumbek, riq, tar, castanets, zills, didgeridoo, vocals
Michal Raizen: cello, vocals
Emily Pinkerton: violin, rabel, banjo, 2nd vocals

Songs

  1. Shabekhi Yerushalayim (words: Psalm 147; music: Avihu Medina) 4:05
  2. Dror Yikra (Donash ben Labrat; music: trad. Mizrahi) 4:52
  3. Yidgal (Daniel ben Yehuda; music: trad. Iranian) 3:25
  4. Ya Ribon Alam (Rabbi Israel ben Moses Najara; music: trad. Iraqi) 3:34
  5. Duerme (trad. Ladino) 3:27
  6. Va'amartem Zevakh Pesakh (trad.; music: trad Iraqi) 3:06
  7. Yodukha Rayonai (Rabbi Israel ben Moses Najara; music from Turkish folk song Katibim) 5:30
  8. Cuando el Rey Nimrod (Ladino folk song) 4:00
  9. Scalerica de Oro (Ladino folk song) 3:19
  10. Shekharkhoret (trad.) 5:34

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