Archives for posts with tag: festivals

Popular Music: Famous Israeli Songs in Israel and Around the World
Xulan Zhang


Through this presentation, we’ll explore topic of how certain Israeli songs become famous worldwide and the preserve and transformation of performance form, context and people’s interpretation of these songs when they went “globalized”.  And try to answer the question: Is the music a universal  language or a mirror that reflects the difference between different cultures?

Case 1:  Donna Donna

Origin: Yiddish theater song written in the time of Nazi

Performance form: a duo of a man and a woman, choral with the orchestral accompaniment

Became popular when American country music singer Joan Baez performed it in English with guitar.

Represented spirit of freedom in Israel during the WWII.

Became a worldwide symbolic song for people who are pursuing freedom.

Case 2: Hallelujah

Origin: sung by the Israeli band Hakol Over Habibi for 1978’s Eurovision’s competition

Became popular when it was performed by Gali Atari and Milk & Honey song in 1979 and won the competition for Israel as the hosting country

Performance form: alternate among 1 female voice and 3 male voices

The song roused the national pride in successfully winning and hosting Eurovision Competition.

Case 3: Diva

Origin: sung by Dana International, an Israeli transsexual singer

Performance form: It was originally only performed in the form of singing on the competition but later on was added the dancing part

Became highly popular after Dana International performed this song in Eurovision 1998.

But in its own country, Dana International’s big success triggered controversy.

Conclusion: Through these three different cases, I see music’s role both as a universal language that connects people from different culture and a mirror that reflects cultural gap.



  1. Regev, Motti and Edwin Seroussi , Popular Music and National Culture in Israel








The Festival della Canzone Italiana (Festival of Italian [Popular] Song), organized in the coastal city of Sanremo by RAI, Italy’s broadcasting authority, since 1951, served as a model for the festival ha-zemer ha-yisraeli (Festival of Israeli Song), organized by the Israel Broadcasting Authority since 1960.

On the musical relations between Italy and Israel, you can read Crossing the Sea of Songs, by Francesco Spagnolo, here.

View this document on Scribd

Dear Class,

As we discussed at the beginning of the Semester (and as indicated in our Class Syllabus), this Fall we are taking advantage of the fact that our class time coincides with a major Jewish Festival, Sukkot (Hebrew for “booths” or “tabernacles”). The festival lasts for seven days, followed, on the eight day, by shemini ‘atzeret (Hebrew for “eighth [day] of closing [assembly]) and simchat torah (Hebrew for “rejoicing of the Torah,” when the yearly cycle of reading the Hebrew Bible in the synagogue begins anew).

The Hebrew calendar is “lunisolar,”that is, based on the lunar cycle, but also integrated with the solar cycle. Therefore, Jewish holidays always fall during the same season each year, but not always on the same date of the Gregorian calendar. This year, the first day of Sukkot falls on Thursday, September 19, and shemini ‘atzeret falls on Thursday, September 26.

This presents us with the chance to make two field trips to local (Berkeley) synagogues on these dates (or on days immediately following them, if that is more convenient). Since at this point of the semester we are learning about the different Jewish musical traditions in the Diaspora, and about how sounds can define the identity of a group, everyone in the class is required to visit two different synagogues, and reflect on the similarities and the differences presented by each one. This will be a unique chance to experience and reflect upon one of the cultures we are studying in class by observing some of its manifestations in situ, and to further our understanding of fieldwork dynamics.

Below I am detailing how the field trips can take place. Please read the whole message, and register for the field trips. If the instructions are not clear, ask questions during lecture time on Tuesday (September 17). If the trips present a challenge of any sort, promptly inform me by email (ASAP).

All the best,

PS: Try clicking on the links above. If you are off Campus and you can read the corresponding entries in the Encyclopaedia Judaica, it means you’ve successfully configured your access to UCB’s electronic resources… Otherwise, read here. (If you are reading this post and do not have UC Berkeley or other academic credentials, the links may not work at all… Sorry about that!).

ASSIGNMENT / FIELD TRIPSVisit two (2) synagogues during the two weeks of the Sukkot Festival

1. Consult the list of Jewish congregations in Berkeley
The list is available online at this link. It includes addresses, contact information, and website links. Note that they are not listed in order of importance (but the first two are very close to Campus), and that not all of them will be holding services during the upcoming holiday.
2. Choose two (2) different synagogues
Individual visits can take place during class time (travel time is included in class time, so your actual visit may and up being as short as 30-45 minutes, depending on which synagogue you plan to visit), but also at the other times indicated in the Field Trip Registration Form (see below, No. 3). In other words, you can choose to conduct your field trips during class time, but also at another time (based on the registration form, see below No. 3), if that is more convenient for you. However, you must visit two (2) different synagogues on two separate field trips.
3. Register for each field trip
a) Add your name (First, Last) to the synagogue and time corresponding to your visit on the Field Trip Registration Form, a shared Google Spreadsheet linked here.
b) No more than twelve students can visit a synagogue at the same time (to limit your impact on the congregations you will be visiting).
c) You must use your login to bDrive to access the registration spreadsheet (more information here).
d) Registration closes at 3PM on Wednesday, September 18. Make sure you name is on the spreadsheet for both field trips by then!
4. Plan your visits (field trips)
a) Read the congregations’ websites (links provided in the list below and online, AND in the shared spreadsheet), and document yourself on the background and history of each of the two congregations you are planning to visit.
b) Plan your trip (all congregations are located within walking distance, and near public transportation), to make sure you maximize the time at your disposal.
c) In general, make sure you have as much information with you BEFORE your trip, so that DURING the trip you can focus on researching your surroundings.
5. During your visits: seven general rules of conduct
Remember that you will be visiting ritual spaces, and that you may not be aware of all the rules of conduct that govern them. Be as respectful as you can of your (unfamiliar?) surroundings.
a) Dress appropriately (use your judgment), and be quiet.
b) Silence your phones.
c) Stand when people stand, sit when they sit.
d) Ask for page in prayer book (don’t be shy about asking for assistance!).
e) Introduce yourself if anyone asks you why you are there. There is a long-standing history of visiting synagogues on the part of “strangers” (Jewish visitors from out of town, Jewish members of other congregations, and non-Jewish visitors), so your presence will not be out of the ordinary. But it will definitely be noticed.
f) Do not take notes, do not take photographs, do not make audio recordings, do not use any electronic devices while you are inside a synagogue
g) Do your best to minimize your luggage (backpacks, etc.), and try to not have any with you if possible (of course, some of you will be going back to class, so you may need your backpack with you).
6. During your visits: observe and listen to your surroundings (field work)
Be as aware of your surroundings as you can. Look for the following:
a) Architectural space: what does it look like, how is space distributed and occupied, etc.
b) Population: number of people attending, age, gender, dress code(s).
c) Use of space gender and age.
d) Languages (of the prayer books, of people conducting the prayers, etc.).
e) Sounds and music: any particular sounds? recognizable melodies? identifiable musical style or styles?
Also, refer to the four parameters listed in the Listening Assignment Sheet for Week 2 (soundscape; performance style, language, and context).
7. After your visits: take notes (field notes)
As soon as you are able to, write down your observations on the points listed above (No. 6), or on additional details and impressions you may have gathered from your visit. Try to be as systematic as you can in collecting your notes, so that you can compare them from one field trip to the next.
8. After your visits: class work
We will be comparing notes and impressions in class (weeks 4 and 5), and you will be asked to incorporate your observations in you weekly responses (note that on week 4 we discuss the many waves of immigration to Palestine in the early 20th century, each of which brought with them different musical traditions).
9. About instructors’ participation
Both Rachel Colwell (graduate student assistant) and Francesco Spagnolo (lecturer) will be also visiting two different synagogues at this time. But we will not register online, and we will only see those of you who are registered for the same field trips on such occasions. We plan to share our observations with the class as well.
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