Archives for posts with tag: food

I always enjoy reading the proposals submitted by the students of Music in Israel for their class projects (papers, presentations and performances, as outlined in the Class Syllabus). Then, I begin thinking, and learning, from them. I divide them into groups, and created graphs to describe their formats and contents.

It should suggest where things are at, now that we have reached the middle of the Semester.

Format-wise, students were somewhat “conservative.” Most students opted for the traditional “paper” (or essay) format. Some went for collaborative class presentations. And a few (but still a considerable number) chose to produce and present a performance to the class.

Music in Israel | Fall 2013 | Student Project Formats

In terms of the topic that students chose to work on, regardless of the format of their projects, I was able to isolate four major groups: ethnographic and ethnomusicological themes, the study of art music, the study of popular music, and the relationship between music and history.

Music in Israel | Fall 2013 | Student Project Topics

Ethnographic projects cover a wide variety of topics, ranging from the emergence of Judeo-Spanish song and Klezmer music between ethnography and commercial revival, to the sacred/secular divide in Israeli (musical) culture, issues of gender, various types of fieldwork (including the “ethnography of the Self”…), the study of traditional musical instruments, of the relationship between music and food, the role of Arabic maqam in Jewish music, music education, music in the Kibbutz, and the role of music in various Jewish “ethnic communities,” from Russia and Romania to Central Asia.

Students working on popular music will be covering a variety of themes, including Jazz, world Jewish and Israeli “pop,” ethnic rock, punk rock, Hip hop, and religious rock, the impact of American music on Israel’s popular music, the work of specific artists or ensembles (including Naomi Shemer, Shlomo Carlebach, and the Idan Reichel Project), and the impact of conflict and the role of the Israeli Defence Forces in shaping popular musical culture.

Art music is well represented as well, with topics ranging from the Israeli piano and vocal repertoires, to the impact of America’s Jewish composers on Israeli music, to the important issue of “style” (Mediterraneims, Orientalism, etc.) in Israel’s musical aesthetics.

The relationship between music and history will be mainly investigated in two directions: the role of film (and especially film music) in narrating history and representing culture, and the musical representations of the Holocaust.

Perhaps we are half way done, but it looks like a busy end of semester is coming up!


This week, we are very fortunate to work with our colleague, Dr. Yahil Zaban, of Tel Aviv University, currently a visiting post-doctoral fellow at UC Berkeley. His main research subjects are food in Jewish literature and Jewish enlightenment literature, and his book about food and sexuality in Hebrew literature will be published in early 2014.

While his talk will focus on Israeli songs (in Hebrew) about food, I suspect that one of the subtext of his teaching will involve the cultural clashes generated by the subsequent waves of Jewish immigration to (Ottoman and British Mandate) Palestine and to the State of Israel during the 20th century. A satirical television program, Lool (Heb. לול, or “chicken coop”), broadcast on Israeli television in four parts between July 1970 and March 1973, which among others also featured singer-songwriter Arik Einstein, perfectly summarized the way in which popular culture internalized this historical process: 


Dr. Zaban’s talk will focus on two extraordinary Hebrew songs.

First, a song about the Tomato (עגבניה, 1931, lyrics by Yehudah Karni, music by Joel Engel), performed by Reuben Gornstein.


Agvanyah (Tomato)

Hoy, hoy, hoy
Our land is poor
Sing, soul of every being
The tomato song
Tomato, tomato

Only yesterday we came by ship
And already you were in the borscht
The salad and the meatball
Only, only, only
Only tomato

From Bnei Brak to Degania
So, so, so
In the days of immigration
In every kitchen
Will sing the tomato song

Hoy, hoy, hoy
Our land is poor
We sang enough already
The tomato song

And then, of course, the Falafel Song (שיר הפלאפל, lyrics by Dan Almagor, music by Moshe Vilenski, 1952), which over the years has been performed in radically different versions.

For instance this (performed by Baruch Nadav, of the Ayalon army ensemble):


And this (performed by Nissim Garma, within the context of Israeli musiqah mizrachit):


shir ha-falafel (The Falafel Song)

Every nation in the world
Has a special well-known food
Every kid knows that
That Italians eat pasta
The Austrians eat tasty schnitzels
The French eat frogs
The Chinese eat rice
And cannibals eat one other.

And we have falafel, falafel, falafel
A present for dad
Mom buys old grandma a half portion
And our mother in-law will also get
falafel, falafel, falafel
with a lot a lot of spicy peppers

Once upon a time when Jews arrived to the Land of Israel
They would kiss the ground and recite the “gomel” blessing
Today, one only gets off the plane
And already is buying falafel and has a soda drink
(full translation here)

This is kind of fun.

View this document on Scribd
%d bloggers like this: