Archives for posts with tag: palestine
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This is the Land (1935, 50′), by Baruch Agadati (1895-1976; a quasi-legendary character, a dancer-choreographer-artist-film-maker, whom among other things is credited for introducing the Hora to the Palestinian Jewish Yishuv) is considered the first Hebrew language sound film, and was entirely produced in Palestine.

The soundtrack was composed by Yaakov Levanon. Around 25:00 there are various scenes with different types of music, underscoring the variety of musical cultures brought by Jewish immigrants to Palestine during the first half of the 20th century.

Interestingly enough, as we attempt to define our topic, “music in Israel,” and the related topics of Israel/Palestine/State of Israel/Land of Israel/Promised Land, we also gain a more distinct understanding of the related, and not necessarily antagonistic, notions of Diaspora…


This semester we will be exploring a set of complex cultural realities. As one of our textbooks states in its opening sentence:

The study of Israeli culture is one of the most challenging fields of inquiry among those relating to the investigation of nation-states that arose during the 20th century.

And yet, reality is always even more complex than how we posit it, even academically. This is why we will continue to read news from the Middle East every week.

Yesterday, the Israeli press reported on a “scandal” that happened in the Palestinian city of Hebron (Southern West Bank). Two Israeli soldiers on patrol joined a wedding party. In full military gear, they danced with the crown, to the sound of Gangnam Style. Here’s a link to the Jerusalem Post article, where I first read this news (which since last night has spread to news sources worldwide).

There’s a lot to deconstruct here, trust me…

This week is devoted to distinguished guests, and to perfecting our listening skills across musical cultures and political divides.

On Tuesday, we will be working with Prof. Benjamin Brinner, Chair of the Department of Music at UC Berkeley, whose book, Playing Across a Divide: Israeli-Palestinian Musical Encounters is part of our reading assignments. On Thursday, Bustan Quartet will be joining us for a conversation-demonstration. Their combined efforts will help us focusing on the issue of competence that musical encounters require from both performers and their audiences.

Benjamin Brinner is a professor at U.C. Berkeley, where he is currently chair of the Department of Music. His research has focused on issues of musical cognition, particularly memory, competence, and interaction among musicians. His books include Knowing Music, Making Music: Javanese Gamelan and the Theory of Competence and Interaction (Chicago, 1995) and his new work, Playing Across A Divide: Israeli-Palestinian Musical Encounters (Oxford, 2009), based on one and a half decades of research on the ethnic music scene in Israel.

A master of both Eastern and Western music, oud and violinist, Taiseer Elias is one of the foremost Middle Eastern musicians of our time. Founder and conductor of the first Orchestra of Classical Arabic Music in Israel, and currently the musical director and conductor of the Arab-Jewish orchestra and the Music Center in Jerusalem, Elias has recorded with a number of ensembles including White Bird, Bustan Abraham, Ziryab Trio (of which he is the musical director) and others. In addition, Prof. Elias is the head of Eastern Music Department at the Rubin Academy of Music; a Professor in the Musicology Department at Bar Ilan University; and director of Arab music education in the Education Ministry in Israel.

A graduate of the prestigious Rubin Academy of Music in Jerusalem and New England Conservatory, Amir Milstein, flutist, established his career in the world-music scene, founding acclaimed ensembles such as Bustan and Tucan Trio with which he has recorded and performed worldwide. Milstein’s musical background represents a variety of styles and cultures including classical, jazz, Mediterranean and Latin music; he has participated in distinguished international concert venues and festivals, both as a player and as a composer.

Born in France, Emmanuel Mann has become one of Israel’s top bass players. He was a member of Israel’s first ethnic group, Habrera Hativ’it, and later co-founded Bustan Abraham. Mann has performed at the Israel Festival, the Budapest Spring Festival, the Hong Kong Asian Arts Festival, le Theatre De La Ville, the Lille Festival, the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Womad Festival, the Krakov Jewish Music Festival, Sao Paulo SESC, World Expo- Seville, the Akbank Jazz Festival Istanbul, the Kennedy Center, Symphony Space, Town Hall, the Beacon Theater and the Jewish Repertory Theater. He has led workshops at the Berklee College of Music in Boston as well as the Julliard School in New York City.

One of the best and most sought after percussionists in the world, and a star on the international scene, Zohar Fresco’s unique amazing finger style expresses itself on a vast array of Oriental as well as Western percussion instruments. Fresco is a virtuoso of many percussion instruments, and his performances with the darbuka and the frame drums (such as Bendir, Riqq, and Tar) have left audiences all over the world awestruck. After years of playing these instruments, he has developed original techniques that include influences of Arabic, Indian, Persian, and Turkish music, as well as Jazz. Fresco was an original member of Bustan Abraham, Ziryab Trio and of Arabandi. Fresco taught at the Rubin Academy of Music where he was head of the Oriental percussion department.

Your readings include two chapter from Benjamin Brinner’s book, and a very different take on Arab-Palestinian music in Israel, by David A. McDonald (Indiana University). Your listening assignments include a track from the 1997 CD, Pictures Through the Painted Window by Bustan Avraham (the band from which Bustan Quartet originates), “Here He Comes (Muwashah)” (see Oxford music here and here for more details on this type of Arab song), and two versions of the classic Israeli Hebrew song, ‘Erev shel shoshanim, by the Dudaim (1958), and by ‘Aley hazayit ((Jewish Jerusalemite Shoham Einav singing with a band led by Muslim Jerusalemite drummer Jamal Sa’id, with French Israeli bassist Jeane Claude Jones). But, most importantly, focus on listening to the musicians that compose Bustan Quartet in class.

In class, we will focus on our live listening experience, and on the dynamics of the musical encounters discussed and performed by our guests.

The listening assignment sheet is here:

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Directly from Classified Palestine Songs (which have nothing to do with any secret services, in spite of the title), here is a song for the festival that falls on the 15th of the month of Shvat in the Hebrew calendar, which this year happens to be this week. It’s the “new year of trees,” a semi-holiday with strong agricultural connections (planting new trees). Its celebration was first the object of a 16th-century revival on the part of Jewish mystics (kabbalists), who devised a complex (and delicious) ritual involving eating (rather than planting) a wide variety of fruits; in the early 20th century, it was at the center of a Zionist revival, which focused on the agricultural activities of the yishuv.

The song 15th Shevat, with the incipit, “ha-sheqediyah porachat,” which remains popular to this day, was written to underscore the political, rather than religious, or mystical, value of the traditional celebration.

Hasheqediah porachat

T”U bi-svhat – 15th Shevat
Words by Y. Dushman, Music by M. Rabinowitz
from Classified Palestine Songs, Volume 4 (Chage ha-teva’ – Nature Songs), rotaprinted in Jerusalem, Palestine (before 1948) by the Overseas Youth Department of the Jewish National Fund. n.d.

Originally meant for communal singing (shirah be-tzibur), it has retained its performative quality into the present. See for example it inclusion in the website and in the YouTube channel, of Zemereshet, a project devoted to the revival of early Hebrew songs (unfortunately, a Hebrew-only site).

Volume 2 (Valour and Heroism. Hanuka, Tel-Hai Day, Lag B’Omer) and Volume 4 (Chage ha-teva’ – Nature Songs) of Classified Palestine Songs, rotaprinted in Jerusalem, Palestine (before 1948) by the Overseas Youth Department of the Jewish National Fund, n.d. (Materials from The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life, UC Berkeley).

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There are some excellent resources available online.

The National Sound Archives of the National Library of Israel have published a playlist of early sound recordings, streaming online, including among other things two recordings of the boys choir conducted by Abraham Zvi Idelsohn in Jerusalem, recorded in 1922. You can listen to it here.

The Spielberg Film Archive of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem has an excellent YouTube channel, which includes seventy film clips documenting life in pre-1948 Palestine (for a total of almost 28 hours of online video).

From Settlement to Statehood: Music and Cultural Politics in Palestine Before 1948.

The listening assignments for Week 4 are here. We are now getting into the thick of our course, and exploring the hybrid musical repertoires sung by the chalutzim, or Zionist pioneers who established the early Jewish settlements in Ottoman and British mandatory Palestine in the early decades of the 20th century.

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Listening assignments for Week 3 are here. We discuss musical notions of exile (or notions of musical exile), and the musical relationship between music and a land.

As we listen to songs of longing (for a seemingly unattainable land, the Land of Israel) sung across the Jewish Diaspora for centuries, we also read about the arrival of Diaspora Jews to Palestine, and the development of musical life before and shortly after the foundation of the State of Israel in 1948.

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