January 20th, 2005


(no subject)

I just got the Abayudaya CD. I absolutely love it. It's so amazing and powerful. No wonder it's nominated for a Grammy. (In the lucrative and prestegious "World music, traditional" category!)

I don't know the whole story behind the Abayudaya. (Nor do I know how to pronounce that correctly.) I'm still reading the liner notes, and I don't remember everything that Val and others have told me. But essentially, for the past 100 years, there has been a community of about 600 Jews native to Uganda. They started out with just the text of the bible, but over the century they've been given prayerbooks and been taught various laws which don't follow obviously from the bible. And now many of them are fully observant Jews, in many of the ways we think of observant Judaism.

This CD is a field recording of a lot of the Abayudaya prayers and songs. (Of course, nothing featuring them on instruments was actually recorded on Shabbat.) Of the 24 tracks, two are of prayers I'm familiar with, in melodies I've known for a few months and I love, but only very recently learned are from Uganda. A few more of the tracks are prayers and psalms entirely in English or Hebrew that I'm familiar with, but with tunes new to me. (It's particularly interesting how the phrasing and pacing of the music is off from what I'm used to. The things you take for granted...) But the majority of the tracks are songs in languages I don't know, either translations of verses I know or things entirely new to me.

Listening to it is very enchanting. The music is just different enough that it doesn't feel American, European, or Middle Eastern, but the similarities are what really draws me in. I know all of what they're saying, even if I don't know the way they say it, or necessarily the words. I feel like they've learned a lot from us in the past century; it's time for me to learn something from them.