Divahn / Shalhevet
Divahn / Shalhevet, 2020
CD, downloads available from Amazon.
I was an immediate fan when Galeet Dardashti, daughter of a Persian cantor, initially formed Divahn over a decade ago, and I have happily followed subsequent projects. This latest release, again features a women-only band, her soaring voice and a delightful, traditional Middle Eastern sound. From the opening "Am Ne'emanay," we are transported musically, and also through an often neglected Jewish-Middle Eastern canon. What makes this recording magical is how she makes these traditional melodies speak to our time. In a recent concert at Joe's Pub (see link in sidebar) she described the Hanukah song, "Banu choshech" (We come to banish darkness) as newly relevant as a response to the 2016 election and to the closing of the US border to immigrants from many Middle Eastern, African, and Latin American countries. To hammer home the point, this rendition (reminiscent in intent of Chava Alberstein's wonderful "Khad Gadya") includes verses from TaNaKh reminding us, in particular, "You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt." In the same concert she noted "The world really needed an all-female Jewish Middle Eastern band, responding to misoygyny and more."
Although the intent behind this music may be partly political, it is also an expression and the relevance of traditional Jewish poetry and music. Familiar as I am with the Ashkenazic version of "L'cha Dodi," (Welcome, Sabbath Bride), I am enchanted by this Middle Eastern take. I am more than blown away by her rendition of "El norah elila," which my congregation sings to this same Middle Eastern melody as we approach the end of Yom Kippur each year, and equally, by her "Oseh Shalom" (May the one who brings peace...). Then, contrast that power with her scat singing to the instrumental "khazan" (autumn) and the sweetness of the Havdalah piyyut, "Hamavdil" (May the one who separates the holy and the everyday...).
In short, this is a delightful album of traditional Middle Eastern and Sephardic repertoire, well-selected and, where necessary, updated, to make it speak forcefully in our time.<
Reviewed by Ari Davidow, 2 May 2020.
Personnel this recording:
Galeet Dardashti: lead vocals, mountain dulcimer
Megan Gould: violin, viola, kemanche, background vocals
Eleanor Norton: cello, background vocals
Elizabeth Pupo-Walker: cajon, congas, percussion, background vocals
Sejal Kukadia: tabla, background vocals
Shanir Blumenkranz: oud, bass (1)
Philip Mayer: riqq (1), percussion (3,4)
Zafer Tawil: oud (4), frame drum (2)
Eli Walker: bass (8)
- Ya'alah ya'alah—Onward, onward (words: R. Yisrael Najara, 16th c. Tzfat; music: from Arabic song "ya tira tiri") 3:25
- Oseh shalom—May the one who creates peace (adapted by Galeet Dardashti) 5:34
- Am ne'emanay—My faithful nation (words: R. David Buzaglo, 20th c Morocco, Israel; music: from "Ya um Alabaya") 4:18
- Ayni tzofiah—My eye longs for You (words: Moshe Eliyahu, 20th c Syria, Israel; music from "Il Arasiya") 5:29
- Lecha dodi—Come, my beloved (words: Shlomo HaLevi Alkabetz, 16th c Tzfat; music: based on Moroccan folk song) 2:50
- Khazan—Autumn (music:Parviz (Ostad) Meshkatian, 20th c Iran) 4:29
- Hamavdil—May the one who separates the holy and the everyday (words: attr. to Isaac Judah ibn Ghiyyat, 11th c Spain; music: trad. Seph.) 3:10
- Banu choshech—We've come to chase away the darkness (words: Sara Levi-Tanai; music: Emanuel Amiran, 20th c Israel) 5:45
- El nora alilah—God of awe, God of might (words: Moshe ibn Ezra, 11th c Spain; music: trad. Persian) 5:25