Hadass Pal-Yarden / Yahudije

lovely detail from Turkish Synagogue Hadass Pal-Yarden
Kalan CD 272, 2003

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Hadass Pal-Yarden's recording of "Yahudice," Jewish music from Ottoman and post-Ottoman times (from the liner notes, perhaps also described as pre-WWII 20th century Turkish music) is a labor of love, and reflects it. From her opening reading of the lyrics to "Landariko" in Hebrew, the music is delightful, her voice versatile and impressive, and the accompaniment very nicely done.

If, like me, you enjoy Sephardic and Mizrahi Jewish music from North Africa to the former Ottoman Empire, this album devoted to Ottoman music will be sheer pleasure. From the the song/response with a traditional Turkish male chorus on "Adon Ha-Slichot" (Lord of Forgiveness) to the tenderness of the a capella lullaby "Nani Nani", to the three versions of "Landariko," the album is documented painstakingly, and sung lovingly. The recording of Berta Aguado, talking in Ladino about "D'en Dia en Dia," before dueting with Pal-Yarden is especially priceless. I also especially enjoy the alternate lyrics provided several songs, giving a window into differences of culture (perhaps) that influence the strong differences between some language versions. Then there are the male/female duets, as on "Mi Chika Flor" (My Little Flower) and "Ven Chika Nazlia" (Come, my Little Tease). This is simply a great album, all the way through to the intense, more orchestrated (unusual for the album) duet with Stelyo Berber on "The Honest Young Man."

The variety of music can lead in many directions. After listening inattentively to "In Prison" (actually a love song, "I'm in prison, because of you I'm in chains"), I found myself listening to the next song without realizing that there had been a transition, and walking over to the CD changer to find out what was using the same modes as an old prison song I learned in Israel 25 years ago, "Sham ba-Keleh Mispar Arbaa" (There in Jail #4). But, tunes often sound familiar to the untutored ear, and this song, "Great God," probably caught my ear as much for listening to a high pitched, mournful Turkish lament, than for actual correspondence. This isn't to say that the melody couldn't have been borrowed for a prisoner's lament, but in this case, it was, indeed, different. Different, but very familiar, and hauntingly done.

A similar buzz of recognition will occur to those familiar with Esther Ofarim's work as they listen to "Mother, I've Never Seen." The ornamentation at the end, as Pal-Yarden scats through the scale, strongly evokes "Sh'char'choret". Of course, it's impossible to say whether the artist picked this up from the same recording of Ofarim, or if it is simply a common scale. In listening to this album, you become aware how much of Israeli music (especially earlier Israeli music, before the Beatles outsold everyone but Caveret) has roots going deeply back into Sephardic culture. The opposite may also be true--at the recent Yale Jewish music conference, Edwin Seroussi untangled a tale of a "traditional Sephardic tune" that turned out to have circled through recordings on two continents and to have been derived, instead, from an entirely different source!

Taken overall, the range of lyrics, from love and betrayal, to longing for Jerusalem and religious hymns, provide a loving window onto Jewish life in Turkey as it was prior to secularization and to the mass emigration ot Israel. It should be noted however, that while the Jewish population of Turkey is much reduced (primarily due to emigration; Turkey was spared the Holocaust that devasted the Greek and Balkan Jewish communities), Pal-Yarden claims that there is still a strong, culturally vibrant community remaining in Istanbul.

I should note that the album notes, in English, Turkish, and Hebrew include lyrics as well as recording history/sources for the songs. Pal-Yarden frequently goes into broader discussions of genre to provide a written context for the song and music, for those who are interested in delving further. This book/CD is a labor of love, but one done well, that is well worth having and listening to. The only flaw is the unreadable track times (the track times listed below were read off the CD by my computer to satisfy those who really want that info!) Lovers of Ottoman music will thoroughly enjoy this. Those looking for a gentle, tuneful, deliciously sung introduction to same will be amply rewarded for starting here.

Reviewed by Ari Davidow 8/2/03


  1. Landariko 5:37
  2. Mi Chica Flor--My Little Flower 5:51
  3. Adon Ha-slichot--Lord of Forgiveness 4:09
  4. En la Prision--in Prison 6:55
  5. Al Dio Alto--Great God 4:34
  6. Ven Chika Nazlia--Come, my Little Tease 4:44
  7. Ir me kero Madre a Yerushalayim--Mother, I Want to Got to Jerusalem 4:06
  8. Triste esta el Rey David--King David is Grieving 5:35
  9. Mama yo no tengo visito hit'rag'ut--Mother, I've Never Seen Serenity 6:08
  10. Sinko Anyos de Amistad--A Love of Five Years 5:48
  11. Kante Katife--"Velvet" Song 4:16
  12. Nani Nani--Lullaby 7:24
  13. De'en Dia en Dia--From Day to Day 4:37
  14. Mansevo Dobro--The Honest Young Man 4:45

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