Who Knows One? A Passover song from 13 different corners of the Jewish diaspora

Listen to the Passover enumerative song, Echad mi yodea’, in thirteen different versions from the global Jewish diaspora, as preserved in the National Sound Archives (est. 1964) of the National Library of Israel.

Since the Soundcloud playlist is in Hebrew, here’s the list of places of origin: 1) Morocco, Tetuan; 2) Morocco, Meknes; 3) Salonika (Thessaloniki, Greek Macedonia); 4) The Netherlands (in Hebrew); 5) The Netherlands (in Yiddish); 6) Turkey; 7) Hassidic (Chabad); 8) Corfu, Greece (Southern Italian); 9) Iran; 10) Yemen; 11) Israel; 12) Hungary; and 13) Italy.



Vote on Everything: Best Songs About #Night

Who knew?

It’s a free country, and one can even vote on the “best songs about night” via Ranker: http://www.ranker.com/list/best-songs-about-night/reference

Also, here are 10 top-ranked rock “night songs” are listed at ultimateclassicrock.com

And yet, to me, these are the winners:

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Eine kleine Nachtmusik KV 525 (Serenade No. 13 for strings in G major), whose title loosely translates into “a small nighttime music,” composed in 1787:

Also on YouTube with score visualization:

An American classic, Night and Day (1932, by Cole Porter):

And a Jewish classic, bin el barah oul youm (“Between twilight and day”), a North-African popular song set to Arabic and Hebrew lyrics about life, hope, love, and, of course, night and day. The melody is also commonly used to sing the text of the Sabbath table song (zemirah) in Hebrew, Ki eshmerah shabat (follow the link on Firefox to listen to various versions from the global Jewish diaspora), attributed to Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra (12th century).

Performed here by the Moroccan Israeli singer, Emil Zrihan:

On the basis of a much earlier version (in Arabic) by the Algerian-Jewish gay pop music star, Salim Halali (Algeria 1920 – France 2005) [the main song theme begins at circa 1’50” into the recording, following a heart-melting introduction; if you like SH, read on here, a delightful post by Chris Silver on the Jewish Morocco blog]:

A common thread? The nexus between #nighttime, #love, and #subversive behaviors. Regardless of musical styles, languages, or geographic origins.

A Piyyut and Its Publication History

Kol berue ma’ala umatah (“All creatures above and below” [in Heaven and on Earth])
Bakkashah with acrostic “shelomoh” (Solomon)
Attributed to Solomon ibn Gabirol (Malaga-Valencia, 11th centurty CE)
On bakkashot see Idelsohn p. 157

Publication history (selection) based on Davidson’s Thesaurus
Otzar hatefilot, Vilnius 1914
Arba’h ta’aniyot, Constantinople 1780
Bet av, Livorno 1877
Bet habechirah, Livorno 1880
Bet ya’aqov, Tunis 1898
Bakkashot yerushalayim, Jerusalem 1913
Bakkashot rash”ad, Ms. Bodleian Library (Oxford)
Zavche shlemim, Constantinople 1728
Z”Y Izmir, Smirne 1766
Yigal, Jerusalem 1885
Yiztchaq yeranen, Jerusalem 1855
apa, Mezhirov (Ukraine) 1793
Liqute zvi hachadash, Warsaw 1879
M. Argil 1, Livorno 1878
M. Tunis 1, Livorno 1861
Machzor Elohei Ya’aqov, Jerusalem 1908
Meshat Binyamin, Jerusalem 1909 (Persian)
Mishmeret hachadash, Baghdad 1908
Sidur ya’avatz (Italy), Altona (Germany) 1731
Sidur tefilah, Mantua 1676

In class, we discussed how the publication history of a piyyut can be researched, and how it points to the following directions:

– Social history: impact of a liturgical poem on a given community, or on a network of communities across the global Jewish diaspora
– Intellectual history: the intellectual debates involved in the creation and diffusion of a piyyut, and the spiritual dimensions involved in its textual and musical meanings
– A “history of feelings” (in the nexus between text and music)

We discussed all of this around the fact that the class is learning and rehearsing the poem illustrated above.

“Chant,” or “Tune”? (Schindler’s List opening scene)

Here’s the opening scene of Schindler’s List (1993), which presents viewers with an essential moment in Jewish para-liturgical practice, the qidush (Heb. קידוש, commonly spelled Kiddush), or the blessings recited at the eve of the Sabbath (and of other Holidays, albeit with slightly different texts) around the family table. (Note that the Kiddush is also recited in the synagogue, but that’s another story…).

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=24fwJMLsyNs]

There are two lines of questions that may arise from (re)watching this scene.

On the one hand, the musical aspect: does this pertain to the musical area we generally defined as “chant,” or to the one we generally defined as “tune” (and what kind of chant/tune it may be, based on our knowledge of musical culture in the Jewish diaspora)?

On the other hand, the layers of meaning (and especially the related musical representations of identity) that this scene may contain: here, ritual is both presented as a symbol (of what?) and as a staged performance. Why was this scene chosen to open Schindler’s List?

One Passover Song, Many (Musical) Cultures

Check out this link from the Sound Archives of the National Library of Israel (the world largest repository of Jewish musical recordings):


Here you can find many renditions (12, to be exact) of the enumerative Passover song, Echad mi yode’a (Who Knows One?).

How many (musical) cultures can you detect with just one example? (And how many languages?)

Night and Day Warm Up Songs

Dear class, before we meet for the first time tomorrow and work on our “walk up songs” to start the semester (I’m still trying to learn my baseball talk), here are some warm up YouTube links.

An American classic, Night and Day (1932, by Cole Porter)

And one of its Jewish equivalents, bin el barah oul youm (Between twilight and day), a North-African popular song set to Arabic and Hebrew lyrics about life, hope, love, and, of course, night and day (performed by the Moroccan Israeli singer, Emil Zrihan). The melody is also commonly used to sing the text of the Sabbath table song (zemirah) in Hebrew, Ki eshmerah shabat, attributed to Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra (12th century).

Also, if you have time, do check out our Class Syllabus!