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The Naming. Galeet Dardashti. Galeet Dardashti, 2010.

Reviewed by Sarah Imhoff

In the Genesis creation account God speaks and the world springs into existence, light and dark, water and sky, earth and seas. The voice is coextensive with creation. Galeet Dardashti’s new recording The Naming can claim no such miraculous speech acts, but her music recalls both the creative power of the voice and a near-divine ability to bring women to life.

Dardashti’s Persian-Jewish heritage and academic training come together in a beautiful and yet theologically provocative recording. The music is at once traditional and radical: the first song begins with the prayer for laying tefillin but in a woman’s voice, while “Dinah” incorporates a traditional Moroccan piyyut, and “Sarah/Hagar” includes recent Hebrew and Arabic headlines about political violence. At times Dardashti employs a Mizrahi cantorial style, to which her rich voice brings depth and emotion. Even her own personal lineage leaves an imprint on the sound: her father, cantor Farid Dardashti, sings in “Endora.” Perhaps the most striking moments in the recording, however, are in the songs composed of biblical verses. Their radical character lies not simply in the verses themselves, but rather in Dardashti’s midrashic construction of the songs: the presence, absence, order, and juxtaposition of verses can ultimately be read as bold reinterpretations of the power, the agency, and the simple humanity of the biblical women. Read the rest of this entry »

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Maqam and Liturgy: Ritual, Music, and Aesthetics of Syrian Jews in Brooklyn.  Mark L. Kligman. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2009.  267 pp. + CD.  ISBN 978-0-8143-3216-0

Reviewed by Galeet DardashtiMaqam and Liturgy

During my public lecturing on Judeo-Arab liturgical music, I often play recordings.  Invariably, after hearing the thoroughly Arab sounds—sounds that, for many attendees, evoke images of the Muslim muezzin’s call to prayer—someone in the audience asks, “What is Jewish about this music?”  Mark Kligman artfully answers this question in his comprehensive study of the Judeo-Arab synthesis between the music and text of the Shabbat liturgy of Syrian Jews living in Brooklyn.  The author endeavors to provide a descriptive analysis of the Sabbath liturgy as well as a cultural lens for understanding Syrian Jewish identity (11).   The Aleppo Syrian Jews of both Brooklyn and Israel are known for their appreciation and punctilious maintenance of the Arab maqam—traditional Arabic music’s system of melodic modes—in their liturgy.  While other studies have examined other aspects of Syrian Jewish liturgy, Kligman’s is the first to document and analyze Syrian musical practices in the Sabbath service. Read the rest of this entry »