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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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Herencia Judía. Benjamin Lapidus. Tresero Productions, 2008.

Timba Talmud. Roberto Rodriguez/Sexteto Rodriguez. Tzadik, 2009.

Reviewed by Lillian WohlTimba Talmud

Herencia Judía and Timba Talmud are recordings that fuse Afro-Caribbean (mainly Cuban) and Jewish (Ashkenazic and Sephardic) traditions. While Roberto Rodriguez/Sexteto Rodriguez’s compilation is largely dance music derived from popular Cuban and klezmer repertoire to be enjoyed in the home or in secular engagements, Lapidus’s album takes on the difficult task of arranging piyyutim (paraliturgical hymns) and texts from Jewish holidays with secular and religious musics of the Spanish Caribbean. Lapidus and Rodriguez’s impressions of musical encounter are presented as audiotopias—ideological spaces that offer the listener and/or the musician new maps for re-imagining the present social world.[1] They are spaces with no real place where ideological contradictions and conflicts may coexist.[2] Yet, the proliferation of a variety of Cuban musical idioms such as rumba, son, cha-cha-chá, mambo, and comparsa assure a focus on Cuban sound on both albums. Ultimately, by playing with musical materials from Afro-Caribbean, Cuban, and Jewish traditions, both Lapidus and Rodriguez must contend with the difficulties of finding a coherent musical point of view. In this respect, Rodriguez more successfully streamlines his vision, maintaining a focus on (predominantly) popular styles and images in comparison to Lapidus, whose strategy can feel almost overwhelmingly eclectic at times. Read the rest of this entry »