Sunday, December 23, 2007

Yemenite Music and Pronunciation

I saw this video (UPDATE: it was taken down from youtube for some reason, but the guy has another great one here) and I was very impressed. Numerous times I've heard about the distinctive "havara" of the Yemenite Jews but this is the first time I hear and understand what's being sung.

We have all heard that the Yemenite pronunciation is probably the most correct and precise from all Jewish sects. Evidently, the Ashkenazim have a very strong European flavor to their (our) liturgy and it's quite amusing to hear such a different reading.

One thing we got it right, it seems, - the "Kometz" pronunced as "shOlom", opposed to the Sephardi/Mizrachi version "shAlom".

I was once in Amsterdam and there's also a very unique havara there, quite similar to the German Jew's (Yekis) pronunciation. What stroke me in particular was the way the Baal Koreh pronounced Shevi'i (i.e."the seventh day") - he said SheviNi.

In the US (and UK), the Jews have also been heavily influenced by the English accent. So if the European havara was quite far from the original, so much more the English one. And so on.

When we "import" other music styles into Jewish Music, for instance, I think we are contributing with this phenomena and pushing our music further and further away from what it was. Possibly, that's a process we can't stop and it might just be part of life. But I surely hope my children will be listening and enjoying the same Nusach I sing every day.

But what's most important to keep in mind, and that's the reason I'm posting this, is to remember that there's no single truth when it comes to Havara. All of the different pronunciations are valid and should be carefully preserved.

You can listen to another Yemenite mizmor here.

PS: I once heard that one Ashkenazi Rishon hired a private tutor to learn the Sephardi havara after hearing that their Havara was more authentic. Anyone else heard this? Anyone knows the name of this Rabbi?


Ha-historion said...

Very interesting. Thanks.
check out my posts when you get the chance.

Ha-historion said...

I don't know about a Rishon but I do know that R' Natan Adler (the teacher of the Chatam Sofer) employed Sephardic pronunciation (as well as nusach) in his Synagogue because he considered it superior to the Ashkenazic rite. This is was not met without opposition by the Franfurt community.I will do a post on that in the near future.

YK said...

Your blog is great, I'm reading all your previous posts.

I think the story I heard was indeed from R' Adler.

Having this in mindm, I find to be ironic that today most Kiruv organizations (Chabad, Aish) end up pushing the newcomers to change the way they daven, namely, in Boruch, contributing to mess up even more our customs.

btw, is there a big difference between yemenite and ethiopian nussach?


YK said...

I'm adding your blog to my blog list, would you do the same?

shosh said...

i'm ashkenaz but have always been fascinated by the sephardi culture (my grandma is sephardi)

some people in the us still daven in the yeki nusach u mentioned