Sunday, February 14, 2010

Tafillalt explores Jewish traditional music at Confederation House in Jerusalem

The Tafillalt Ensemble was formed in 2000 by three young Israeli musicians - Yair Harel (vocals, percussion, tar), Nori Jacoby (Viola, melodica, vocals) and Yonatan Niv (‘cello, vocals), students of Professor Andre Hajdu and members of Ha’oman Eighteen, a contemporary musical ensemble reflecting the style of the Radical Jewish Music projects in New York. At a recent concert in Jerusalem, the three artists were joined by Eitan Kirsch (double bass) and Yarden Erez (accordion, oud, keyboard, percussion). Tafillalt uses texts and melodies from Jewish prayer, sacred songs and texts of contemporary Israeli poets. A broad canvas of material, stemming from the Jewish traditional music from North Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe to those of Israel today, forms the basis for the detailed reworking of traditional melodies, for original compositions and improvisations based on old and new. Inclement, icy weather did not deter a curious crowd from attending the concert presented by Tafillalt February 4th 2010 at Jerusalem’s Zionist Confederation House.

From the first faraway, nostalgic strains of a melodica, the audience is transported to the personal and spiritual world of Jewish prayer and thought. The program opens with Yair Harel singing “Yachid Ram” (One and Most High”) a traditional Iraqi melody to verses by the liturgical poet and kabbalist Yisrael Najara, the text based on a Midrash description of the creation of the world. Rhythmically enticing yet articulate, its verses are punctuated with small instrumental solos. Harel’s singing is delicate, his Hebrew enunciation always in accordance to the melody’s ethnic tradition.

“Pli’ah” (Wonder), to a Hassidic melody, takes its text from Psalm 139. The instrumentalists provide an almost church-organ-effect of fluid chords, tinged with extra colors, the viola adding the occasional Hassidic motif. Harel takes time in pacing the text, expressive in his awe of each word.
‘Such knowledge is too wondrous for me; it is beyond me. I cannot attain it.
Where can I escape from your Spirit? Where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol (Hebrew: depths) behold, You are there.’…

Jerusalem-born poetess Rivka Miriam’s (b.1952) “Make Me a River” is the text for Yonatan Niv’s own musical setting. Sung by Niv himself, it is an introspective piece, its melody evocative of those of the Ladinotradition. Harel’s use of the tar – a 6-stringed, waisted Persian instrument plucked with a small metal plectrum - adds a contrast of timbre to the intensity of the melody.

A high point of the evening was “Hatikkun” (Amendment), a piece created from a penned note found by Niv in the streets of Jerusalem. The letter, expressing despair, is that of a person whose life has led him to drugs. The person hopes to replace drugs with a life of Torah, the “healing drug” that “makes the person happy”. Theatrical in concept, the work is a miniature drama. Harel both speaks and sings the text, the instrumentalists swinging from oriental melody to sheer sound effects, the strings vehemently joining and supporting the singer in his expression of confusion and despair.

And to 12th century Egypt, to “Moshe”, the earliest Jewish musical work known today. This piyyut (sacred poem) was found in the Cairo Genizah. A “screen” of sound based on a drone sets off Harel’s ornamented, devotional performance of the text. Harel is a singer whose profound study and knowledge of traditional Jewish and middle eastern music is matched with spirituality, passion and humility.

Tafillalt’s artists are young, their work based on strong musical background; they show a fine understanding of the many facets of Jewish music. Their performance is superbly coordinated, detailed and polished, imaginative, yet remaining within the bounds of good taste; together with that, their style allows for individuality and spontaneity. The ensemble’s use of instruments is delicate, tasteful and flexible. Instrumental backings refer to the ethnic style and modes of each piece, with colors, textures and timbres creating the rich scenery of Jewish traditional music. Their performance is high quality, thought-provoking and uplifting; it touches and moves the spirit.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Because of the emails I recently got, here is the informaton that some of you had asked:

Our CD is available through TZADIK label worldwide. In Israel the CD is available at ‘HATAV HASHINI’ and ‘HAOZEN HASHLISIT’ stores.

Even More information:

see you...
Nori Jacoby - Tafillalt Enemble