These three selected concert settings of liturgical-biblical texts, composed and sung by Cantor Aaron Bensoussan, are infused with his Moroccan Sephardi heritage—about whose preservation and perpetuation he is passionate. At the same time, without going so far as to represent the overworked “fusion” fad, they betray some of the Western Jewish musical influences of his acculturation. This is particularly evident with regard to the rhythmical as well as tonal content of the principal vocal lines when they are considered on their own, apart from the other mitigating dimensions of the accompaniment, instrumentation, interpolated improvisatory passages and even brief sections, and, of course, the signature timbres and ornamentation of Bensoussan’s authentic vocal delivery. There are even echoes of quasi-Hassidic song—not in actual pitch progressions, but in spirit and, especially, in the metricalization of nonmetrical texts whose free rhythmical structure would typically be mirrored as such in eastern Sephardi musical tradition. (Bensoussan’s original melody of L’kha dodi in this volume is also metrical, but so is that poem.) Nonetheless, the arrangements that he supervised are rich with distinct flavors of North African and other Mediterranean Sephardi sounds, with their use of such regionally emblematic instruments as the bouzouki, darabouka, and oud. These are used in conjunction with modern electronic instruments and synthesized sound.
The words of Od yishama are taken from Jeremiah 33:10–11. That chapter contains the renewed promise of eventual redemption in a thriving Jerusalem upon a return from captivity; at the same time, Jeremiah warns of the futility of resistance to the Chaldeans for the present. These two verses are also quoted partially in the liturgy of the marriage ceremony, where they appear in the sheva b’rakhot—the seven so-called wedding benedictions. The arrangement of this odyishama is by Eitan Kantor.
The text of Eshet ḥayil is taken from mishlei (the Book of Proverbs of the Hebrew Bible) 31:10–31. Its most common quasi-liturgical use occurs as part of the Sabbath eve home ritual, when it is recited to honor and praise one’s wife prior to commencing the festive meal. It is essentially an ode to an ideal (and idealized) wife in conventional as well as timeless terms of Jewish tradition. (For a discussion of the meaning and significance of the text, see the notes to Judith Zaimont's A Woman of Valorin Volume 4)
In its functional rendition at the Sabbath table, eshet ḥayil is either spoken or sung to any one of many folklike tunes that have accumulated in the aggregate repertoire. This setting, however, is obviously appropriate only to a concert performance, the more so with its virtuosic improvisatory passages. The arrangement and instrumentation were done by Yaron Gershovsky.
Al tira avdi ya’akov is a compilation of verses that refer to the attributes of Jacob in an alphabetical acrostic. Each line or strophe contains a specific attribute, followed by the refrain of the attached title. This text is one of the z’mirot shel shabbat (Sabbath table hymns) assigned by tradition to motza’ei shabbat—the post-Sabbath (Saturday night) festivity that honors the just-completed Sabbath with anticipation of the next. The arrangement and instrumentation are by Yaron Gershovsky.
Performers: Aaron Bensoussan, Tenor; Eitan Kantor, Musical Director; Sephardi EnsembleAdditional Credits:
Publisher: Bensoussan Productions
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