Ahavat Olamim

About Ahavat Olamim

The New Jerusalem Orchestra’s inaugural musical project, Ahavat Olamim, Hebrew for “eternal love,” was performed at the Israel Festival in Jerusalem on two nights, May 25th and 26th, 2010. A double-disk recording of the performance was released in 2011.

Ahavat Olamim is built around classical Andalusian music and features the Moroccan-born master of Andalusian piyyut, Rabbi Haim Louk, a Torah scholar and world-class vocalist with an extraordinary ability to communicate emotion through a microphone. In the words of Avital, “He’s our Billie Holiday.” Read more

About Ahavat Olamim

The New Jerusalem Orchestra’s inaugural musical project, Ahavat Olamim, Hebrew for “eternal love,” was performed at the Israel Festival in Jerusalem on two nights, May 25th and 26th, 2010. A double-disk recording of the performance was released in 2011.

Ahavat Olamim is built around classical Andalusian music and features the Moroccan-born master of Andalusian piyyut, Rabbi Haim Louk, a Torah scholar and world-class vocalist with an extraordinary ability to communicate emotion through a microphone. In the words of Avital, “He’s our Billie Holiday.”

… Rabbi Haim Louk, a Torah scholar and world-class vocalist with an extraordinary ability to communicate emotion through a microphone. In the words of Avital, “He’s our Billie Holiday.”

The performance is divided into eight thematic sections by the NJO’s artistic director, Yair Harel, based upon his study of the Andalusian musical tradition. The sections include: Spring; Dialogue; Love; Yearning, For where? Exile; Wanderings; Fantasy; and Rejoicing. The music draws from multiple sources, from Franco-era “Flamencoesque” tunes that were eagerly consumed by Moroccan Jews in movie houses on the far side of the straits of Gibraltar, to gospel blues. The skeleton of the music, however, is classically Andalusian, a style common to much of North Africa, including North African Jews, that includes Arab, Berber and African elements.

For the project, the NJO’s musical director, Omer Avital, took the core of an Andalusian band – an oud, darbuka, and kamancha, or Moroccan violin – and added blues harmonies and various tone colors, including Avital’s own upright bass, a four-piece string section, a collection of Middle Eastern percussion instruments, a three-piece brass section featuring the celebrated American tenor saxophonist Greg Tardy, and the Yad Ben Zvi choir conducted by Harel. Guest musicians included Daniel Zamir (saxophone) and Yoram Azoulay (percussion).

Yet the power of Ahavat Olamim is not only musical, it is also also cultural. The NJO shines the spotlight on Andalusian piyyut, placing front and center music that was marginalized during the first decades after the founding of the state of Israel. A wonderful and representative example of the album’s musical and cultural dimensions is on display in, “Tzur Shehechyani,” a piyyut written by one of Louk’s teachers, Rabbi David Bouzaglo, a legendary 20th-century master of the Moroccan musical tradition who passed away in 1975.

The NJO shines the spotlight on Andalusian piyyut, placing front and center music that was marginalized during the first decades after the founding of the state of Israel.

A hidden musical dialogue animates “Tzur Shehechyani.” Rabbi Bouzaglo adapted the piece from the Arabic piece, “Ayli Hayani,” written by the Moroccan composer, Mohamed Fouiteh. “Tzur Shehechyani” is based on a Berber rhythm and uses an African pentatonic mode. Avital extends the dialogue by connecting the piyyut to the blues, which is also pentatonic. Greg Tardy’s gritty solo, rich in American southern feel, sounds remarkably natural in its context. Its presence emphasizes the blues element of Ahavat Olamim. In case you forget, however, the Arabic bridges will remind you that the music is classically Andalusian.

The cultural dimension is on display through the poetic, prefatory ode to the piece, “Morning Prayer for Rabbi David Bouzaglo, one of Moroccan Jewry’s Greatest Paytanim,” written by Erez Biton, a Moroccan-born, contemporary Israeli poet. Despite its sophisticated Mediterranean openness and long history, Andalusian piyyut was long ignored by the cultural elite in Israel. On Ahavat Olamim, however, Biton chants, “Pursuing myself, I came after you, Rah-bee Dah-vid Bou-zaglo!” and he calls out to Rabbi David, the paytan who composed artistic masterpieces in almost complete obscurity for his entire life, “to come out from the corner to the stage of all stages.” As Ahavat Olamim demonstrates, it is about time! See, and hear, for yourself..

The Moroccan, Arabic original, “Ayli Hayani,” performed by Mohamed Fouiteh (1928-1996):

And as extended, expanded and refined by the New Jerusalem Orchestra:

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