Maqam Yerushalem

About Maqam Yerushalem

On September 8, 2012, the New Jerusalem Orchestra opened the Jerusalem Sacred Music Festival in Jerusalem’s Old City with its second musical project, Maqam Yerushalem.

… a multi-cultural musical fantasy in two parts.

The project’s Hebrew-Arabic name was chosen for its different levels of meaning. Maqam is an Arabic term that refers both to place (like the Hebrew makom) and musical mode, while Yerushalem is a play on the Hebrew name for Jerusalem, Yerushalayim, a word derived from the root, shalem, meaning whole, or complete. Maqam Yerushalem thus refers to the place of Jerusalem, to Jerusalem as an (imagined) musical mode, and to Jerusalem as a mode of wholeness, or completion. In this case, Jerusalem as a mode of wholeness refers to a vision of unity that embraces the many communities and traditions that animate this beautiful, vital and sometimes troubled city, from the Arab dimension of Jerusalem to the Jewish dimension, from the ancient to the modern, from the secular dimension of the city to the religious one. Read more

About Maqam Yerushalem

On September 8, 2012, the New Jerusalem Orchestra opened the Jerusalem Sacred Music Festival in Jerusalem’s Old City with its second musical project, Maqam Yerushalem.

… a multi-cultural musical fantasy in two parts.

The project’s Hebrew-Arabic name was chosen for its different levels of meaning. Maqam is an Arabic term that refers both to place (like the Hebrew makom) and musical mode, while Yerushalem is a play on the Hebrew name for Jerusalem, Yerushalayim, a word derived from the root, shalem, meaning whole, or complete. Maqam Yerushalem thus refers to the place of Jerusalem, to Jerusalem as an (imagined) musical mode, and to Jerusalem as a mode of wholeness, or completion. In this case, Jerusalem as a mode of wholeness refers to a vision of unity that embraces the many communities and traditions that animate this beautiful, vital and sometimes troubled city, from the Arab dimension of Jerusalem to the Jewish dimension, from the ancient to the modern, from the secular dimension of the city to the religious one.

Maqam Yerushalem [thus] refers to the place of Jerusalem, to Jerusalem as an (imagined) musical mode, and to Jerusalem as a mode of wholeness, or completion.

As for the music, Maqam Yerushalem is a multi-cultural musical fantasy in two parts. The NJO’s artistic director, Yair Harel engineered both the concept and structure of Part I. He used disparate musical traditions from the East, including Yemenite, Ethiopian, North African and Middle Eastern music, to explore the longing for Jerusalem that has animated the imagination of different musical cultures. The various sections of Part I are all based upon different Eastern musical modes, or maqamat. New melodies were composed for traditional texts while fresh arrangements were also made for older melodic material. Featured soloists include the Ethiopian singer-saxophonist Abatte Barihun, the Moroccan cantor Maimon Cohen, and the Arab-Israeli female vocalist, Lubna Salame. The Yad Ben Zvi choir, conducted by Harel, is also featured in both part I and II.

… for one evening, Jerusalem was what it could be, what it should be: a city that that transforms its differences into a fertile unity.Yon Feder

Part II of Maqam Yerushalem is Omer Avital’s, “HaZorim Be’Dimah.” The title is taken from Psalm 126, and it means, “Those who sow in tears.” The second half of the verse, however, reads, “will reap with songs of joy,” and Avital’s composition, newly written for the Sacred Music Festival, definitely swings in celebration. The work features the Arab-Israeli singer, Haya Samir, and the sound ranges from classical Western music to classical Arab music to American Jazz to Flamenco. At the music’s ecstatic heights, however, the distinctions separating the musical styles disappear before the universal sound of unadulterated joy.

Maqam Yerushalem was celebrated by Yon Feder, editor-in-chief of Ynet as, “the closest thing to the coming of the Messiah, from a musical perspective.” Calling the concert, “perfect,” Feder wrote, “for one evening, Jerusalem was what it could be, what it should be: a city that that transforms its differences into a fertile unity.” That is, of course, what the NJO is all about, creating electrifying and soulful musical conversations that fashion the many sides of Israel’s richly multicultural society into one, swinging whole- articulating in rhythm and tune a musical vision of Jerusalem at its best.

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