Because we printed only a very limited quantity of booklets to go with the CD as a bonus for our Indiegogo contributors, I am putting up the text below, so that you can find out neat stuff about the songs on the album! Enjoy,
Song of the Grasses a coming together of distinct and equal voices to create a unified song – the blending of old and new sounds in a wide open space, where each musician has freedom to bring in their individuality and unique sensibility. The songs, niggunim from the Chassidic and Sephardic Jewish traditions, were created as vehicles to reach the depths of spiritual space. Many of them have passed through fire and water to reach us, and are not known outside of the communities where they are still sung. While they are distinctly Jewish, they express something deeply universal, something that can only be expressed in wordless melody, and that could be obscured by text. Here, they become platforms for improvisation and musical conversations.
Siach Hasadeh is a duo of double bass and clarinet, two musicians from different backgrounds who explore this repertoire in a minimal, open and spontaneous way. For this record we are joined by a number of wonderful musicians and friends, with violin, cello, oud and harmonica. Together, we delve into new textures and landscapes, carving another path through the field of this music.
1. R’ Levi Yitzchak Berditchever’s Niggun
Rebbe Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev זי”ע (1740-1809) was known for always finding the good in everyone, and through his holiness and prayers was able to overturn harsh decrees against his people. As a quartet, we approach this niggun as a basis for a hisbodedus, an open improvisation on the theme. The idea was developed in the Laurentian mountains, along with Jackie Fay, and inspired by work with Marcelo Moguilevsky at Klezkanada.
2. Nora Venisgav / Song of the Seven Beggers (Breslov)
One of the first generation of Breslover Chassidim, R’ Natan Beitelmacher, heard this niggun from the Chassidim in Czeryn, and he taught it to R’ Avraham Yaakov Goldreich, who taught it to R’ Nachman Borstein. R’ Borstein could not remember the tune after R’ Goldreich passed, and prayed for weeks with a broken heart until he remembered it, and he then repeated it over and over in order to memorize it.
3. Niggun Firn di Tsaddikim in Gan Eyden (Breslov)
A long lost Breslover niggun that was found in the Kiev archives by Nachum Karlinsky, recorded in 1913 by ethnographers of the Ansky Expedition. The recording was of a chassid named Shmuel Gaster, and was accompanied by a note stating that this niggun, received from Rebbe Nachman, was sung to accompany the tzaddikim (holy people) to heaven.
4. Rabbeinu’s Niggun (Breslov)
This awesome niggun is attributed to Rebbe Nachman זי”ע (1772-1810) and is often sung by Breslover Chassidim at the third meal of Shabbes. We take a fairly minimalist approach and are joined by oudist Ismail Fencioğlu, who sets up with a taksim.
5. Niggun Radishitz
I know next to nothing about this niggun, except that it comes from Radishitz, and that it is beautiful. I learned it from a good friend and source of many great nigunnim, Shmaya Gestetner. Here it serves as an introduction to the Breslover Dror Yikra.
6. Dror Yikra – Terhovitzer Maggid (Breslov)
The Terhovitzer Maggid was one of the original disciples of the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of the Chassidic movement. In his eighties, a well-known rabbi in his own right, he became a devoted follower of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov. This niggun was used for the prayer “Hayom Horas Olam” in the Rosh Hashana services, and is sung today in the gathering in Uman, as well as for a shabbes table song, Dror Yikra (Freedom will be Proclaimed).
7. Baal Shem Tov’s Niggun
Another quartet exploration built on Joel’s unique voice on the bass, this niggun by the Baal Shem Tov, Rebbe Yisroel ben Eliezer זי”ע (1698-1760) is well known in various versions in different Jewish communities.
8. Kah Echsof (Karlin)
The text of this song was composed by R’ Aharon Hagadol of Karlin זי”ע (1736-1772), and is one of the few relatively modern poems that have become standards at the Shabbes table. I am not certain of the origin of the tune, which is relatively well known, but some attribute it to R’ Aharon himself.
9. Yedid Nefesh (Lubavitch)
This tune was taught to me by the Chabad shaliach to Victoria, BC, and good friend of mine, R’ Meir Kaplan. We sang it together many times, and I forgot it many times, until finally, in the last minutes before one Shabbes I had him sing it so I could record and transcribe it. It is a beautiful and many faceted tune which is deep and joyful, and for which I’m very grateful.
10. Menucha Vesimcha (Modzitz)
This lovely waltz by Imrei Shaul, R’ Shaul Yedidya Eliezer Taub (1886-1947), is to the words of a table song in praise of Shabbes, “Rest and joy, light for the Jews.” The Modzitzer Chassidim are particularly well known for their love of music, and the Rebbe’s of the dynasty are all great composers.
Mordechai Kalfon (1927-1981) was born into a family of rabbis, who came to Israel from Spanish Morocco in the 1860s. He became blind at a young age, and attended a school for the blind, where he studied classical music, and Sephardic cantorial music through Yitzchak Algazi and Moshe Vital from Turkey. His songs have become standards in the repertoire and this beautiful one is among his best known contributions.
12. Tolner Niggun
I learned this niggun in a taxi ride, from Kiev to Uman, shared with strangers, among whom was a Tolner chassid. I haven’t encountered anyone else yet who knows this tune, and I’m not sure to this day if it was the niggun, the incredible speed of the taxi, or the soviet era signage, but I think 50 kilometers passed while we sang this song.
13. Maggid’s Niggun / Kumi Roni Balayla (Breslov)
This tune is known as the Maggid’s niggun, although which maggid exactly is less clear. It possibly was composed by the Maggid Dov Ber of Mezritch (d. 1772), who was the leader of the Chassidim after the Baal Shem Tov, or possibly the Kozhnitzer Maggid (1733-1814), a patriarch of Polish Chassidism, and is sung by Breslover Chassidim today to the words from Lamentations, “Arise, sing at night.”
14. Dveikus Niggun (Breslov)
The chassid R’ Yochanan Galant brought this niggun to Israel after hearing it from R’ Avraham Chazan (1849-1917) son of R’ Nachman Chazan of Tulchin in Uman. Here we play it with the strings in quartet.
15. Tfilas Tal (Breslov)
The song is by R’ Sendor from Travitz, primary student of Nachman Chazan, who in turn carried the line through R’ Nosson to Rebbe Nachman. This niggun was brought to Israel by the elder, R’ Levi Yitzchak Bender. It is used for the prayer for dew that is sung in the services for the first day of Passover.
With special thanks to our Indiegogo supporters, as well as the many teachers and guides we have had along the way so far, and the wonderful musicians
and artists who have collaborated with us on this journey.
Yoni Kaston, Siach Hasadeh
This recording was made possible through the assistance of the Music Section of the Canada Council for the Arts