21 March 2008

Mizrahi music: Divahn

Family history includes all aspects of life, including music. Our talented cousin Galeet Dardashti follows a family tradition of distinguished musicianship dating back to 19th-century Persia.

A cantor and an anthropologist, she also leads Divahn, an all-female Middle Eastern-style group with an international following. Traditional and original Jewish songs are transformed with sophisticated harmony, improvisation and arrangements. The group's live shows incorporate such instruments as tabla, qanun, cello, violin and dombek. Languages include Hebrew, Judeo-Spanish, Persian, Arabic and Aramaic.

An "Ashkefard" (Persian father, Ashkenazi mother), she is the daughter of Hazzan Farid Dardashti of Beth El synagogue in New Rochelle, New York, and her paternal grandfather, Yona Dardashti, was a renowned Persian classical singer in Iran.

He performed in reputable concert halls, at the Shah’s palace, and weekly on the radio in a prime time slot (before there was TV). He also led services in synagogues in Tehran, not as part of his professional life, but as a practicing Jew (being a cantor wasn’t a profession in Iran). But my grandparents tried to dissuade my father from pursuing a career in music. They wanted him to be an architect or an engineer.

Divahn will perform at several upcoming concerts:

7.30pm, Sunday, March 23, 2008
Divahn with Haale at Drom
Drom & The Persian Arts Festival present Haale and Divahn together onstage for a special show of female-fronted Persian rock and contemporary Middle Eastern music. Haale celebrates the release of her new record; while Divahn performs a special set for Purim, a Jewish holiday commemorating a woman’s courage to save her Persian Jewish community from persecution.

7pm, Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Galeet Dardashti Solo Project: Voices of Our Mothers
Center for Jewish History
A sneak preview of Galeet’s new solo project, Voices of Our Mothers: A Middle Eastern Musical Midrash for Today. The evening includes songs-in-progress and a discussion with HUC scholars Mark Kligman and Adriane Leveen.

On Friday, March 28, at the "Beyond Boundaries: Music and Israel @ 60" symposium at CUNY Graduate Center, Galeet will speak at 11.15am on “The Piyut Craze: The Popularization of Religious Mizrahi Songs in the Israeli Public Sphere.” Divahn will perform at 2pm. For more information, click here.

She's finishing her dissertation on contemporary Mizrahi and Arab music in Israel, has studied and performed Arab and Persian music with some of Israel’s most renowned musicians. She recently won the prestigious Six Points Fellowship to pursue her project,“Voices of Our Mothers: A Middle Eastern Musical Midrash for Today” over the next two years. It will explore culture, religion, politics and gender through the lens of Middle Eastern music, while weaving Midrashic, Talmudic and Biblical texts with poetry, family anecdotes and current events with songs in many languages and collaborations with female singers of diverse nationalities and faiths.

For an interview with Galeet, click here. In it, among other subjects, she speaks about her great-aunt Tovah:

My father used to tell me stories about his family life in Iran. He told me about his learned aunt Tovah who, because she was childless, decided to take upon herself many of the mitzvot from which women are traditionally exempt. He remembered watching her don tallit and t’fillin in the morning yet recalls no one objecting. This image of my great aunt Tovah remained with me over the years, smashing the ethnic stereotype of the submissive, repressed Mizrahi woman. These stories surprise people who assume that Sephardi and Mizrahi women are much more limited in Jewish life than Ashkenazi women.

Listen to tracks from her albums here

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous5:24 AM

    One of the lost tribes can be traces in India ..they are based in Southern Gujarat and are called Anavil Brahmins..but certain traditions of Anavils are very identical to Jewish Traditions..one of the sumerian merchant ships landed at suryapur (today's surat) with Jewish Slaves around 500BC ..the slaves became instantly free and settled with the then resident Naga tribes around Surat..it transpires that Lord Rama was conducting a Yagna in the area where this tribe of jewish slaves had settled..however the numbers were shor therefore he invited members of the tribe to join in with the yagna rituals ..since that time the tribe was recognised as Anavil Ajachak Brahmins ..who were very fair skinned and had broad pointed noses etc..
    anu sharma