Sunday, December 29, 2019

Rising Song Intensive: Galeet Dardashti teaches respectful integration of Sephardi/Mizrachi music

Post #1 about the Rising Song Intensive is here.

"Integrating Sephardi/Mizrachi Vocal Repertoire Artfully and Respectfully" was the official name of the course that I took with Galeet Dardashti for three hours each day on Tuesday, December 24 and Wednesday, December 25, 2019 at Hadar's Rising Song Intensive.  We spent as much time in discussion as we did learning Mizrachi music, because we had no choice--we couldn't ignore the "elephant in the room," which was cultural appropriation.  How could a room of mostly-Ashkenazi students be teachers and/or singers of Sephardi/Mizrachi music when that music wasn't "ours" by birth?  The standing-on-one-foot version of Galeet's advice was (1) to learn the music very well and (2) to be sure to give credit to the songwriter/paitan (writer of religious poetry).  She assured us that we shouldn't worry about the likelihood that we wouldn't be able to match the Hebrew pronunciation of the original version, or the distinct possibility that we wouldn't be able to sing quarter-tone notes.

I learned from Galeet that most Mizrachi music is sung without harmony, but with more call-and-response singing than is typical of Ashkenazi music.  (Galeet assured us that she, herself, uses harmony frequently.)  I also learned that many piyyutim (religious poems, usually written to be sung) were composed for the precise purpose of being sung to popular melodies, most of which are no longer known, since most piyyutim are literally centuries old.  In addition, I learned that there are no niggunim (wordless songs) in Sephardi/Mizrachi music.

Galeet seemed to me to have a different singing style than (most of?) the other singers at the Rising Song Intensive.  After hearing her sing both in class and after the communal lighting of the Chanukah candles, I joked with her that, when she sang, she just belted it out like a Mizrachi Ethel Merman.  She cracked up laughing. 

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