Chava Alberstein goes bilingual

Jaffa group featured on Chava Alberstein’s new album Baruch Haba, released this week in time for Pessah.

March 31, 2010 02:01
2 minute read.
CHAVA ALBERSTEIN (at right) rehearses with the Shi

Chava Alberstein 311. (photo credit: Ben Hartman)

A group of Jewish and Arab women from Jaffa are featured on Israeli folksinger Chava Alberstein’s new album Baruch Haba, released this week in time for Pessah, which demonstrates the power of music to bridge cultural and religious gaps.

The women are from Jaffa’s all-women’s choir Shirana , which was launched by the Arab Jewish Community Center of Jaffa in 2008 and includes Jewish, Christian, and Muslim women. The choir has performed at a number of festivals in the Jaffa area, singing a wide range of songs in Hebrew, Arabic, English, and Greek, among others.

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Alberstein, who has recorded over 60 albums and is considered one of Israel’s seminal artists, contacted the women in August when she received a recording of the choir singing a version of her song “Had Gadya” in Hebrew and Arabic. The song is a play on the traditional Pessah song “Had Gadya,” but with additional lyrics at the end that are critical of the occupation and its effects on Palestinians and Israelis.

On her new album, she asked Shirana to sing with her on the title track “Baruch Haba,” bringing the sounds of the choir to a far wider audience. Like Shirana, Alberstein also had her first performance in Jaffa, albeit a bit earlier, in 1964 at the city’s Hamam club.

AJCC is a community center in Jaffa’s Ajami neighborhood that boasts over 3,000 members from all three religions. The programs run at the center focus on coexistence and fostering dialogue and understanding among Jews and Arabs. Shirana is Israel’s only all-female choir featuring women from all three religions.

Idan Toledano, Shirana’s musical director, said he reached out to contact Alberstein, sending the disc of Shirana singing “Had Gadya” to a friend who plays with the famous folksinger.

Toledano, who also plays instruments and does vocal arrangements for Shirana, said that performing with Alberstein was a “huge honor and a great joy”

Toledano said he sees the choir and the projects launched by the AJCC as bigger than just a forum for artistic expression, saying “this is probably the only place in Israel where, through music and art, you have the ability to bring together people who live in the same neighborhood and have probably never spoken with one another.

“With music it just happens, people come together, and perform together, it just happens naturally. I think it’s a small example of how things need to be all over Israel,” Toledano said.

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