Jablonski, Marek (Michael)

(iv) Central and South Asian languages

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(iv) Central and South Asian languages.

Jews spread eastwards at the time of the First Temple exile and settled in the Caucasus, Central Asia, Iran and India. In each location they created a folklore in local Jewish dialects which, musically, has strong ties with the surrounding non-Jewish cultures. The folk music of these Jews has been studied only sporadically.

Of the two major Jewish castes that coexisted in Cochin along the coast of Malabar (state of Kerala), the Malabari or black Jews and the Paradesi or white Jews, only the former developed a local folksong repertory. Malabari women sing folksongs in Malayalam, a dialect of Tamil from Kerala. Some of these songs date to the 13th century and were transmitted by oral tradition. They treat Jewish themes, such as the blessing of Abraham, mythological figures (e.g. Evarayi, the wise man from Jerusalem), stories about the origins of their community and lyrical topics.

The Kurdish Jews (mostly from Iraq) sing in a dialect of Aramaic known as Lishna Yahudyya or Lashon ha-Targum of Jebali, as well as in the local Kurdish language, Kurmanji. The singing of ballads and folk epics is a distinctive feature of Kurdish Jewish culture, a common heritage of Jews and Muslims in this region. Two biblical epics sung in Aramaic are the stories of Joseph and of David and Goliath. These songs are strophic with a refrain and rhythmically flowing. Most songs of this genre, however, are in Kurmanji. Folksongs are also performed to accompany folkdances of three types: open-half circle and line dances with arms linked tightly, diwanki (solo dances) and dancing in processions. The dances, accompanied by a dola-zirne ensemble, are performed successively without interruption. Songs are responsorial or antiphonal with the lead singer facing the line of singers. Dances are associated with the songs they accompany. Diwanki are performed at home during evening gatherings for the purpose of entertaining. Stories, songs, instrumental tunes and virtuoso solo dancing were performed while the public sat in a circle. Procession dances are performed by individuals. They occur mainly during the bar-mitzvah and wedding ceremonies along the way from the synagogue to the home.

The Mountain Jews from the eastern and northern Caucasus developed a rich folksong repertory in Juhuri, their vernacular language, and in Azeri. There are two musical traditions: därbandi (northern Azerbaijan, southern Daghestan up to Khäytogh) and khäytoghi (Khäytogh, northern Daghestan, Chechen Republic and Kabardino-Balkaria). Before the Mountain Jews settled in large cities in the early 20th century they were an agricultural society that depended on the changing of seasons, and they marked the routine of nature with rituals of pagan or Zoroastrian origins which include shä‘mä vasal (spring ritual) songs and gudil gudil (songs for rain). Lullabies improvised by mothers and grandmothers while rocking babies describe their wishful thoughts regarding the future of the child. Mä'nihoy ‘ärüsi (wedding songs) comprise the bulk of the folksong repertory. They are performed with instrumental accompaniment by semi-professional singers and are influenced by the modes, rhythms and forms of Azerbaijani art and popular music. Ex.43 is a circumsision and bar-mitzvah song performed by the Mountain Jews.

Folk stories of epic content (e.g. sections from the Persian epos Irani-pehlevi) or episodes of the local Jewish history (e.g. the recruiting of Mountain Jews to the Russian Army after the conquest of the eastern Caucasus in the mid-19th century) are sung by professional male singers (ovosunächi or mä'nikhun in Juhuri or ashugh in Azerbaijani) at homes, the centre of the Jewish quarter or the synagogue. Giryä (laments) are sung by women at the home of the deceased during the seven days of mourning. Singers of giryä-khundä have prominent status owing to their knowledge of this repertory. The highly metaphorical texts and the melody are improvised responsorially between a solo singer and chorus of mourners. As the days of mourning pass and the songs are repeated incessantly, they acquire a fixed form.

Songs in Persian appear in manuscripts as early as the 14th century, when the Jewish poet Shaheen was active. His songs continued to be performed up to the modern era. Other Persian Jewish poets are Amrani, Biniyamin ben Mishael and Siman Tov Melamed. Songs were preserved in the dastakh, a manuscript pocket book owned by singers. In certain areas of Iran (particularly Shiraz) the Jews distinguished themselves as musicians and also served the Muslim society, such as Isaac under Nasser al-Din Shah (1848–96) and the singer Yonah Dardashti (b ?1905) (see below, §V, 1).

Wedding songs are close in their structure to the Persian Tarane-hai mahali. They consist of short phrases repeated many times based on motifs of selected dastgāh. In addition to the general Jewish Persian repertory, there are local songs of individual communities, such as Isfahan and Mashhad.

The repertory of the Bukharan Jews (Samarkand, Bukhara, Tashkent and Dushanbe) includes traditional songs in Persian, Uzbek and Tajik. Some genres have a specific function as the gakhvorabandon (putting the newborn into a special cradle), koshchinon (ritual painting of a bride's eyebrows) and haqqoni (laments). At weddings and other celebrations professional female Jewish singers/dancers perform elaborated dances from the sozanda genre.

Jewish music, §IV: Non-liturgical music

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