"Shabbat Olam" - Shabbat Around The World - "Sephardic Shabbat Unplugged."
A Journey Into The Music Of The Sephardic Tradition with Cantor Idan Irelander and the "Ahavat Olam" Ensemble
The "Ahavat Olam" ensemble is a unique, diverse and multi-cultural group of musicians. The 7 talented musicians from Jordan, Syria, Iran, Palestine, America and Israel play unique and rare folk (mostly Arab) instruments such as oud, qanun, yayni tanbur, kamanche, saz, flute, cello, percussion and guitar! This is a true East-West sound and flavor!
Since I was ordained a Cantor in 2009, it has been my dream to bring to life the rich Jewish traditions and liturgical music from around the world and share them with my community. I call this project, “Shabbat Olam” – “Shabbat around the World”.
As an Ashkenazic Jew and musician growing up in Israel, I was exposed to a variety of Jewish music from around the world. For years, we have lived in many communities, Jewish and non-Jewish, and thus have added the element of local folk music to our rich musical tradition. There are many different melodies and instruments used that often reflect the community from which they came, sometimes even those in the same country! I was particularly fascinated by the music and culture of the Sephardic Jews; Jews from Spain, Portugal, Africa and the Middle East.
Because the music is so diverse and so little of it is in writing, I had to do a lot of research to collect the melodies of the various Sephardic communities. Then, I had to acquire the unique instruments used in this music and learn how to play them so that I could compose arrangements using the original instrumentation and melodies.
The next step was the most difficult – finding master musicians to play these instruments. Because of the nature of the sound and instrumentation, I knew I would have to contact both Jewish and non-Jewish musicians, some of them from Arab countries that have difficult relationships with Israel. In this ensemble, we have musicians from Jordan, Syria, Iran, Palestine, America and Israel. I was concerned that some of them would refuse, since they would be playing music from a Jewish worship service directed by an Israeli, but I’m happy to say that I was wrong. All were very excited to participate in this project and the fact that I was Israeli wasn’t an issue.
I would like to quote Rabbi Robert S. Goldstein: “Music is by some accounts the only truly universal language. When musicians from both sides of the world’s most intractable conflicts come together, politics tend to disappear. Regardless of the tongue they speak, players communicate with the language they share; music.” I decided to name this ensemble after the known Jewish prayer: "Ahavat Olam," the "World Love" ensemble."