This blog has several different sections and I have different purposes in mind when I write for each one. When I write about Mideast or U.S. politics, most often rage and injustice motivate my choice of subjects and my style in addressing them. I also sometimes have the pleasure of writing about positive developments (lately this only applies to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict) though this happens less frequently.
But my world music mp3 blog is another story. It is entirely based on love for the music. Love for the strange, wonderful and ethereal sounds of other cultures. When writing about this music, I search for astonishing songs, songs that–when I hear them–mesmerize and, in a few instances, even make me swoon.
This is the case with Kitka‘s ravishing Ma Navu (hear it). The song is from Isaiah 52:7 and the music was written by Israeli composer Yossi Spivak. There is an equally enchanting folk dance to this tune choreographed by Raya Spivak (one assumes this was his spouse).
How wonderful upon the mountains are the feet of the bearer of good tidings.
Who proclaims peace, the harbinger of good, who proclaims salvation
מַה-נָּאווּ עַל-הֶהָרִים רַגְלֵי מְבַשֵּׂר, מַשְׁמִיעַ שָׁלוֹם מְבַשֵּׂר טוֹב–מַשְׁמִיעַ יְשׁוּעָה
Kitka’s arrangement begins with a single soprano voice singing the melody, then joined by a second which adds an unusual harmonic line. The two voices proceed to intertwine, doing beautiful vocal pirouettes. Finally, the entire ensemble joins together for a breathtaking concluding section. Parts of the harmony sound oddly dissonant like those you might hear in early music. But these dissonant harmonies are so unusual that they sound contemporary as well. This gives you the impression of a song that is both ancient and modern at the same time.
I also love the folk dance version of Ma Navu. It’s quite simple but infinitely elegant and precise. Back in my folk dance days, it was always a pleasure to dance Ma Navu. You didn’t need virtuosic technique or manic energy as you sometimes do in Israeli folk dance. But you did need to internalize your body’s movements and to join your body to the grace of the music. You had to combine your own emotional experience of the music with physical movement in a way that was (if you did the dance well) very precise.
This is music of grace, of beauty, and of peace. It is music that soothes the soul. A perfect rejoinder to the hate and violence that presently afflict our world and especially the Middle East.
You may purchase downloads of Kitka’s Wintersong (which include Ma Navu) online at Magnatune. Or you can buy the CD at Amazon. Thanks very much to Shira Cion of Kitka and to Magnatunes for agreeing to allow their music to be featured here.
Magnatune features a service I’ve never seen before on a music site. If your use of their music is non-commercial they will allow you to download it for free under a Creative Commons license. I can’t tell you how refreshing this is for an mp3 blogger like me. The people at Magnatunes get it when it comes to MP3 blogs. They understand that we provide a secondary market for promoting their artists’ music. Often, I have to buy an entire CD (at import prices ranging upwards of $25) to feature a single song here. And at that, I sometimes do not have or cannot get the label or artist’s permission to offer their work here (though of course if any artist objected I would remove it immediately).
Just as an example, a few weeks ago I heard a gorgeous song on KBCS and wrote the musician asking if I could feature it here. She replied that she didn’t know how to send me the music file and that she wanted to read what I planned to write before I published. No one had ever placed such a condition on their participation here. I replied that the condition was acceptable though I thought she didn’t need to be overly concerned about what I’d write since I only write about what I love. She never replied.
Instead of hostility, ignorance or indifference to mp3 blogging, Kitka and Magnatunes embrace it. What a breath of fresh air. Magnatune’s section of their site on Open Music is simply inspiring. Now, if only more artists and labels would get religion.
Catherine Rose Crowther is a member of Kitka. I met her through my friend Sara Glaser, an Oakland Hebrew calligrapher, artist and graphic designer. I’d asked Sara to do the calligraphy and artwork for our ketubah (Jewish wedding contract), when she told me she could only write the text. She recommended Katherine Rose to create the artwork. Crowther did a splendid job of translating my thoughts about a Hudson River Valley scene as the backdrop for our ketubah. She also designs all of Kitka’s gorgeous album covers (see above).
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