As I’ve written here, I’m hoping to do a KBCS radio special on Passover music (just waiting to get some studio time to prepare the show). I’ve decided to try to upload a different Pesach song each day between now and Pesach. Tonight, we hear from Yehoram Gaon‘s seminal 1975 album of Sephardic Passover songs, Songs for Passover in the Sephardic Tradition. While the album is out of print, it is still being sold today as a two-CD set together with an album of Sephardic Shabbat songs he recorded. Gaon’s official website is quite informative, but unfortunately Hebrew-only.
Gaon was born to a religious Sephardic family in Jerusalem’s Beit HaKerem neighborhood in 1939. He received his big break when he starred in the Israeli megahit movie musical, Kazablan. He has recorded over 50 albums ever since and has remained a mainstay of Israeli popular music. With his clear as a bell beautiful tenor voice, he has charmed several generations of Israeli listeners.
The singer’s public embrace of his Sephardic heritage in album’s like the one we feature here did much to popularize Mizrahi culture and music in larger Israeli society. It also encouraged Sephardim to hold their head high in a culture that until that time promoted an assimilationist approach to ethnicity. Mizrahim were told their culture was backward compared to the prevalent Ashkenazi European Jewish culture that dominated Israel. Gaon helped change all that.
One of the most beloved songs of the traditional Passover seder is Had Gadya (“One Kid”):
“Then came the Holy One, blessed be He, and slew the angel of death that killed the butcher that slaughtered the ox that drank the water that quenched the fire, that burned the stick that beat the dog that bit the cat that ate the goat my father bought for two zuzim, Had Gadya (one goat). . .”
The song first appeared in a Passover haggadah in Prague in 1590. It is sung at the seder in Aramaic, the language spoken by Jews of the Talmudic period. Gaon provides a delightful and tuneful version in Ladino called Un Cavritico (hear it).
Click here to read the other Passover music posts in this series.
This is another terrific resource for more about Had Gadya. The book featured here is a lovely children’s book illustrating the song. The evocative and childlike illustrations are by Seymour Chwast and text by Rabbi Michael Strassfeld.