Saturday, January 28, 2017

El Hameshorer - Sailing Ships

When I first heard this song the images that came to my mind were overcrowded boats packed with refugees risking their lives for the hope of a better future. I was stunned to discover that it was actually written by the poet Wladislav Szlengel in 1938. The song is the first single from El Hameshorer's second album "Two Gentlemen in the Snow-The Songs of Wladislav Szlengel".

From the band's bandcamp page:
The poems by Wladislav Szlengel, a Jewish Polish songwriter and poet, were written in the Warsaw Ghetto, while in hiding, and were passed from hand to hand, from bunker to bunker. Many of the Jews in the ghetto read them. Szlengel expressed in his poems the thoughts and feelings of the inhabitants of the ghetto, while he was able to express the lack of justice, human lawlessness and the helplessness of the common man who has lost everything: his friends, his leaders, his culture and his faith. Szlengel was killed in a bunker during the great Warsaw ghetto uprising, in May 1943, when he was in his early 30s. Before his death he was able to smuggle out of the ghetto a notebook with his poems titled "What I Read to the Dead", and miraculously they survived and were published in Poland in 1979. In 1987 the book of his poems was published in Hebrew, translated by Halina Birenbaum. Ahead of the album's release, Boaz Albert, a member of the band "El Hameshorer", wrote Hebrew versions to Szlengel's poems.
This is El Hameshorer's second album, after "El Hameshorer-H.N Bialik"-and album of the national poet's songs, which was released in 2010.

What really spoke to me about this song is how the music conveys a sense of urgency and the feeling that time is running out, as well as a cry for action. I'm used to hearing solemn songs about the Holocaust but El Hameshorer clearly state that they don't want this to be an album just for Holocaust Remembrance Day. As the band said on the radio show Napoleon, sometimes you need strong music that will hit you in the gut, and that's certainly what I felt when I listened to this powerful song. More details about the album can be found here.

Sailing ships towards the distance
For days they sail, like that
During nights and also during the days
Sailing ships full of refugees
From there to here from here to there
Refugee ships are sailing just like that

Knocking on doors in every country and port
Asking for refuge from the gallows
And the world is hiding with a locked bolt
And on the door is a sign: There is no room!
Sailing ships, sailing ships,
Staring at the waves, through the glass
This isn't a ship-this is a coffin
And the blue is like ink for letters
Yes, there is enough ink
You can write a billion letters
And receive, even today
A billion ruthless answers:
There is no room!

And so the ships sail
Above waves above the abyss
Not pirates, not peculiar
Not on a lavish cruise
Of rich passengers
Not heroes, not children of hell
People that belong to no one-souls without a dream
Which humanity spit into the abyss
People for whom there is no room!

And the world spins, spins on the axis
Full of treasures and wonders-a world so rich
The sun caresses it, and the flowers are so beautiful
There's enough land, there are enough spaces
But suddenly it stops-something is heavy for it today
Please get off-there is no room!

Sailing ships
Sailing ships
Sailing ships

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Meir Banai - A Journey to the World

Meir Banai's sudden death hit me with unexpected sadness which just grew and grew the more I delved into his music. This song opens Meir's fourth album "Changing Colors" which was released in 1990 after Meir's breakthrough album "Rain" and before the radio-friendly album "In Between". I don't think I had heard any of the songs off of "Changing Colors" before even though it's considered by his fans to be one of his best albums, so different from everything else at the time. It's impossible not to feel chills when listening to this haunting song but Meir's beautiful voice lends a gentle warmth during the dark night, a warmth that will always be remembered.

A journey to the world
Inside a little boat
A journey to the soul
Inside a tear
I want to feel now
Pain and also joy
I want to see everything
In the kingdom

Give me your hand
And I'll show you
All of the wonders
All of the miracles
That are here

Flickering trees
In all kinds of magical lights
The sea is now stormy
Hitting the rocks
Mermaids are singing
Deep in the abyss
No, don't listen to them
It's dangerous

Give me your hand...

You're diving now
Deep into the sea
Touching the sounds
Which are enchanted
The strong wind
Is hitting the waves
A journey to the soul
Inside a tear

Give me your hand...

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Yakir Hillel - Kingdom of Judah

"Did you hear? They convicted him of manslaughter. Poor kid..." my boss told me in a shocked voice on the day of Elor Azaria's trial. I was surprised by her surprise and was glad that I felt secure enough to let her know. We talked a bit about the trial and went back to our work. I wasn't sure how the atmosphere would be at lunch. I'm used to loud political arguments but this time we were quiet, all of us busy with our thoughts. Some of us didn't think that there should have been a trial in the first place while others saw the shooting as a grave incident that was part of a much bigger problem in Israeli society so what was the point of arguing? Instead, we tried to guess how many years he would get and if there was a likelihood of reducing his jail sentence. The option of a pardon didn't come up, not even by those who were sympathetic towards Azaria. He made a crucial mistake and now he has to pay the price- that's that. But it turned out that we were in the minority as more and more politicians chose to stand against the army and said that they would support a pardon. Netanyahu's support for the pardon felt especially populistic as it was addressed quite a few hours after the trial (enough time for polling) and just a few minutes before prime time news. It was the last thing we needed after such an intense and chaotic day.
The feelings of despair and disappointment that echo through "Kingdom of Judah" were all too familiar to me these past days yet there is also something very uplifting and reassuring in Yakir Hillel's bonfire performance. We've been through tough times before and we'll get through this.

A gaping hole in the Dead Sea
Turns the world around
In a choked voice the land is collapsing
And there is no one who hears, no one who replies
My hands are too short to rescue
A lonely piece of land
I feel the ground is breaking
In the Kingdom of Judah

A whimper in the mountain and tears in the river...

A black river flows through the Negev
Staining my land
The water won't wash away
The face of my love
My hands are too short to rescue
You won't see you won't know
How they are uninterruptedly destroying
The Kingdom of Judah's land

A whimper in the mountain and tears in the river...

I'll take with me the sand of the Negev
The eternal sun
Eastern winds in the evening sky
And the chirp of a clever bird
And I'll let you know
Of the severed beauty
Of the forgotten land
Of the Kingdom of Judah

A whimper in the mountain and tears in the river...