On a snowy Sunday in April, I crashed a rehearsal of Embracing the Beloved, a performance so hot the snow will surely melt by their debut in the Jewish community at the Sabes JCC on May 1st at 7:30 PM.
Embracing the Beloved is a musical journey arranged around the path of the sun from its rise to fall. This universal progression binds all peoples: Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Christian, and all others. The journey starts with the “new beginnings of dawn, moves through the heat of the day into late afternoon study and storytelling, and concludes with music of the heart, of the night, and finally, of gratitude,” stated David Jordan Harris, one of the three co-creators of the production.
It is a seamless fusion of evolving musical narrative. I call it a “seamless narrative” because this performance weaves a continuous thread between some of the world’s most stimulating and distinctive musical styles, creating a colorful tapestry of Indian, Persian, and Sephardic Jewish melodies. This tapestry invites musical expressions that are often seen as exotic, and unrelated art forms and identities, to find common ground and promote community in over a dozen languages, including Tamil, Sanskrit, Telugu, Kannada, Farsi, Kurdish, Azari, Hebrew, and Judeo-Spanish.
This performance is a music lover’s orgasm! You do not even need to be an aficionado to find this evolving fusion of the world mesmerizing. The ensemble features fourteen accomplished musicians led by Voices of Sepharad’s David Jordan Harris, Robayat’s Maryam Yusefzadeh, and Nirmala Rajasekar.
Voices of Sepharad brings a rich tapestry of Sephardic music that stretches over the many lands where Jews re-settled after their expulsion from Spain in 1492—Morocco, Bosnia, Turkey, and even into India. David Jordan Harris is co-founder and Artistic Director of Voices of Sepharad. He has pursued study and performance of Sephardic music throughout North America, Morocco, Greece, France, Israel, Turkey, Poland, Bosnia, and Spain.
Robayat’s repertoire mirrors the complex history of Persia, embracing pre-Islamic Zoroastrian chant, folk and ethnic tribal music, and the classical music of Iran. Robayat is a quartet co-founded by Maryam Yusefzadeh who is actively involved with jazz, Persian, classical, and world music as a vocalist, arranger, composer, percussionist, and educator.
Nirmala Rajaseker is a gorgeous soul with global vision to fuse her rich musical experience originating in Chennai, India. She brings into the collaboration her research into the ancient roots of Indian music—melodies as old as 2000 years—that create a historical backdrop for the dynamic growth of Indian music into the 21st century. Seven other professional musicians accompany her in voice and percussion from the Naadha Rasa Center of Music in Plymouth. Naadha Rasa literally means “a sense of tone,” and what enormous tones and talents her ensemble encapsulates!
Performance of Embracing the Beloved, which was commissioned by the Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning, take place at the Sabes JCC on Wednesday, May 1, 7:30 p.m. tickets are $15 and can be purchased through the Sabes JCC at 952-381-3499.
Contributor Shana A. Cohen-Critic and Artist In Residence for the Jewish Artist Laboratory
CORRECTION: Shana A. Cohen is the author of this article – it was originally and incorrectly attributed to another TC Jewfolk writer.