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Let Jasmine Rain Down

Song and Remembrance among Syrian Jews

When Jews left Aleppo, Syria, in the early twentieth century and established communities abroad, they carried with them a repertory of songs (pizmonim) with sacred Hebrew texts set to melodies borrowed from the popular Middle Eastern Arab musical tradition. Let Jasmine Rain Down tells the story of the pizmonim as they have continued to be composed, performed, and transformed through the present day; it is thus an innovative ethnography of an important Judeo-Arabic musical tradition and a probing contribution to studies of the link between collective memory and popular culture.

Shelemay views the intersection of music, individual remembrances, and collective memory through the pizmonim. Reconstructing a century of pizmon history in America based on research in New York, Mexico, and Israel, she explains how verbal and musical memories are embedded in individual songs and how these songs perform both what has been remembered and what otherwise would have been forgotten. In confronting issues of identity and meaning in a postmodern world, Shelemay moves ethnomusicology into the domain of memory studies.

310 pages | 23 halftones, 3 line drawings, 17 musical examples. CD included. | 6 x 9 | © 1998

Chicago Studies in Ethnomusicology

Culture Studies

Music: Ethnomusicology

Religion: Judaism

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Author’s Note
Jasmine: Poem on Sandpaper
Prelude: Sur Yah El
1: Song and Remembrance
Prelude: Attah El Kabbir
2: Music and Migration in a Transnational Community
Prelude: Ani Ashir Lakh
3: A Judeo-Arab Musical Tradition
Prelude: Ramah Evarai
4: Lived Musical Genres
Prelude: Yehidah Hitna’ari
5: Individual Creativity, Collective Memory
Prelude: Melekh Rahaman
6: Conclusion: A Community in Song
Embroidered Rag: Poem on Umm Kulthum
Contents of Compact Disc
Formal Interviews
Music Sessions


Jewish Book Council: National Jewish Book Award

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