The metaphor of Pharaoh's Daughter comes from the Book of Exodus: "And Pharaoh's daughter came down to bathe in the Nile, and she saw the basket among the reeds and sent her slave girl to fetch it". Pharaoh's daughter sees a boy child in the basket, figures he must be a Hebrew and makes him her son. She names him Moses, the Hebrew root meaning to draw up or out. Basya Schechter, the leader of the Jewish music group Pharaoh's Daughter uses the same metaphor to dip into and draw out melodies from Israeli, Moroccan, Turkish, Ladino and African cultures. She welds Hebrew, Ladino and Yiddish texts to these melodies to fashion a postmodern Jewish music.
Sometimes this can produce odd juxtapositions such as "Taitch," that combines the verbal study chanting that accompanies learning in a beit midrash (study hall) with the beat of a frame drum. Envision a scene from a movie: a heder (religious school) room of ultra-Orthodox students are reading in taytsh-nign (translation melody) while a group of longhaired young Jewish musicians wearing tzitit (ritual fringes) are wailing away on the drums in a corner of the room; a total busting of stereotypes. Other tracks are less radical. "Hevel" sets a Hebrew text from Ecclesiastes on futility to a modern guitar-based Israeli melody. "Im Ein Ani Li Mili" is a wisdom text from "Pirkei Avot" ("Ethics Of the Fathers") set to an oud-based North African melody. A text from Lamentations, "Eicha" is set to a particularly lovely Israeli type melody. And the prayer that divides the Sabbath from the rest of the week, "HaMavdil", finds a wonderful match in a Ladino tune.
How you respond to this album depends on how far one is willing to push the limits of Jewish music and Jewish sensibility. This CD was released on Knitting Factory, one of the few labels to embrace Radical Jewish Culture, the genre of tradition busting Jewish music. - Aaron Howard
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