Instrumental performance of Hava Nagila
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|Music for Holidays|
"Hava Nagila" (Hebrew: הבה נגילה, Havah Nagilah, "Let us rejoice") is an Israeli folk song traditionally sung at Jewish celebrations. It is perhaps the first modern Israeli folk song in the Hebrew language that has become a staple of band performers at Jewish weddings and bar/bat mitzvah celebrations. The melody is based on a Hassidic Nigun and it was composed in 1915 in Ottoman Palestine, when Hebrew was being revived for the first time as a spoken language in almost 2,000 years (since the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE). For the first time, Jews were being encouraged to speak Hebrew as a common language, instead of Yiddish, Arabic, Ladino, or other regional Jewish languages.
Abraham Zevi Idelsohn (1882–1938), a professor at Hebrew University, began cataloging all known Jewish music and teaching classes in musical composition; one of his students was a promising cantorial student, Moshe Nathanson, who (with the rest of his class) was presented by the professor with a 19th-century, slow, melodious, chant (niggun or nigun) and assigned to add rhythm and words to fashion a modern Hebrew song. There are competing claims regarding Hava Nagila's composer, with both Idelsohn and Nathanson being suggested.
The niggun he presented has been attributed to the Sadigurer Chasidim, who lived in what is now Ukraine, which uses the Phrygian dominant scale common in music of Transylvania. The commonly used text was probably refined by Idelsohn.
In 1918, the song was one of the first songs designed to unite the early Yishuv [Jewish enterprise] that arose after the British victory in Palestine during World War I and the Balfour Declaration, declaring a national Jewish homeland in the lands newly liberated from Turkey by the Allies and entrusted to Britain under the Treaty of Versailles. Although Psalm 118 (verse 24) of the Hebrew Bible may have been a source for the text of "Hava Nagila", the expression of the song and its accompanying hora ("circle") dance was entirely secular in its outlook.
|Transliteration||Hebrew text||English translation|
|Hava nagila ve-nismeḥa||
הבה נגילה ונשמחה
|Let's rejoice and be happy|
|Hava neranenah ve-nismeḥa||
הבה נרננה ונשמחה
|Let's sing and be happy|
|Uru, uru aḥim!||
!עורו, עורו אחים
|Awake, awake, my brothers!|
|Uru aḥim be-lev sameaḥ||
עורו אחים בלב שמח
|Awake my brothers with a happy heart|
|(repeat line four times)|
|Uru aḥim, uru aḥim!||
!עורו אחים, עורו אחים
|Awake, my brothers, awake, my brothers!|
|With a happy heart|
- Idelsohn produced the first commercial recording in 1922, on the Polyphon record label, as part of a series which recorded 39 Hebrew folk songs.
- Singer Harry Belafonte is known for his version of the song, which was recorded for his album Belafonte at Carnegie Hall in 1959. He rarely gave a concert without singing it, and stated that the two “stand out” songs from his professional career were “The Banana Boat Song,” and “Hava Nagila”. Belafonte noted and claimed, "Life is not worthwhile without it. Most Jews in America learned that song from me."
- Irving Fields
- Josephine Baker recorded a version during her Havana sessions
- Frank Slay recorded an instrumental rock 'n' roll arrangement titled "Flying Circle" that was a #45 U.S. hit in 1962.
- Chubby Checker
- Connie Francis
- Dick Dale and the Del Tones (surf rock)
- Glen Campbell
- Celia Cruz
- Bob Dylan
- Four Jacks and a Jill released a version of the song on their 1965 album, Jimmy Come Lately.
- Lena Horne
- Jon Lord of Deep Purple included Hava Nagila in his solo keyboard improvisations as heard on Made in Europe (1975).
- Jeff Garlin sings Hava Nagila in the feature film Daddy Day Care
- Neil Diamond, performed Hava Nagila in his 1994 Live In America concert, incorporated it into The Jazz Singer, in which he acted out a cantor with popular-music ambitions.
- Brave Combo
- Anthrax sampled "Hava Nagila"'s main melody at the beginning of their song I'm the Man.
- Finnish power metal band Sonata Arctica usually ends its shows performing a humorous song, usually referred to as The Vodka Song, played on the tune of Hava Nagila.
- Dream Theater performed a cover of "Hava Nagila" in Tel Aviv, Israel on June 16, 2009.
- Regina Spektor includes a performance of the song as the outro of her song "The Flowers".
- Me First and the Gimme Gimmes played two versions of the song on their album Ruin Jonny's Bar Mitzvah.
- The Smothers Brothers; Tom Smothers plays the song on their album Think Ethnic under the name "Venezuelan Rain Dance"
- The Polish metal band Rootwater performs a rendition of the song on their album "Under"
- Jeff Dunham's puppet "Achmed the Dead Terrorist" whistles this by request while in Israel in the 2014 special "All Over the Map".
- Ben Folds Five released a live recording of the track as the b-side to the UK CD2 of their 1997 hit single "Battle of Who Could Care Less".
Use in sports
- Ajax Amsterdam
Supporters of the Dutch association football club AFC Ajax, although not an official Jewish club, commonly use Jewish imagery. A central part of Ajax fans' culture, the song Hava Nagila can often be heard sung in the Stadium by the teams supporters, and at one point ringtones of "Hava Nagila" could even be downloaded from the club's official website.
- Tottenham Hotspur
Supporters of the English football club Tottenham Hotspur commonly refer to themselves as Yids and are strongly associated with Jewish symbolism and culture. The song "Hava Nagila" has been adopted as an anthem of sorts by the club, and is one of the most frequently sung songs at White Hart Lane.
- Loeffler, James. "Hava Nagila's Long, Strange Trip. The unlikely history of a Hasidic melody.". myjewishlearning.com. My Jewish Learning.
Like many modern Israeli and popular Jewish songs, Hava Nagila began its life as a Hasidic melody in Eastern Europe
- Nathanson, who later worked in New York, most famously composed the nearly-universal melody that is sung with the Birkat Hamazon ("Grace After Meals").
- Roberta Grossman, Director/Producer; Sophie Sartain, Writer/Producer (2012). Hava Nagila (The Movie) (NTSC B&W and color, widescreen, closed-captioned). Los Angeles, CA, USA: Katahdin Productions, More Horses Productions. OCLC 859211976. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
The song you thought you knew. The story you won't believe.
- NPR staff, 2013, "Film Hoists 'Hava Nagila' Up Onto A Chair, In Celebration Of Song And Dance." NPR (online), February 28, 2013, see , accessed 3 September 2015.
- Yudelson, Larry. "Who wrote Havah Nagilah?". RadioHazak. Larry Yudelson. Archived from the original on 2008-07-29. Retrieved 2007-11-08.
- In an appearance on BBC Radio 4 Desert Island Discs on 28 October 2007, Idelsohn's grandson Joel Joffe referred to his grandfather as the author of "Hava Nagila", but in the programme notes it says "Composer: Bashir Am Israelim", meaning that either this is an alias for Abraham Zevi Idelsohn, to whom Joffe was clearly referring in the programme, or (more plausibly) the programme notes contain a mistranscription of "Shir Am Yisraeli", meaning "Israeli folksong".
- Joffe: Abraham Zvi Idelsohn
- Belafonte, Harry (1959) Belafonte at Carnegie Hall: The Complete Concert (LP) RCA Victor LOC-6006
- "Hava Nagila, What Is It? (Part I)" at YouTube
- Leland, John. (2004) Hip: The History, New York, NY, USA: HarperCollins, p. 206.
- Four Jacks and a Jill, Jimmy Come Lately Retrieved May 13, 2015
- "Set Lists 1968 to 1976". The Highway Star. Retrieved 2012-06-18.
- Raphael sings "Hava Nagila" at YouTube
- Dalida: Hava nagila 2, at YouTube
- Neil Diamond Live In America 1994, at YouTube
- "Hava Nagila Twist", on The Hokey Pokey:Organized Dancing (1991)
- "Hava Nagila" by Sonata Arctica in a Tokyo concert at YouTube
- Dream Theater: vídeo de música Judaica no show em Israel, luew, 19/06/09
- Amsterdam Journal; A Dutch Soccer Riddle: Jewish Regalia Without Jews, The New York Times, 28 March 2005.
- Hava Nagila! – Nieuw Israëlietisch Weekblad, 15 October 2013
- 'Waar komt de geuzennaam 'Joden' toch vandaan?', Het Parool, 1 February 2014.
- Promised Land: A Northern Love Story – Anthony Clavane, 12 February 2014
- The Yid Army’s chants turn anti-semitism into kitsch banter, Financial Times, 20 September 2013.
- Hava Nagila's Long, Strange Trip at My Jewish Learning
- Hora Music, How do you sing and dance "Hava Nagila" - lyrics and steps
- Who wrote "Havah Nagilah"?
- Hava Nagila at HebrewSongs.com
- Discogs search for other remakes of "Hava Nagila"
- Historical research includes first recording of Hava Nagila
- Romani version of "Hava Nagila" (Aven, rromalen)
- "Hava Nagilah", What Is It?
- Harry Belafonte sings "Hava Nagila" with Danny Kaye (1966) on YouTube