LOS ANGELES (Top 40 Charts/ Benjamin
Lapidus Official Website) - Latin music's cutting-edge musician/scholar returns with Herencia Judia, a spiritually deep yet ear-pleasing recording that is inspired by the vast musical traditions of the Spanish Caribbean and the equally vast body of Jewish liturgical music. The result is a powerful and joyous listening experience that sets the bar high for future projects in this increasingly popular hybrid genre of music.
The Jewish calendar is full of holidays, some requiring self-sacrifice and others needing only the pure joy of being alive. Most of the songs in this record are associated with specific holidays and the others are part of the weekly liturgy.
Herencia Judia (Tresero Productions) begins with a traditional Ladino version of Ein Kelokeinu, a song of praise that is arranged in the majestic Afro-Puerto Rican music and dance genre called bomba.
Klezmer and Bluegrass wizard Andy Statman, adds melodic coloring throughout the piece with his legendary mandolin.
The title song Herencia Judia extols the virtues and uniqueness of the Jewish people while playing with bicultural references: sometimes Lapidus sings in Hebrew, sometimes in Spanish, and sometimes in both languages.
Etz Chaim is a beautiful song that speaks of the torah as a tree of life and it is arranged as a bembe with chekeres.
Aleinu L'Shabeach is a concluding prayer that is set in the old rumba style of yambu that utilizes wooden crates.
In Las Cuatro Preguntas and Los Cuatro Hijos, the first a changui and the other a nengon, Cuban ritual drumming master, Roman Diaz of Yoruba Andavo fame recites two parts of the Passover haggadah that are meant to maintain children's interest.
Dayenu is another fun, but often tedious, song that is sung during Passover.
In Lapidus's hands (and mind), the tongue-twisting lyrics conjure up the sound of panderetas (Puerto Rican frame drums) and the contagious plena. The song also showcases Andy Statman's virtuosity.
The Jewish New Year is characterized as the days of awe, but it is also a time of spiritual cleansing and rejoicing. Therefore, Limpieza Judia begins with the formula for kapporot and is accompanied by the bata rhythm ilubanche. The shofar blasts cue the Aveenu Malkenu, a haunting melody where the chazzan (cantor) pleads to the Creator on behalf of the congregation.
This is also set in the rhythm for Oddua, the orisha who coincides with the New Year in Lucumi (Cuban Yoruba-derived) culture. The cheerful Son de Hanukah is an instrumental arrangement of three children's songs from Hanukah that also showcases the group's individual chops, particularly Tony de Vivo's unique bongo style.
For Lapidus, the repetition and mode that are built into Ma Nishtana, a part of the reading for Pesach (Passover), called out for a changui from su querido guaso (his beloved Guantanamo). The pageantry of Sukkot takes many forms, but the shaking of the lulav and etrog is the most special characteristic and Lapidus arranges the Na'anu'im melody with the bata rhythm yakota. Daniel Pearl's murder struck a nerve in many people's souls and it is something that Lapidus thinks about frequently.
Kaddish is the Jewish prayer for mourning and the guaguanco Kaddish para Daniel has been a way for Lapidus to process something that is still incomprehensible. It is his hope that this song for Daniel Pearl will keep his memory and the crime of his murder at the forefront of people's minds. Tzadik Katamar is a danzon version of Louis Lewandowski's haunting melody from the nineteenth century and features two outstanding solos from Jeremy Brown (Frank London) and Onel Mulet (Albita).
For Lapidus, his experiences during carnival in both Guantanamo and Santiago reminded him of the Simchat Torah celebration. The album concludes with the Comparsa de Simchat Torah, a medley of songs heard during the hakafot, when the torah is finished being read in its entirety.