Hanna Yaffe,
Lullabies from Jerusalem
(self-produced, 1998)

Lullabies from Jerusalem is a charming collection. With 26 lullabies from all around the world, this CD offers Jewish songs from Russia to Israel, in languages from Yiddish to Arabic. Ladino, Armenian and Amharic lullabies appear as well.

Perhaps most interestingly, this collection also includes a traditional black spiritual translated into Hebrew. With these broad choices, the enclosed song sheets with English translations are invaluable.

While the title implies that all of these songs are from the holy city itself, Hanna Yaffe has collected the songs to emphasize the multiculturalism and diversity of Jerusalem, where all the songs are sung nightly. She performs some of these songs herself, leaving others to other vocalists.

Some of these songs are sung by a choir, while others have a single sweet-voiced singer. The classic "L'yla L'yla" is sung by a junior choir, bringing operatic sweetness to the melody. The Russian "Tired Toys" is more playful, with a melody rather like a Gilbert & Sullivan song. "Nami Nami," sung by Miranda Elias, offers sweet Arabic rhythms and soft guitar.

While some of the songs date back thousands of years, the collection includes several modern Deborah Freeman songs, such as "The Olive Tree Lullaby," all sung in English. Freeman is a modern Jewish songwriter whose holiday songs and prayers have reached many synagogues across America.

Most of the songs offer soothing meanings, yet some are as disturbing as the American "Rock a Bye Baby," where a baby falls out of the cradle. Mothers sing their children to sleep with the songs, yet the words occasionally reflect the despair over absent fathers or other troubles.

While the sweet, soothing songs lull children to sleep in a multitude of languages, they also reflect the culture of Jerusalem and the city's troubled past.

- Rambles
written by Valerie Frankel
published 25 April 2004