Thursday, December 11, 2008

Songs of the Week: Ocho Kandelikas and Ma'oz Tzur

The House of Glee attended the Dan Zanes Holiday House Party last Saturday. The show had songs in Arabic, English, Hebrew, Ladino (a Spanish-Hebrew creole developed by Sephardic Jews), Korean, Spanish, and Swahili performed by family bands that included children. We got a kick out of the "Grey Goose" shadow-puppet production and enjoyed the songs, but thought that the transitions needed to be smoother before the show would be ready for Broadway.

Even though I once attended a Yiddish-Hebrew Sunday school for 6 months, I had never before heard two of the Hanukkah songs performed. I've only ever known about "Dreydl, Dreydl" and "Hanukkah O Hanukkah" through my public school chorus class. At the concert, the first Hanukkah song was performed by Basya Schechter of Pharaoh's Daughter was a Ladino song called "Ocho Kandelikas" (Eight Little Candles), written by Flory Jagoda. Here is the chorus:

Una kandelika, dos kandelikas, tres kandelikas,
kuatro kandelikas, sintyu kandelikas, sej kandelikas, siete kandelikas,
ocho kandelas para mi.

English translation:

One candle, two candles, three candles,
four candles, five candles, six candles, seven candles,
eight candles for me.

You can hear Kenny Ellis sing it on YouTube here. Complete Ladino lyrics with the English translations are here.

The second Hanukkah song that was new to me was the Hebrew "Ma'oz Tzur" (The Strength of the Rock, one of the many names for God). The lyrics are thought to have been written in the 13th century, and the tune used most is an adaptation of a German folk song. I've heard two different versions, so I'm not sure which one is the folk song. "Ma'oz Tzur" is traditionally sung after the reciting of the blessings and lighting of the menorah candles. The first verse in phonetic Hebrew with the English translation is here. You can listen to Schechter perform it here.

This year, Hanukkah begins at sundown on Sunday, December 21.

For those searching for Hanukkah songs on the internet, here are alternate phonetic spellings to bring you to this specific post: Chanuka, Chanukah, Chanukkah, Channukah, Hanukah, Hannukah, Hanukkah, Hanuka, Hanukka, Hanaka, Haneka, Hanika, Khanukkah.


Anamaria (bookstogether) said...

What a nice way for all of you to celebrate the season! I know one of those two songs: Elliot's public school has a holiday sing-along that includes LOTS of overtly religious Hannukah and Christmas songs, including Ocho Kandelikas, Masters in this Hall, and (my favorite) Children, GO where I send thee! with hand motions. I have no idea how they get away with it, but it's a beloved tradition that we sadly have to miss this year (we're driving up to Rhode Island for Christmas).

Lone Star Ma said...

Sounds like a lovely party.

The Library Lady said...

Ladino's not widely known in this country. There are pockets of Sephardim, but most Jews in the US are Eastern European/Ashkenazi, speakers of "mama loshen"--Yiddish.

I've had an antipathy towards "The Dreidel Song" since elementary school but I sing "O Hanukkah" in both English and Yiddish and my girls loved it when they were little. In fact, SC often asked for it as a lullaby!

But this year I used a lovely book version of "I Have A Little Dreidel" (by Maxie Baum)at story hours. It has verses that describe a Hanukkah party that fit the music beautifully. In fact, I discovered to my chagrin that I quite liked singing the song and that it worked well with my voice.

AND there's no mention of gifts, let alone (feh) "the tradition of eight gifts" which always gets my dander up!

Saints and Spinners said...

Library Lady:"The Dreidel Song" has never been a favorite either, though I discovered after my daughter Maddalena was born that I was singing silly words to the tune, a la, "I had a Madda-ladle, I loved to kiss her so." I just requested the Baum .book from the libary. Thanks for the recommendaton!

LSM: Indeed, it was. I think we would have been more jolly had we not been struggling with coughs.

Anamaria: It's a mixed bag, isn't it? On the one hand, there's the separation of church and state and that's really important. On the other, it's a mistake to children of good music, and so much of the secular winter holiday music is just dreadful. (This is one blogger's opinion.) I'm glad that your school has the songs.

Speaking of secular songs I really don't like, the "Sleigh Ride" song (sleigh bells jingling, ring-ting tingling) sets my teeth on edge, but I was looking at the chords last night, and they're complicated. There are key changes all over the place, too. I appreciate complexity in a song. I just don't have to enjoy it.

Anamaria (bookstogether) said...

Yes. There are some sadly dreadful secular songs in the mix, too (Polar Puppy, anyone?), but the kids seem to like learning about traditional songs and carols. Not to mention singing them! Masters in this Hall is really lovely--do you know it?