Galeet Dardashti was the perfect performer to make “The Naming,” her latest CD, which pays tribute to the heroines of the Tanakh.
In fact, she was prepared at an early age to make this album.
Skeptical? Check out this liner note for “Michal,” her first track on the CD:
“My great-aunt Tovah was known to wear tefillin (Hebrew verses bound to head and arm with leather straps) when she said her morning prayers in Tehran; this is a ritual item traditionally only worn by men. Her rationale for her unconventional behavior was … because she was childless and not fulfilling ‘normal’ maternal functions, she had to fulfill the same religious responsibilities as men. This always struck me as so progressive. But years later, I learned that according to Jewish oral tradition (as recorded in the Talmud), the childless Michal, King David’s wife, wore tefillin when she prayed.”
In her own family, she saw women tearing down the mechitza of tradition and claiming Jewish ritual — all of it — as their own. Why not make an album about women biblical heroines?
An innovative composer of Iranian Jewish descent, Dardashti, previously the leader of an all-female Mizrahi musical band, Divahn, brings her own brand of traditional and new age music to the seven tracks on the “The Naming,” which celebrates Michal, Hagar and Sarah, Sheba, Dinah, Vashti and Endora.”
Not all these women were Jewish, of course, but they all spiced and enhanced the stories that made early Jewish culture.
Her music relies heavily on percussion and electronics to create her unique sound. Her voice is the central instrument of this album — powerful, passionate and rebellious.
But for all the energy in “The Naming” — and it is boundless — listen to this CD for the stories it tells.
Jewish scripture would appear to pay scant attention to some of these figures — Dinah, the daughter of Jacob who is ravaged, married off then disappears from the Bible’s pages and Endora, the witch sought out by a desperate and confused King Saul on the eve of his battlefield death. Vashti, the first wife of King Ahasuerus who defied her lord and master. Dardashti’s music gives meat to their stories, but she always cites the biblical sources for interpretation in the liner notes.
Don’t mess with this woman when it comes to biblical history; she has a doctorate in anthropology and frequently lectures.
“The Naming” is a powerful CD. It validates the female contribution to Jewish scripture and enfranchises a frequently disenfranchised half of the Jewish people. It tells stories through music, which is refreshing in the era of soundbites and social networking. It has much appeal for men and women. But, yes, women will appreciate it more.
(Lee Chottiner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)