I’m used to the anthropological idea of cultural equivalence when talking about things like translation or kreplach versus tortellini, but I found the presumably viral listing of 32+ versions of the Jewish prayer song “Adon Olum” that showed up in my in-box today fascinating. For a ‘people’ who were almost eradicated by the Holocaust and who have only had a homeland for 60 years, it is intriguing to see cultural traditions so ingrained that they transcend national boundaries and generational influences.
We tend to have a more traditional rendition of Adon Olam at our synagogue (a la # 33–that’s my Rabbi in one of his 400+ You Tube videos!) but in honor of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, below are 32 interpretations of this Jewish song, from a Techno version to ethiopian harp to a pretty happenin’ pop rock version.
For Jews the year is 5770 tomorrow. These Adon Olam videos, and a Passover seder my son and I attended in Brazil last April, have me amazed at the idea of culture as a set of traditions that is transferred from generation to generation, and how that can remain cohesive in spite of the influence of national borders and thousands of years.
Adon Olam is a song to herald the greatness of G-d, sung during Shabbos (Sabbath) services on Saturday mornings and festivals. It is not necessarily specific to Rosh Hashanah (for that you would eat apples dipped in honey or have honey cake to usher in a sweet new year) but the juxtapostion of so many versions from so many cultures does create a sense of global community that is warm and welcoming and full of optimism for a new start.
Kind of fun to watch them in juxtaposition to one another…
3. Old TV version from Israel (kind of a 60’s Folk sort of thing)
6.Cantorial Quintet a cappella
7. Six Cantors during a service –
8. South American version performed in Israel
9. Another Latino version with Cantorial solo
10. This is an old French Sephardic Version
12. Semi-jazz version; semi-Klezmer
14. Jerusalem Oratorio Chorale
17. Dudu Fisher performing at Yad Va-shem
18. Performance at USC by new group —
20. Version with Transliterated Lyrics (Rock and Roll Version)
21. Same version with Hebrew Lyrics —
23. Israeli soldiers sing Adon Olam
24. High School Choir sings doo-wap version
25. Russian introduction 2 minutes then an outstanding version
26. Holocaust concert in >From a Budapest
27. Sweet Ethiopian version on harp
28. Touching performance in a nursing home
29. Hip Hop Performance Art Violin Solo Holocaust Version
31. Uzi Chitman sings Adon Olam
32. Shlomo Gronich and the Sheba Choir
33. My Rabbi Singing (from Ezra Habonim The Niles Jewish Township)