Maureen Nehedar: Gole Gandom

From Isfahan to Jerusalem

Listening Post 142. Her voice has an exquisite purity that commands without overwhelming. The facets of her life and music—liturgical poems and love songs—add to the aptness her name: Nehedar means “splendid” in Hebrew. Maureen Nehedar was two years old when her family left Isfahan, Iran, in the wake of the Islamic Revolution. They arrived in Israel with few tangible belongings but, as she describes it, lots of cultural baggage. Growing up in Jerusalem, she had a conservatory education in European classical music, but she never forgot the songs her grandmother sang to her and ultimately applied her talents to her roots. Her debut album was a collection of Persian-Jewish hymns (piyyutim), sung in Hebrew and Judeo-Persian. Gole Gandom (Wheat Flower/گل گندم/גולה גנדום), Nehedar’s masterpiece second album, focuses on secular Iranian folk songs—performed in Farsi—many exploring love through floral metaphors; just as she merged elements of Persian culture into her Israeli life, so does she achieve new melodic heights mixing her own compositions with traditional music. In the title track, supported by a stunning integration of western and Persian instruments, she sings of a groom’s contentment and a bride’s dowry, against the backdrop of the wheat harvest (video 1). Passion’s object is more elusive in Mastom – Asmar (Drunk/Brown-Haired Girl), about a suitor inebriated by love (video 2). The album’s one non-traditional song is Gole Sangam (Stone Flower), popular in Iran in the 1970s and a touchstone of pre-revolutionary nostalgia (video 3). Nehedar also chants evocative terms of endearment in Juni, Juni (Darling, Darling), in which a woman tells her betrothed that he has belonged to her since the cradle; and in Lalaiy, a bittersweet lullaby she sings with the grandmother who inspired her. All the riches that have come out of the family’s trunk, and it seems she is still unpacking. (Helicon)

 

Gole Gandom: “I will spread the seeds to the right and left
On this side and on that side they will slowly grow
The sky is blue and the moon shines as always
My yield has been ample
I no longer fear what tomorrow will bring

The groom is anxious to rest his head/In the lap of the beautiful bride
With the white neck/Bright and smooth as velvet

Forty camels leave the groom’s house/Proudly carrying the dowry
They take her out of her house/And praise the beautiful bride”

 

Mastom: “A newly bloomed flower on a stem
I can neither reach it, nor will it fall on its own 

I am drunk, drunk, drunk/Your blade has cut my hand
I am drunk, drunk, with love/And I alone am to blame
I say this all, my sweet brunette, my love, my soul
With the beautiful moon above me”

 

Gole Sangam: I am a stone flower/What can I say from my longing heart?
If the sun doesn’t shine on me/I am cold and colorless

I am all sighs and pain/Like a storm, I am full of dust
A wayward wind in the desert/Lost and going in circles around you

If you don’t fall on me like rain/And you don’t look on me
I will lose my petals in two days
Is your stone heart softening for me?
I am a stone flower/What can I say from my longing heart”

 

 


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