05 December 2010
Here's a chance to celebrate Hannukah with a difference! On Sunday 5 December, at 7.30pm, Spiro Ark is hosting a special concert by the acclaimed group, Rivers of Babylon. The band really knows how to capture the holiday spirit with traditional songs and music from the Iraqi-Jewish tradition - and all infused with a hint of Indian spice, as they say. You are welcome to discover for yourself at Spiro Ark's centre, 25-26 Enford Street, Marylebone, London W1H 1DW.
The ensemble leader is ethnomusicologist Sara Manasseh, who was herself born in Bombay (Mumbai) and hails from the Baghdadi Jewish community of India. Sara came to Britain in 1966. She founded the group in 1999 and also sings and plays the dumbuk (darbuka). Rivers of Babylon is nothing if not varied. Their repertoire features Songs of Praise, sbahot, drawn from the ancient Babylonian Jewish tradition, and also more recently minted Iraqi folksongs in Arabic, melodies sung in Hebrew and Marathi drawn from the heritage of the Benei Israel community of India, as well as Israeli songs and Bollywood classics sung in Hindi.
Spiro Ark promises: "Do not let the cold and snow put you off - we will warm your body and soul!"
The featured musicians are David Burman (keyboard, piano), Keith Clouston (Egyptian and Iraqi ouds, mandolin), Saeed Nathan (Druze and Indian flutes, vocals, tambourine and sba'ten) Barry Solomon (oboe, cor anglais, vocals), Pamela Solomon (vocals, tambourine) and Solly Solomon (vocals). Many have been friends since childhood, and off the concert stage their professions range from composers, teachers, an architect and doctor to IT expert, black cab driver, secretary and fire prevention officer.
Rivers of Babylon have been featured in BBC World Service broadcasts, which have included rousing hymns sung during the penitential prayers for the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). Their CDs include items from their seven-city tour of India and apparently many of these will be on sale at a reduced price.
The evening would not be complete without Samosas and Sufganiyot (doughnuts) - a literal taste of the festive season that combines the myriad heritage of the Iraqi Jews of India and elsewhere. All of which promises to add to the flavour of the band's own musical offerings, and the holiday spirit of Hannukah, the Jewish festival of lights.