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Jewish Journal

An Afro Judeo Beat

by Jewish Journal Staff

November 13, 2003 | 7:00 pm

Tired of the same old synagogue music? Want to put a little lift in your liturgy? Then give your cantor the gift of Ugandan Jewish music, Say what?

Yes, Smithsonian Folkways has just released a singular CD titled, "Abayudaya: The Music of the Jews of Uganda."

This is a sometimes lilting, often haunting and always fascinating collection of African Jewish music in which the rhythms and harmonies of Africa blend with Jewish celebration and traditional Hebrew prayer.

The Abayudaya community traces its roots to the early-20th century, when disparate tribes melded their traditions with those of Western Jews. Founded in 1919 by Semei Kakungulu, a tribal military leader who was exposed to Judaism by the British, the Abuyudaya developed a literal interpretation of the Bible and adopted circumcision and Sabbath rituals. Subsequent generations of Jewish visitors imparted knowledge of Hebrew prayers, kashrut, the Hebrew language and Jewish calendar.

But the harmonies remained African, and this collection celebrates the melding of the songs and prayers you know with music you can only dream about. Give it to a cantor today.

$15. Available at record and book outlets or at www.folkways.si.edu/catalog/40504.htm .

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