While locating videos on YouTube for my Allan Sherman post yesterday, I stumbled across several interesting versions of “Hava Nagila” (the tune to which Sherman’s song, “Harvey and Sheila,” is set). I had no idea this song had such universal appeal, but I think you’ll agree from some of the versions I found below that it’s been adopted by anyone who has come into contact with Jews (and probably a few who haven’t). Wikipedia says it was probably written in 1918 and based on a Ukrainian folk melody.
Just to introduce the song in its purest form, I shopped around for a totally straight version of it. I thought I’d found it in this version by a Hong Kong choir (reassuringly entitled “Israeli Traditional”), but partway through, the percussion and harmonies started going all wonky and I knew that wasn’t it. Then I found this version by a singer named Dalida, which starts in Hebrew at least (but then veers into French). Nice version, nonetheless.
Beatles fans, here is the video for you, sung by a group calling themselves The Moptops. (A skillfully edited version. My only question is, who is standing in for George?)
Hey, everyone loves the song, though they don’t always want to stay in minor key. Here is a bagpipe ensemble playing it (in major) while marching in a 2008 Israel Day Parade.
Exotic foreigners love it too. Here’s Bollywood’s version (though the lyrics go pretty far afield of the real Hebrew lyrics). And here is a delicate, Persian version from our friendly neighbors over in Iran. This is the Trio Balkan Strings playing it—three men, one guitar. And for something truly foreign, here is the Texas version. (Gotta love the Latin faces getting into it.)
For those who can’t hear the song without wanting to get up and dance, here is a dance to the song from the Efim Aleksandrov dance company. (Amazing how Judaism is appreciated more for its music and dance than for its real substance.)
And for those who by now are ready to see some Yidn play their own tune, here is Bob Dylan, Peter Himmelman, and Harry Dean Stanton playing it (after confirming the lyrics with a Chabadnik m.c.).
Shabbat shalom, everyone.