Elohim Eshala - a melody travels from Yemen to Israel
Yemenite singing has a very special "color" to it. The Jews in Yemen developed their music quite separately from the Arabs, so their melodies were more unique to their culture, as opposed to Jewish melodies in other countries, where they were usually "borrowed" from local musics. Elohim Eshala is an example of one of those beautiful Yemenite songs. It is a piyyut (religious song) by the poet Yosef Ben Israel, and here sung by the great singer Aharon Amram.
This melody arrived to Palestine with the Yemenite immigrants. In 1936, it was performed by one of the greatest Hebrew female singers, Brakha Tzefira, on the first Hebrew radio broadcast from Palestine, on the station Kol Yerushalayim (the voice of Jerusalem) which included programs in Hebrew and in Arabic. The Yemenite music was and still is received with ambivalence in the Israeli culture. On the one hand, it sounded to many of the non-yemenite listeners as too "oriental", and was many times looked down upon unfortunately. On the other hand, many considered it as the closest to the music played in biblical times. Our song is an example for this attitude, as it received many arrangements during the years, some by known Israeli classical composers. In the last decades it is sung and listened to mainly by "aficionados" of Yemenite singing, as in recent times there was not any well know new version of Elohim Eshala. And well, that makes me feel like it's time for a new arrangement. To be continued... :)
This is a short version of a full text I wrote back in the day to the Jewish Music Research Centre, with Prof. Edwin Seroussi. Here is the full text: