Showing posts with label Middle East. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Middle East. Show all posts

27 March 2011

London: Food of the Jews of Babylon, April 3

The Jews of Babylon have a culinary tradition dating back more than 2,000 years, but it is a home-based cuisine rarely found in restaurants.

The Spiro Ark Centre, 25-26 Enford St., London, W1, will host Linda Dangoor, of a well-known Iraqi Jewish family in the UK, on Sunday, April 3, at 7.30pm.

The cost is £12 + £1 Internet booking fee. Click here to book now.

The cuisine, much like Persian food, is well-flavored, aromatic, but rarely spicy or hot.

The event marks Dangoor's new cookbook - "Flavours of Babylon" - and she will talk with Sami Zubaida about Babylonian Jewish food and its significance as a language and badge of identity.

Attendees will also get a chance to sample some foods.

Dangoor has been working in the design field for more than three decades as a designer, painter and ceramicist. The cookbook is her first book.

Zubaida is Emeritus Professor of Politics and Sociology at Birkbeck College, University of London. He has published several books on the religion, culture and politics of the Middle East; and is co-editor of "A Taste of Thyme: the Culinary Cultures of the Middle East." The event will include a book sale by both authors.

Seating is limited; advance reservations are recommended.

03 September 2010

Music: Persian music and family

Tablet offered a wonderful story on cousin Galeet Dardashti's new CD, "The Naming," which honors the Bible's unsung women and also calls attention to Persian music.

Tracing the Tribe wrote a previous post here, and included where clips may be accessed.

Alexander Gelfand wrote a fascinating story which, among other issues, addressed Persian cantillation in the classical style, for which Galeet's grandfather Yona was well-known.

There's also family history in there. Her Aunt Tova prayed with tefillin, unusual for a woman in any Jewish community around the world, but especially long ago in Teheran.
“Gender hadn’t really been an issue for me up until that point,” says Dardashti, who leads the all-girl band Divahn and recently completed a PhD in cultural anthropology. “We were three girls in my family, and there was never any question that there was something we couldn’t do. But it suddenly occurred to me that, yes, I am a woman; and my husband and I are going to have really different roles in child rearing.”
In addition to considering the women who had been misrepresented in rabbinical commentary, such as Vashti or Sheba, she was studying the music Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews, as well as the very different Persian tradition of her grandfather, often called the "Nightingale."

Galeet's father, Farid Dardashti, once a pop star in Tehran - one of his hits was "Malaguena" - is hazzan at Beth El Synagogue (New Rochelle, New York), introduced her to Persian cantillation, much like the classical music his father sang. Everyone in the family grew up on Yona's singing at gatherings and via the old recordings.

When she began singing this in public, “The reaction I got from older Sephardic and Mizrahi women was, ‘Wow, hearing a woman do this repertoire is really powerful!’ ” she said.

Gelfand, in addition to commenting on various tracks on the CD, also offers information on Persian music, which is different from Arab music that most Westerners know. It is based on a modal system called dastgah, while other Middle Eastern music is based on another system called maqam. And it has influenced Persian Jewish music as well.

Farid is on the "Endora" track chanting from the book of Samuel on “Endora,” which recounts the meeting between King Saul and the witch of Endor.

Galeet also uses Sephardic and Moroccan melodies in addition to the Persian, and they are very different.

It is an acquired taste, and one needs to learn the differences.
Not everybody appreciates these distinctions. At least some of the people who come to hear Dardashti perform this material think it all just sounds vaguely Islamic. “The most common question I get is, ‘What’s Jewish about this music?’ ” she said. “They’ll say, ‘It sounds like a muezzin’s call to prayer!’ ”
Gelfand writes that Galeet intended for the CD to focus on some of the slighted biblical female figures, but that she has also succeeded in calling attention to a vast body of music that has for many years been ignored by Ashkenazim.

Read the complete story at the link above.

05 August 2010

Book: Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World

The five-volume printed set of the "Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World" is now available in print and online ... for a price.

The "Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World" (EJIW) covers an area of Jewish history, religion, and culture which until now has lacked a specific reference work. It attempts to fill the gap in academic reference literature on the Jews of Muslim lands, particularly in the late medieval, early modern and modern periods.


-- The only reference work of its kind: up-to-date research and bibliographies make it indispensable for all levels of users.

-- 350-plus internationally-renowned scholars from North America, Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

-- 250-plus color and black and white illustrations, graphs, and maps.

-- 2200-plus entries and 1.5 million words.

-- four volumes plus a resource and index volume.

There is also an online version as of July 2010; email for pricing. The online version will be updated - in 2011 and 2012 - with additional thousands of photographs, audio files and primary sources.

Additional information is available here. The set includes four volumes plus a resource and Index volume.

The editorial board includes:

-- Executive Editor Norman A. Stillman
-- Al-Andalus: Angel Saenz-Badillos
-- Medieval Arabic-Speaking World: Meira Polliack
-- Modern Arabic-Speaking World: Daniel Schroeter, Phillip Ackerman-Lieberman
-- Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey: Avigdor Levy, Yaron Ayalon (associate editor)
-- Persia, Modern Iran, Kurdistan, Caucasus and Central Asia: Vera Basch Moreen

According to Brill's description of the readership for this work:
The EJIW is first and foremost a reference work destined for a post-graduate audience. However, the Encyclopedia should be accessible to the informed general reader and university undergraduates. For this reason, both topics of classical scholarship and modern themes of an analytic nature will be covered.
While Tracing the Tribe is sure this will be of interest to researchers, this is one set you will want to access in the library, as the US list price is $1,099. Brill's publications are always very expensive. It seems strange that a company that publishes such interesting material thinks that only university professors are interested in its books. If they worked on a lower-price point, more accessible to a much wider community of interested readers, they would sell many more copies.

It reminds me of a very old joke. An old man is selling apples on the street. A passerby stops and asks how much for one. The man answers $100. The passerby remarks on the excessive cost, the man replies, "But I only have to sell one!"

Brill publishes interesting material on many Jewish subjects, including Sephardim and Persian Jews, but it is simply unattainable to the reading audience unless they live near a library that has purchased those books. Such materials should be priced to attract many more readers. While most genealogists are used to paying from $75-100 for books covering our subjects of interest, Brill's price point seems to be in the $200-minimum range. Certainly too pricey for any but university libraries.

This is in addition to an extremely restrictive review copy policy, which usually has the words - I'm paraphrasing here - "our books are very expensive and we don't like to provide review copies." If the books were less expensive..........?

OK, I've come down from my soapbox. Do take a look at the Brill website and see the interesting materials that you may want to add to your never-never wish list or at least until you win the lottery.

Institutions wishing a free trial to the online EJIW should have their librarians contact Brill.

05 August 2007

Mapping Middle East DNA

Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei's recent Eye On DNA blog postings points out a new agreement signed by Dubai's Eastern Biotech & Life Sciences to be part of the National Geographic Society's Genographic Project via Family Tree DNA.

"They plan to create a database for the Middle Eastern population. Y-DNA and mtDNA tests are offered at although much of the information there is a duplicate from Family Tree DNA and not specific to Middle Eastern populations."

Hsien wonders "if knowledge of genetic similarities and differences between these countries could influence their relationships with one another - for the better or for the worse."

The Middle East generally includes the following countries, although some may argue that several are really Asia/Central Asia: Afghanistan, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, and Yemen.