'Safra' by Rabbi George Mordecai & The Hadar Ensemble

'Safra' by Rabbi George Mordecai & The Hadar Ensemble

Safra, in the Judeo-Arabic dialect of the Iraqi Jewish community as well as in regular Arabic, means “journey.” This recording recalls a few of the sacred melodies carried by my family and others who traveled the path from Iraq to India, Southeast Asia, and finally to Australia.

It is my deepest hope that the melodies of my culture will find their place in the musical repertoire of congregations and world music venues throughout the world, as well as in emerging singing communities.

—GM 2018

released December 2, 2018

All music from the Judeo-Iraqi liturgical tradition, with three exceptions:
“Tzur Mishelo,” adapted and arranged by George Mordecai from a Judeo-Iraqi melody; “Yedid Nefesh,” Benei Yisrael melody with a musical bridge composed by George Mordecai; “Higaleh Na,” composed by George Mordecai.

I have chosen Iraqi Hebrew pronunciation for most of the melodies, while the ensemble sings in modern Hebrew. I use modern Hebrew pronunciation for “Higaleh Na,” as I composed the melody, and for “Tzur Mishelo,” where I have arranged the melody in a way that does not reflect traditional Middle Eastern music practice.

Thanks to the Hadar Ensemble and additional musicians: Joey Weisenberg, Myk Freedman, Yoshie Fruchter, Deborah Sacks Mintz, Richie Barshay, Anat Hochberg, Eléonore Weill, Jessi Roemer, and Zafer Tawil. Thank you to the Germantown Jewish Centre for hosting the recording sessions. Huge thanks to Don Godwin for his masterful engineering and mastering work, and to Michael Swartz for the beautiful design and layout of this CD. Thank you to Rabbi Elie Kaunfer and the team at the Hadar Institute for their trust and support, and to Myer Samra for his guidance with Judeo-Arabic pronunciation.

This recording would not be possible without Joey Weisenberg, creative director of the Rising Song Institute. Joey is an extraordinary musician, director, and artistic visionary. Thank you to Hilda and Meyer Mordecai, my wonderful parents, and to the amazing women in my life, Michal, Gabriella, and Eliora, for their support and encouragement in making this recording.

Finally, to my Uncle Shaul, z’’l, who spent so many hours lovingly imparting the melodies of our tradition to me. His special voice and masterful interpretation of this musical tradition was the greatest gift I could have hoped for. Every time I perform and teach this music, it is in his honor and name.

Recorded live in Philadelphia at the Germantown Jewish Centre, March 25–28, 2018.

Engineered, mixed and mastered by Don Godwin.
Cover artwork and CD design by Michael Swartz.

The Hadar Ensemble is:

George Mordecai: vocals, guitar
Richie Barshay: percussion
Myk Freedman: lap steel, electric guitar
Yoshie Fruchter: upright bass, guitar
Anat Hochberg: vocals
Deborah Sacks Mintz: vocals
Jessi Roemer: vocals
Zafer Tawil: oud, ney, violin
Eléonore Weill: vocals, recorder
Joey Weisenberg: percussion, mandolin, guitar, vocals

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'Safra' by Rabbi George Mordecai & The Hadar Ensemble