Earlier this year I was invited by Ralph Benmergui to do an interview on his New Sabbath Project show on CIUT Radio. He invited me to come and speak about my new devotional music project at the time called The Prayer Project and now called AVIVA. We spoke about growing up in the synagogue, with family and music and the way that rich experience interfaced with a boundaried container laid out by Jewish law and culture. We spoke of my dear chazzan/cantor Yossi who was my first and pivotal teacher for the music that moves through me now. We touched on unravelling, on taking risks in order to have deeper relationships and a higher quality of life. I told Ralph about my trip to Namibia, a journey I took to see expansive sky and the grace and solidity of elephants. I found what I was looking for and that experience inspired the space in the new album – when i arrived you were already there. Ralph asked such poignant questions which offered me an opportunity to reflect upon my own period of darkness and how that has propelled me to be diligent about inviting in light.
What is religiosity? How do I feel about God? It’s all in there.
He plays my Bo’i Kalah and my version of Ashrei by Rabbi Shefa Gold.
My partner Carlos proposed we use this piece of art for the post. It’s a detail from Judy Chicago’s “Rainbow Shabbat”. The poster of this is framed in our kitchen where we host Shabbat dinners. Sometime after this interview, we spent a moving and abundant Shabbat evening around the table at Ralph and Cortney’s home. We sat with a diverse collection of new friends, learning where each person’s name comes from and what is moving for them now. The New Sabbath Project is bringing people together around the table for Shabbat, in communion, in conversation. It is a beautiful vision and, more importantly, a practice for now and for the future.
Listen on to Ralph’s interview with Moroccan born Hassan Al Hadi and his own journey with devotional music.