Hello, my name is Maureen Nehedar. I’m a singer, hymnist, composer
and researcher of Iranian Jewish music. There was a box at home where
my mother put all the cassettes they managed to bring to Israel. They recorded off the radio,
then recorded something over it, sometimes it’s a mishmash. When I was 12 I started conducting
a sort of private ceremony, listening to something very specific
that moves me and makes me cry, and I’d hide the…
I’d take my blanket and hide myself in it
so I wouldn’t frighten my mother because I knew I was undergoing
an experience… Bring the groom’s basket of gifts to the bride For he is going to the communion room –
The kingly groom La-la-la-li… The bride has agreed, so spread the flowers, One by
one, bouquet by bouquet, for the kingly groom La-la-la-li… It’s music whose source
is in my inner self which is a very eclectic place,
from my home, things I heard as a baby and a child,
meaning classical Persian music alongside the very formal education
I had in classical European music. The Kingly Groom… I realize there’s such a thing
as Persian-Jewish music which isn’t necessarily the broader music
I heard on the cassettes. I decide to conduct my own research
outside of the university. I leave the university premises,
I’m no longer a student, and I say, okay, this is live research.
I called it a live doctorate, I’ll make it my life.
I’m not dedicating 5 years to study. My goal was to make it accessible, there’s beautiful material here,
I’m a singer, so let’s perform it. Your hair infuriates the violets Your gracious smile embarrasses their buds… And that’s where my journey began. And the journey including searching through
archives and all sorts of places and realizing there’s hardly any serious
recorded material that can be used for research. Your joyful smile… I was born in Isfahan. We came straight
to Jerusalem where my mother’s parents lived. They remained the most authentic thing
I had access to. They remained 100% Iranian
in terms of their ethos. That includes the aromas,
the cuisine, the approach to interpersonal relations. All their hospitality ceremonies which are
so elaborate they’re almost British. For me, that’s the place of deep longing. Do you want to sing
“Send a Redeemer” together? Who?
-Now. No. I don’t know.
I’m just sitting here now. My grandmother’s style of singing
is intended for oneself, to comfort oneself. It’s actually a great example
of how you can sing to yourself, it’s okay, it’s the real thing.
You don’t have to externalize it or give it to someone else, because
it’s a way of giving, at least she sees it that way. Tell me if I’m singing this right. The honored groom May you be famed in Israel And he will be satisfied…
-And he will be satisfied… And pleased…
-And handsome? Pleased.
-Pleased. And he will be satisfied and pleased… I wait impatiently to see holy Tiberias… Amazing. I’ve never heard that before.
That’s new. The honored groom He’s from the tribe of Moses And we are from the tribe of Israel… “Send a Redeemer,” c’mon! Send a redeemer… Have you seen Maureen perform?
-Have you ever seen me perform? Of course, many times.
-What did you think? -She’s okay, thank God. What can I tell you? Hold on. Here’s “A Song of Ascensions.” How was it when you came to Israel? I wanted to go back.
I was unhappy. I would’ve gone back but the girls said:
“You go back. We’re going to kibbutz.” When the people came who could convey
that authentic, first-hand feel, they made them feel like outsiders, foreigners,
ashamed of who they were. And that sense of shame was passed down
through the generations. And by not passing on your culture,
you create a schism. Mi, do, mi, do… When I was ten I signed up with the Ankor Choir
at the Jerusalem Conservatory and I didn’t even know what I was getting into,
I thought it’d be like the school choir. It turned out the choir practices five days a week,
three or four hours each time, and the repertoire is classical-Occidental. So good to see you! It’s been years. -How many years?
-A million. This is Maureen Nehedar. -Hello, Maureen.
-She’s a singer who specializes in Persian music. And we’re particularly proud of her
because not everyone has to be a classical singer and sing in… I don’t know where.
It’s a real honor. Okay, I want to teach you a Persian folksong
which talks about the harvest, it’s called “Golegandom,”
The wheat has blossomed… The wheat has blossomed… You answer “Golegandom yaar.”
So… The wheat has blossomed, my darling… I remember it captivated me
from the first second, it was like hearing angels sing. And from the first rehearsal, sitting and listening,
I knew I had to stay. The wheat has blossomed, my darling
-The wheat has blossomed The wheat has blossomed, my darling
-The wheat has blossomed My crop is ripe and I have
no worries for the future The wheat has blossomed, my darling… The wheat has blossomed, my darling… Wow, that was… so moving,
I’m speechless. It’s someone else I used to be,
it’s part of me. It’s less pronounced now, but it’s a big part of me.
There was something from a distant past there. I feel like a patchwork,
a little Israeli, a little Iranian, a little of this, a little of that, a little Europe,
a little… Not that I lived in Iran many years, I was a toddler when I came to Israel,
but the longing remains. That’s the proof that it doesn’t take much,
the first thing you hear as a child is etched in your memory.
If you don’t honor it within yourself you’ll be sort of disenfranchised,
at least I think so.