The emblematic Israeli song From Hassidic nigun to international standard
Without even knowing it millions of people are acquainted with Abraham Zvi
Idelsohn. He is the father of the most emblematic and best known Israeli folksong:
This song has long ago crossed the frontier of Israel and entered the world music hall of fame.
Hava Nagila was recorded maybe thousands of times by artists of
all horizons in countless versions, it became a standard for Jewish and non-Jewish as well.
The melody is based on a Sadigorer hassidic nigun from Bukovina. In 1915, while serving as a bandmaster in the
Ottoman army,Idelsohn transcribed the melody and added simple Hebrew lyrics:
(let us rejoice x2, Let us rejoice and be glad, Let us sing x2, Let us sing and be glad, Awake, awake brothers,
Awake brothers with a joyful heart). These words are inspired by Biblical verse (Psalms 118:24).
In 1918, The Turks were defeated and the British were in Palestine. Idelsohn needed a tune to celebrate the Balfour declaration and the luck or the
hazard of life made him choose among all the melodies this particular one. It became an immediate hit, it spread
enthusiastically throughout the Jewish settlement and in the next years the song was included in the Jewish
repertoire in Europe and in the United States.
With the creation of the State of Israel Hava Nagila became a kind of alternative popular anthem. Danced as an
Israeli hora (quick tempo) it is assimilated to the image of the sabra (native of Israel), the builder of a young
From the fifties until now the popularity of Hava Nagila had never failed, from the Barry Sisters to Harry
Belafonte, from Afro-Cuban orchestra to Gypsy band, hundreds of artists have added this song to their
Hava Nagila is a song of joy, hope and brotherhood, it is catchy and buoyant, from Hassidic Bukovina to disco
clubs, LET'S DANCE and thank you, Maestro Abraham Zvi
Hava Nagila may symbolize the blending of styles, of cultures, of musical genres all over the world. There are
hundreds of different version and arrangement of the tune. Here is a selection.
Rika Zarai sings Hava Nagila
Rika Zarai was born in Jerusalem in 1939. After musical education and military service she started a singing
career in France as a young performer. She became an icon of the french popular "chanson". This interpretation of
Hava Nagila is one of my preferred. She popularized others Jewish and Israeli tunes like "Jerusalem of Gold", "My
Yiddische Mama" and "halleluya".
Giora Feidman plays Hava Nagila at Kirchentag 2009 in
With his unmistakable and passionate style Giora Feidman is giving the public his own version of Hava Nagila. He
is driving enthusiastically the audience to sing together and share this unique instant of musical experience.
Hava Nagila Dance
Bottle Dancers from Brooklyn perform Hava
Can you imagine a traditional Jewish marriage without Hava Nagila?
Hava Naguila - Dalida
Here is a bilingual version by Dalida another icon of the "chanson Francaise" who was born in Egypt.