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Tuning the Soul: Worlds of Jewish Sacred Music

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Album Review

Listening to this CD is essentially the same as listening to a religious service led by a very good cantor in a fairly large temple. Only two men collaborate on the album and, while they are both talented vocalists and instrumentalists, the songs tend to drag a bit at times, especially the songs where there are no backing instruments or vocals. Nor can the Californian duo re-create traditional regional music styles with a great deal of authenticity, although they have obviously tried. For example, except for its intro with a vaguely piano bar sound, "Zochreynu Chaim," which originated in South Asia, sounds much the same as the Syrian song "Eli Yah Eli." "Zochreynu" is the better song, though. In fact, it's one of the standouts on the CD. Another good one is the upbeat "Tiskabeyl," which originated in Poland. The lyrics are instantly recognizable ("Oseh shalom...shalom Yisrael...") and the jaunty klezmer style is fun. Most selections don't come anywhere near the energy level of "Tiskabeyl," however. The mood of the Eastern European track "Kinah" (it means "lament," and if you didn't know it already, you'd guess once you heard it) is exactly the same as "Niggun of the Besht." Both tracks are slow, melancholy, and sung a cappella. After listening to this album, it shouldn't come as any surprise when you discover that Richard Kaplan is in fact a cantor, while musical partner Michael Ziegler is a rabbi. The two have done a commendable job of digging up little-known melodies from far-flung parts of the world. Neither their respect for the subject matter nor their enthusiasm for the music can be denied. However, when all is said and done, this album is best taken as a lesson in Jewish music history or as a sampler of material for possible synagogue performance. ~ L. Katz, Rovi

Customer Reviews

Simply Wonderful

A perfect capture of Sephardic, Ashkenazi, and Mizrahi tunes.


As a music lover and Jew, this is really a great album. These songs are so unique and add such flavour to an already rich culture! I hope to incorporate some of these to my own congregation.

Mystical. Passionate. Mizrachi. Love it!

I LOVE this album. Cantor Kaplan's renditions of these songs is a wonderful, refreshing blessing. Truly a Turning of the Soul. I love that most of these are Mizrachi/Sephardic versions/songs. This may not be for you If you're looking primarily for Klezmer (there's really only a couple on here). But if you're looking for a mystical, Middle Eastern-sounding way to welcome the Sabbath (which I prefer) then you'll love this album. I often listen to this album to get into a prayerful mindset (the Barchu especially,), to get into the Sabbath spirit (Lecha Dodi, Ki Eshmerah Shababt), or even to sing while praying (Ana B'Koreynu and the niggunim). There's also some nice, fast ones like Hallelu Avdei Adonai. This is a very heartfelt, emotional and passionate, and at times, transcendent album. Also some good oud and jimbe playing too! I highly recommend this album! But it!!

Tuning the Soul: Worlds of Jewish Sacred Music, Richard Kaplan
View in iTunes
  • $9.99
  • Genres: World, Music
  • Released: 1999

Customer Ratings