Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Ya Ma Mai (not the cellist)

Following up on the Nigun Ratza Vashov discussion here and here...

So I've compulsively listened to a number of recordings of this tune including two versions of the song as performed by Chaim David and doing so has enabled me to clarify why I orginally liked the song, and why I find the way it is frequently performed at affairs to be unmusical.

My first exposure to the song was Chaim David's original version. Rabbi Lazer Brody has posted a link to it here. In that version, the nigun is played at a slower tempo (approx. 110 bpm) as compared to its typical performance at a simcha these days. The melody is more lyrical and is sung without the rhythmic anticipations that have become common on the simcha circuit. The chords are slightly different too. Instead of the repetitive Cm-Gm-Bb-F pattern that has become standard throughout the B section (including the fourth bar of the B where some modify the melody to match the F chord), Chaim David plays a simpler progression of Cm-Gm-Bb-Cm. The combination of a more lyrical, less agressive approach to the melody and tempo, simpler chords, a key that sits better on the guitar, Bm, (I've transposed all of the examples to Cm for uniformity) and the Dorian modal melody works nicely. Also, Chaim David's chords for the eighth bar of the A section are Bb-Bb-F-F as opposed to the Cm-Cm-F-F or F-F-Bb-Bb on the charts I've seen. I think this song just sounds nicer this way. Oh, yes, there are no horns either. I'm not opposed to horns, per se, but the horn charts I've heard on this tune make me cringe.

In short, here is a great example of a simple sweet melody that is often butchered at simchas. I think the simcha circuit bands and some JM recording artists owe Chaim David an apology.