The Sukkot holiday is all about welcoming ushpizin, Aramaic for guests, into one’s sukkah, the temporary home created for the eight-day holiday.
This year, the stringent coronavirus lockdown in Israel makes an upcoming online festival, The Songs of Ushpizin, produced by Jerusalem’s Confederation House, all the more welcome for many, even if the guests are strictly virtual.
Dedicated to Hebrew music and music from around the world, the three-day festival, to be held on October 4-6, will be available for free on the Confederation House website, YouTube and Facebook, with ten events of live and recorded music.
Besides events dedicated to Japanese haikus, classical Polish music, the songs of Bratslav and Sufi chants, two events are focused on American poetry and music, inviting the works of musician Bob Dylan and poet Walt Whitman into the imaginary sukkah.
Singer-songwriter Hadara Levin Areddy, accompanied by Avi Schneider, Shlomo Langer and Nadav Assaf, is channeling Dylan and Whitman in her mix of song, spoken word and keyboard on Monday, October 5 at 10:15 p.m.
Whitman entered Areddy’s life as her ushpiz of sorts many years ago, when she arrived in New York City after her military service to attend New York University and was gifted his book “Leaves of Grass” by her cousin.
Her cousin wrote in the flyleaf, “To Hadara, I give you America. Walt Whitman is America.”
“From my point of view now, returning to Bob Dylan and Walt Whitman is like taking a roots trip,” said Areddy.
For Areddy, Dylan represents independence of thought, while Whitman contains multitudes. In her recorded performance, she took the liberty to produce their words and music in her own way.
“I took that freedom to be myself,” she said. “I took the liberty to sing Bob Dylan my way, identifying the core, core, core of the soul, to make his song mine, and I said to myself, ‘I’m sure he would forgive me.'”
It was the same desire to embody Dylan for the Ushpizin Festival audience that drove Areddy to sing his more melodic songs.
“All of his songs have that eerie sense,” said Areddy, who accesses Dylan’s twang and rhythms throughout “One More Cup of Coffee.” “Even the melodic ones are never kitschy, even when they’re sweet and lovely, they still have that sense of disappointment,” she said.
It won’t be Areddy’s first recorded performance during the coronavirus, having participated in the recent Poetry Festival also sponsored by the Confederation House, and partially recorded from the northern town of Metulla.
“It’s not easy to play when you don’t have an audience,” said Areddy. “I understand that more now, and I miss the audience, the laughs, the half-stand-up that happens when it’s live. But I’ll take this for now.”