Debbie Friedman in Uganda

November 14, 2011 | By

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Until her untimely death last year, Debbie Friedman was one of the most vital voices in Jewish music. She set Jewish liturgy to original music that was catchy, heartfelt, accessible, and easy to sing along to. If you’ve ever attended Friday night services at a synagogue and been able to jump right in even if you’ve never heard the song, it’s probably thanks to either Shlomo Carlebach or Ms. Friedman.

The Abayudaya people are a geographically-isolated tribe of roughly 1,500 Jews in a remote region of Uganda. They practice traditional Judaism, including kashrut and Shabbat, and their liturgy is similar to other Jewish prayers.

The Abayudaya are great performers, and have incredible voices; the Smithsonian Folkways project has released an album of their renditions of traditional Jewish songs. In this video, Abuyudaya Rabbi Gershom Sizomu and his son Igaal recite havdalah, the concluding service of the Sabbath, using Debbie Friedman’s beloved nigun (tune). It’s an unexpected and beautiful performance.

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