An Orthodox Rapper and the Many Permutations of “Havah Nagilah”

December 10, 2020 | Nissim Black
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A century ago, secular Jews were at the forefront of efforts to combine traditional Jewish ideas, symbols, motifs, and styles with Western forms of art and music. Now it seems that the devout dominate such experiments. Take, for instance, the rapper Nissim Black, who converted to Judaism in 2012 and since then has focused on creating Jewishly themed hip-hop. Yesterday, he released a single based on the folksong “Havah Nagilah,” mixing English verses on religious subjects with the original Hebrew lyrics—an ironic reversal, given that the song was first composed by secular Zionists eager to create a tradition of worldly folk music which they believed Jews lacked. (Audio, 3 minutes.)

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