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U! RU! URU ACHIM!
September 3, 2010 9:53 PM   Subscribe

The one song played at every bar mitzvah isn't "Celebration," or "I Gotta Feeling," or even "New York, New York" -- it's "Hava Nagila." But what is it? A 9-minute documentary tells the story of how a wordless meditative nigun became a song everybody in the world, Jewish or not, could sing. Seriously, everybody. Harry Belafonte and Danny Kaye. Harry Dean Stanton with Bob Dylan backing up on harmonica. Polish metal band Rootwater. A guy who plays the ukulele behind his head. The Modern Female Choir of Zhejiang. The Dark Knight. What appears to be a group of comedy fiddlers ("featuring John and Pancho") from John Hagee's church in San Antonio. Even ... um... this guy. (Previously on MetaFilter: The closest you're going to get to the Beatles covering "Hava Nagila.")
posted by escabeche (36 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite

 
I loved Allan Sherman's "Harvey and Shelia" for several years before I knew what he was parodying. I still can't hear that melody without hearing the words "Harvey and Shelia" in my head.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 10:03 PM on September 3, 2010 [4 favorites]


Can someone recommend a straight-up Klezmer arrangement where the tempo slowly increases until ultimate freneticity is achieved? I swear I heard such a version credited to the Flying Luttenbachers on WFMU but clearly it can't have been them; what did I hear?
posted by Rat Spatula at 10:10 PM on September 3, 2010


In my early childhood, when I was fully sheltered from the influence of real Jewish People, persons unknown taught me the lyric "Hava nagila, hav two nagilas, hav three nagilas, they're very small..." Later, when I had a couple Jewish friends in high school, I was surprised that they didn't appreciate the humor (and as for my one Jewish girlfriend in my 20s, don't ask! Oy vey!)
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:24 PM on September 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


I liked this one found on one of the suggestion sidebars. As always, don't read the comments.

(The Texas one just makes me embarrassed to be a Texan. Again. *sigh*)
posted by kmz at 10:32 PM on September 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


A few years ago I had just found a website that made mp3's into ringtones for free. I'm pretty sure the first thing I did was find the most ridiculous/authentic version of Hava Nagila and made it my ringtone for my Jewish friend. My search lead me to the Malavsky Family. My favorite part (what I like to refer to as the "breakdown") is right around 35 seconds.
posted by lisawin at 10:36 PM on September 3, 2010


I once had Hava Nagila stuck in my head for about 3 days straight. It was kind of nice, actually. It's about as good a mantra as anything else, really.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:13 PM on September 3, 2010 [1 favorite]




My favorite is Dick Dale, presumably not on the longboard at the time.
posted by mcrandello at 11:22 PM on September 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


גרויס פּאָסטן, מייקס אַ קאַטליק יינגל ווילן צו טאַנצן די האָראַ!
posted by longsleeves at 11:28 PM on September 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I love the Andre Rieu version. But then, there's always the Spock, Kirk and lots of green alien women Hava Nagila....
posted by stoneweaver at 11:28 PM on September 3, 2010 [4 favorites]


The Texas one just makes me embarrassed to be a Texan. Again. *sigh*

Oh, it gets even better.

(sorry about this)
posted by jamjames at 11:30 PM on September 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Have a Nagila - have two, they're small....

Thank you, I'll be here all week! Try the veal!
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:00 AM on September 4, 2010


As icing on this Mitzvah cake here is Bobby Conn and a bunch of puppets rockin' out (get's going at 5:35) to his Passover song.
posted by munchingzombie at 1:52 AM on September 4, 2010


Shalom by Riot Kid.
posted by dabitch at 2:26 AM on September 4, 2010


"Oh, it gets even better.

(sorry about this)"

Oh my. I had to turn off at the start of the...well, what I can only refer to as rapping, due to extreme amounts of embarrassment for that guy.
posted by jaduncan at 3:00 AM on September 4, 2010


I was at a folk music festival in Serbia a few weeks ago, and heard this song alot. Apparently it's also a Serbian folk melody.
posted by mammary16 at 3:48 AM on September 4, 2010


There used to be a fantastic bollywood version somewhere out there on the internets. Man, that thing was fantastic.
posted by .kobayashi. at 4:06 AM on September 4, 2010


Perhaps you mean this one.
posted by Obscure Reference at 4:46 AM on September 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


I get terrified at Jewish weddings when they pick they guy up in the chair. Especially when it's drunken Orthodox. The chairs at these catering halls are flimsy. People are staggering. The legs come off. I don't want to be there the day the happy groom cracks his head open on the linoleum. I know it's a custom. But please stop doing this.
posted by Faze at 5:00 AM on September 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Didn't 'Merton' do this also? PLus I'm pretty sure it was a B side of a single with his old band.
posted by Wrick at 5:08 AM on September 4, 2010


I get terrified at Jewish weddings when they pick they guy up in the chair. Especially when it's drunken Orthodox. The chairs at these catering halls are flimsy. People are staggering. The legs come off. I don't want to be there the day the happy groom cracks his head open on the linoleum. I know it's a custom. But please stop doing this.

I've seen a few falls. They usually turn out okay. :-)
posted by callmejay at 5:10 AM on September 4, 2010


Just wanted to point out that the 9-minute YouTube link (which is really good) is a clip from a film in production, directed by Roberta Grossman.

(Oh, and the "have two nagilas, they're pretty small" version is in the clip, sung by Joanne Worley on Laugh-In.)
posted by neroli at 5:17 AM on September 4, 2010


Regina Spektor pays homage to Hava Negila at the end of "Flowers."
posted by John Cohen at 6:04 AM on September 4, 2010


I quite liked the hardcore techno version but this is the worst one that ever gained traction in the charts anywhere: Hava Nagila (Baby Lets Dance) by Lauren Rose.
posted by shinybaum at 7:29 AM on September 4, 2010


In-A-Hava-Na-Gila, honey,
don't you know that I love you?
In-A-Hava-Na-Gila, baby,
don't you know that I'll always be true?
posted by bwg at 8:23 AM on September 4, 2010


This is going to be in my head all day. I was excited for a second, because I'm going to a wedding and thought I may be able to appreciate the song more with my new knowledge. Then I remembered it's a catholic wedding, so the best I could hope for would be the chicken dance.
posted by piratebowling at 9:16 AM on September 4, 2010


On the Jingle Cats christmas album a bunch of dogs show up to bark it.
posted by hermitosis at 10:01 AM on September 4, 2010


That's a terrific documentary, thanks!
posted by languagehat at 10:52 AM on September 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


These were all great.

While I loathe the politics behind it, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the version that jamjames linked to.
posted by marsha56 at 11:17 AM on September 4, 2010


The first version they played sounds flamenco, which obviously makes sense if it's fitting middle eastern scales to western temperament and harmonies.
posted by Not Supplied at 11:21 AM on September 4, 2010


This song has been stuck in my head all day now. I was dancing in the bread aisle at the supermarket like the local loon. Hava nagila, Hava nagila, Hava nagila v'nismeḥa!
posted by dabitch at 11:34 AM on September 4, 2010


Lyrics and translation for the non-Jewishly inclined:
Havah nagilah -- Let's rejoice
Havah nagilah venismechah -- Rejoice and be happy(repeat stanza once)
Havah neranenah -- Let's sing
Havah neranenah venismechah -- Sing and be happy(repeat stanza once)
Uru, uru achim! -- Awake, awake, brothers
Uru achim b'lev sameach -- With a happy heart(repeat line three times)
Uru achim, uru achim! -- Awake, brothers, awake, brothers
B'lev sameach -- With a happy heart
Interestingly, the lyrics first referred to the British victory in WWI and the Balfour declaration.
posted by albrecht at 11:47 AM on September 4, 2010


Some of these are hysterical. I had no idea how often riffs and interpretations of this song have occurred. Also, here's Corn Mo's metal version from a while back: Hava Nagilah (Monster) which, until now, I thought was rather unique.

The original version was a bit more low-fi, and was created for a never-released movie. It was composed and executed in about 20 mins in our basement with my better half on drums. Corn Mo's a true talent.
posted by stagewhisper at 12:56 PM on September 4, 2010


I liked the Rootwater version all the more in seeing they've got Louis CK on drums.
posted by hell toupee at 9:58 PM on September 4, 2010


I don't have any Polish to second-guess this last.fm comment claiming to explain the Rootwater version:
nope, it is not bout Middle East and its violence. It's bout anti-semitism of Poles. The boy's mum was threw out of the ghetto during WWII (as a baby), she survived and changed her name to a polish one. The boy was borned as a Christian, wasn't circumcised etc. Though his colleagues knew about his jewish origin and intimidated him. This song is a calling to his grandmother, a holocaust victim, he sais that he knows his legacy, the legacy of his ancestors. A son of Jews, victims of holocaust.
(From here; Rootwater have released it as a free download.)

Here's a version claiming to have Rootwater's own English translation dubbed over.
posted by rodgerd at 2:41 AM on September 6, 2010


escabeche: "became a song everybody in the world, Jewish or not, could sing. Seriously, everybody."

Sing, yes. Play on the bagpipes, not so much.

However, if you are getting married in Edinburgh, Scotland, I can assure you that there is one traditional bagpiper who can indeed play Hava Nagila on the bagpipes. He learned to play it for our wedding six years ago, much to the delight of our guests.

All of whom, yes, knew the words, or at least enough to clap along.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:18 PM on September 7, 2010


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