Monday, August 11, 2008

Music & Culture Part IV: Shimon Peres "Ray of Hope"

Shimon PeresOver the last couple of week I've come across a variety of Jewish musical perspectives on the Israeli / Palestinian conflict. (See my posts on Ari Ben Yam's "Oslo Train," Sheva's Salaam, and Herman and Brody's "Sweet Home Jerusalem"). Here's one more, and this one comes from an unexpected source...Shimon Peres, nobel prizewinner and president of Israel. The Associated Press reported last week that "There's a new songwriter in cyberspace: Israeli President Shimon Peres. And composers from countries including Iran are writing music for the lyrics to his song, 'Ray of Hope.'" Peres posted the lyrics (see below) to the website Songweavers, looking to see if any musicians would compose music for and record the song. He wasn't disappointed. When I checked this afternoon there were over 50 recordings up on the site. The musicians responses are pretty varied. To hear some representative examples, here are versions by Sharon Ben Shem, Mr. Llime, Omri Lahav, and Shirley Highton.

Peres is a prominent peace activist and his lyrics reflect it. Here's verse two...
And bless streams with love's sway
Provide my foe and friend a bloodless day
Invite boys and girls for peace to pray,
O ... Ye... Then send a ray of hope - for a new way
That's a lot closer to Sheva's "Peace will come upon us" than Ben Yam's "Face the guards in black attire with your teeth and fingernails." Like Sheva it speaks to a vision of music and the love of peace as unifying forces in a land with little unity. Invite the boys and girls. They need an invitation because there have been too few bloodless days lately.

Hat tip to the folks on the Klezmershack mailing list for letting me know about "Ray of Hope."


Anonymous said...

Nice to see that so many news papers and blogs are writing about Ray of Hope all over the world. I am involved within this project and one of these 50 participants.

We welcome all musicians in for future projects! :-)

My best regards,

Jack said...

Hi Sven,
Thanks for bringing up an important point. As Sven demonstrates, the group of musicians who are involved in the Ray of Hope project is pretty international, including folks from Europe, the Middle East, and North America. I've seen one or two comments floating around that snigger a bit at Peres awkward English lyrics. Awkward or not, clearly Ray of Hope has touched a nerve. It will be very interesting to see if one or more of the Songweaver versions find a larger audience and lives on after the initial excitement dies down. While peace is the legacy that Peres most wants to leave behind, a good song advocating peace is an interesting Plan B.

Shirley Higton said...

Hi Jack,
I echo Sivan's words, it is wonderful to see so many people writing about Ray of Hope and yes some people will snigger at the lyrics but in my view you don't need the use of an English dictionary to speak from the heart.
It was the simplicity and sincerity of Mr. Peres' words which touched me deeply and this is why I became involved in the project.
It is questionable whether we will ever achieve world peace, us humans are probably far too complex for that but one thing is for certain, Ray of Hope has connected people from all over the world in a very positive way. At one time it would have been unthinkable for a young Iranian man to put music to the words of an Iraeli president.

Kindest regards
Shirley Higton

Jack said...

Shirly. I completely agree on all points. I used to do a lot of poetry writing and a big of song writing and would love to do an edit pass on one or two of his phrases. But the Songweavers community has already demonstrated that it's not necessary.

regininha assumpção said...

please i need the lyrics in hebrew