Israel Beat Jewish Music Podcast

The Israel Beat Jewish Music Podcast interviews the latest Israeli and Jewish artists and covers a wide range of styles from Carlebach, cantorial, klezmer, Israeli trance, Mizrachi, rock, Sephardic, hasidic and everything in between. Past interviews have included Matisyahu, Avraham Fried, and Miri Ben-Ari. IsraelBeat broadcasts live every Sunday from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Israel time on http://www.IsraelNationalRadio.com

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Shuly Nathan interview


Interview with Shuly Nathan
by Benyamin Bresky

Now a mother and housewife, I caught up with Mrs. Nathan by phone in between her picking up her children from summer camp. For more information visit her web site at shuly-nathan.co.il. Her name is alternatively spelled Shuli Natan or various other combinations. Also check out JerusalemOfGold.co.il. This interview originally aired August 1, 2004 on Israel National Radio.

Israel National Radio: This is Shuly Nathan. Why don't you just tell us a little about who you are and what you do.

Shuly Nathan: I am the singer who first sang the original version of Yerushalayim Shel Zahav on Independence Day, 1967 at a song festival. And the song has become like a prophesy and the hymn of the Six Day War and one of the most beloved songs in Israel until this day.

Israel National Radio: Did you know that was going to happen that day?

Shuly Nathan: No, no. I felt that I had a treasure in my hand, as a song, but I could never imagine that it could take such root. That it would become almost like a hymn.

Israel National Radio: And they just found you and put you up on stage?

Shuly Nathan: Well, Nomi [Naomi] Shemer chose me to sing this song. Teddy Kollek [the mayor of Jerusalem] asked for songs for Jerusalem for the festival. Outside of the contest, Nomi had been asked to write a song and she wrote Jersualem of Gold. And then when they asked who would like to perform this song, she said, "I heard a young girl singing not long ago in an amateur program and I would like her to sing the song." So first they objected and said this girl, her name is Shuly Nathan, she is a soldier and she is an amateur singer and they don't use amateur on that festival. And Nomi said, "If you don't let her sing that song, I am not going to submit the song." That is how my fate went.

Israel National Radio: So you've worked with her this entire time?

Shuly Nathan: Yes. I worked with her in the winter that was before January and February, before the festival. The festival was in April. And I got to know her. We worked plenty on the song. Although she gave me quite a lot of freedom, she insisted on the harmonies and the general frame of the song but she gave me quite a lot of freedom to make my own interpretation.

Israel National Radio: So that performance was actually before the war?

Shuly Nathan: It was before the war. It was two and a half weeks before the war. The next day they started to call the Miluim [reserve duty soldiers]. Two and a half weeks later, the city was free. General Motta Gur said "Har Habayit is in our hands", and all the paratroopers that were there were yelling and shouting "Yerushalayim Shel Zahav!" It became like a hymn.

Israel National Radio: What are you doing now? You're now releasing new albums, right?

Shuly Nathan: I made about six albums in the first part of my career, long-plays, between '67 and '75. Then I got married and had five children and I stopped for ten years. My second career started when my youngest son was two, and it lasts 'til now. I released four CDs. Amongst them, one of Shlomo Carlebach which I released about two years ago. And I'm going on and I'm very, very busy. Singing in Israel and around the world as well.

Israel National Radio: Do people recognize your name? Do they know you?

Shuly Nathan: Most people do. They young people, they know, if you tell them, I'm the original singer of Jerusalem of Gold. So everybody knows Jerusalem of Gold.

Israel National Radio: Did you work with Naomi Shemer this entire time?

Shuly Nathan: I worked with her later. We released another LP. Shuly Nathan Sings Naomi Shemer Songs. That was in 1974. We were always in touch with her and with her family -- her husband and her children. We were very found of each other.

Israel National Radio: Have you been all over the world touring?

Shuly Nathan: I've been, yes. All through the years, yes.

Israel National Radio: What have the reactions been?

Shuly Nathan: It's always very exciting. When they hear Yerushalayim Shel Zahav, people cry. They get very excited.

Israel National Radio: How did you learn how to sing?

Shuly Nathan: I started to play the guitar and that made me start singing when I was sixteen.

Israel National Radio: Do you have any CDs coming out now?

Shuly Nathan: I am working. I am starting one now that will be more ethnic music. Ladino songs, Italian, Moroccan, Jewish. Maybe some songs from around the world.

Israel National Radio: Are there any Jerusalem of Gold type songs now?

Shuly Nathan: Not that I know. There isn't anything like it. Because it's not a normal song. So it's really something once in a decade.

Israel National Radio: Do you have any advice for people for people who want to write a great song such as that?

Shuly Nathan: It's not something that you can do with intention. I don't think she did it with intention in her mind. She just went to Jerusalem, walked in the streets of Jerusalem, wrote about the sadness of us not being able to reach The Wall and the holy places and she was inspired. She certainly was inspired.


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JERUSALEM OF GOLD
by Naomi Shemer
Translated by Yael Levine

The mountain air is clear as wine
And the scent of pines
Is carried on the breeze of twilight
With the sound of bells.

And in the slumber of tree and stone
Captured in her dream
The city that sits solitary
And in its midst is a wall.

Jerusalem of gold, and of bronze, and of light
Behold I am a violin for all your songs.

How the cisterns have dried
The market-place is empty
And no one frequents the Temple Mount
In the Old City.

And in the caves in the mountain
Winds are howling
And no one descends to the Dead Sea
By way of Jericho.

Jerusalem of gold, and of bronze, and of light
Behold I am a violin for all your songs.

But as I come to sing to you today,
And to adorn crowns to you (i.e. to tell your praise)
I am the smallest of the youngest of your children (i.e. the least worthy of doing so)
And of the last poet (i.e. of all the poets born).

For your name scorches the lips
Like the kiss of a seraph
If I forget thee, Jerusalem,
Which is all gold...

Jerusalem of gold, and of bronze, and of light
Behold I am a violin for all your songs.

We have returned to the cisterns
To the market and to the market-place
A ram's horn (shofar) calls out (i.e. is being heard) on the Temple Mount
In the Old City.

And in the caves in the mountain
Thousands of suns shine -
We will once again descend to the Dead Sea
By way of Jericho!

Jerusalem of gold, and of bronze and of light
Behold I am a violin for all your songs.

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