Interview with Shlomo Gronich
1 Sivan 5768, 04 June 2008
Releasing his first album in 1971, Gronich is well known for his 1993 album Shlomo Gronich and The Sheba Choir, which consists of Ethiopian children. He still teaches and performs with the choir and is planning to record new material. Gronich has been touring with the Journey to the Source material throughout Israel and in South America.
His new album, entitled Journey to the Source, guest stars a mix of secular and religious Israeli performers.
INR: Tell us about your new album, Journey to the Source.
Shlomo Gronich: Well, I can't tell you all about it. All the texts are from the Jewish source - from the Bible and from the Siddur. This is something that is very exciting for me. It doesn't remind me of anything I did before. It takes me somewhere very high, very spiritual. It takes my whole soul into it. I started working on this journey three years ago when I received by fax an ancient prayer taken from the Sabbath morning prayer, Ilu Finu: "Even if our mouth would be as full of song like the sea, we could not fully praise You..." When I read it, I was so moved by the purity and meaning of the wise words. Since I am not a religious person, it was my first time reading it. Religious people read it every Shabbat morning, but I was not familiar with this prayer. I took the prayer from the fax. I went to the piano. I turned on the tape, closed my eyes, and the music came as a whole. It was a very exciting experience. I really felt it was the first time it was happening to me like that. So strong. This was the trigger to this journey.
Right after that, wonderful things started to happen to me. I met people who gave me advice as to which psukim [verses] to take from the Bible. I went from one sentence of the Bible to the other with this music. They were veryfruitful days for me. In a week I composed twenty new prayers. I was very moved by it. I think ancient lyrics have so much power just because they are so old. They gather so much power during the thousands of years. It feels so pure and clean and fresh and good to sing these lyrics, especially today when the radio and everything around us seems to go in to fashion music and fragments. I find it a very quality and refreshing experience.
Shlomo Gronich: They liked it very much. What was very interesting is that the audience is composed of religious people and non-religious people and it's very exciting to see these two types of audience sitting together and going through a spiritual adventure.
Shlomo Gronich: They are from the Black Hebrew community of Dimona. They have great voices. They sat with me in a few songs. As we started the song, one of them started to recite the words in English. David's Psalms.
Shlomo Gronich: Besides being older and wiser a little bit, well maybe not wiser, maybe less stupid, the energy is inside. The river is inside. It's the same person. The same soul. The same energy.
Shlomo Gronich: I am so much into this new project now. Usually I work on so many things together, but this project is taking all of me into it. I hope it gets the chance to be played abroad, because I think that it's not only for the Jewish people, it's really for all of humankind. The Bible is not a thing of only the Jewish people, its really of all mankind. I feel the same about this project, this music and these lyrics, should be heard by so many people not only in Israel. I hope to get the chance to do it.
Benyamin Bresky is a music journalist and the host of The Beat on Arutz Sheva - Israel National Radio.