Last year around this time Ethan and I were shopping at Northshire when we ran across Abayudaya: Music from the Jewish People of Uganda. He nabbed it and gave it to me that night for Chanukah, and I've been grooving on it ever since. There's something really cool about hearing "Adon Olam" sung with African harmonies, you know?
The Abayudaya don't claim to be one of the Lost Tribes (unlike, say, the Kuki-Chin-Mizo of India, who think they're descended from Menashe, and who Hillel Halkin wrote about in Beyond the Sabbath River, a nifty book that my friend Hanne gave to me recently.) The Abayudaya converted en masse in 1919 when a tribal chief decided Christianity wasn't quite the right answer, but Judaism was.
The friendly folks at Smithsonian Folkways did their usual excellent job recording their music and making it available to a global audience (though I can't help wondering how they handled copyright issues...) Anyway, now Danya, posting over at JewSchool, tells me the album's been nominated for a grammy. How cool is that?
So if you're still looking for a holiday gift for the Africaphile in your life who digs Jewish music (or if you'd like to help your loved ones become Africaphiles -- a worthy aim in itself, if you ask me), get this album for them. (Or, hey, buy the accompanying coffeetable book, which looks gorgeous.)
For my part, I've long wanted to visit Uganda. I hear it's beautiful. We fantasize every now and then about spending a semester in Kampala. And if we ever do, I might have to find my way to Mbale and pay the Abayudaya a visit. Maybe I should learn their melody for "Adon Olam" first...