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Qawwali in Hebrew

Junun is an album by Israeli musician Shye Ben Tzur, British guitarist Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead fame, and Rajasthan Express, a group of Indian musicians, featuring Sufi songs in Urdu and Hebrew

Recorded earlier this year in a makeshift studio inside the 15th-century Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur, Junun is an album featuring Sufi music that brings together, composer/musician Shye Ben Tzur, guitarist Jonny Greenwood, and Rajasthan Express, a group of Indian musicians. Radiohead’s producer Nigel Godrich worked with the ensemble to create this album, which comprises Ben Tzur’s compositions, sung by Sufi Qawwal musicians in Urdu as well as in his native Hebrew.

Jonny Greenwood (second row, second from left), Shye Ben Tzur (second row, third from right) with members of Rajasthan Express
Jonny Greenwood (second row, second from left), Shye Ben Tzur (second row, third from right) with members of Rajasthan Express

Ben Tzur who lives in India and Israel, composes Qawwalis — instrumental and devotional music — in Hebrew, Urdu, and Hindi. A concert by Ustad Zakir Hussain and Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia that he attended as a young man changed his life. He recalls, "It touched my heart. At the time, it was the deepest musical connect that I had experienced. It moved me so much that I could do nothing but find out what it is. I feel I’m still in that spot; I haven’t achieved it as yet. Indian music is vast and deep; the more I learn different things about it, the more I realise my ignorance."

Junun was recorded in a makeshift studio inside the 15th-century Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur, Rajasthan
Junun was recorded in a makeshift studio inside the 15th-century Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur, Rajasthan

Beyond his primary roles as Radiohead’s lead guitarist and keyboardist, Greenwood is a multi-instrumentalist who plays bass guitar, drums, viola and harmonica, some of which have been used in this album. His friend, frequent collaborator and filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson, who has been nominated for six Academy Awards in the course of his career, documented the recording sessions, the daily life and the close camaraderie between the artistes during this collaboration. Anderson’s resulting impressionistic film, also titled Junun, debuted at the New York Film Festival on October 8 and also streamed online for a month on MUBI.

Log on to: iTunes for the film and the album. Music on Saavn and Hungama on paid subscription

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