Sunday, April 02, 2006

Who likes old music?

GSN: Eighty-one year-old Lionel Ziprin is on a holy mission: To get out in the world the recordings his grandfather made a half-century ago, on the Lower East Side. The grandfather, Naftali Zvi Margolis Abulafia, a prominent Orthodox rabbi, was among the founders of The Home of the Sages of Israel. At some point in the early 1950’s, Margolis Abulafia let his grandson’s eccentric friend Harry Smith set up a studio in his yeshiva. Ziprin’s grandfather shelled out $35,000 in 1954, to have vinyl LP’s produced. Though the rabbi didn’t speak English and Smith didn’t speak Yiddish, the two recorded almost every day for two years, yielding 15 different LP’s. Eight were of Rabbi Abulafia telling stories in Yiddish and seven were of his singing liturgical songs in Hebrew. A thousand copies of the 15-LP collection were pressed....The rabbi’s singing style was a wonderful goulash of Ashkenazi, Sephardic and Arabic flavors, according to Yale Strom, a musician, filmmaker and folklorist dedicated to Jewish culture...Rabbi Abulafia passed away in February 1955, shortly after the records had been made. He was in his 80’s. Ziprin says that a few days before he died, his grandfather instructed him to make sure the records got out in the world. But Ziprin’s mother and uncle wouldn’t let him distribute the records, because they didn’t want the rabbi’s voice “booming from some record store on 14th Street....Ziprin is hoping some record company or Jewish sound archive will want to make CD’s and share Rabbi Abulafla’s recordings with the rest of the world. “If my grandfather’s voice wants to be heard, it will flnd its way into the world with everyone who should hear it,” Ziprin says in resignation. “These records have a destiny. I don’t know what their destiny is.”
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