Songs from the Garden of Eden: An Interview

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Right now it’s late at night, and I’m the only one still awake in the household. A large part of that is courtesy of Songs from the Garden of Eden. Not the whole album, though — and I feel the need to start with a word of caution. The CD’s subtitle is “Jewish Lullabies and Nursery Rhymes,” and there are a plenitude of lullabies sprinkled among the album’s generous 28 songs. However, there are also a number of pumpin’ rhythms and world-beat dance tracks, at least as appropriate for waking my kid up with a bounce of joy as for soothing her to sleep.

songs from the garden of eden
The newest release from JDub Records — the label that, arguably, is the first to treat Jewish music like actual music — is not, literally speaking, a JDub release. But in all aspects, from the slick packaging to the wild percussion and world-beat catchiness, it’s 100% JDub material.

We spoke to Roland Springer, who heads up Secret Mountain — the French Canadian label that originally released Songs — about the scope and vision of the project. As a special surprise, he called in Nathalie Soussana, the album’s producer, who also shared some of her own feelings and stories from the project.

What’s the story behind Songs from the Garden of Eden? Did Nathalie Soussana, who collected the songs on the album, come to you with a proposal, or had she already traveled around the world and made her selections?

ROLAND: Nathalie collected these songs initially for a publisher in Paris called lettre sepharade.” I also had the chance to meet some Ashkenazi elders from Poland. And of course my family in both France and Israel were very helpful. Also, several singers and musicians on the project spoke to friends, family, acquaintances -– sometimes to get the pronunciation right, or the lyrics. One singer was on the phone with her father-in-law almost daily! Finally, I listened to many existing recordings.

How did the rest of the CD come together — the arrangements, the musicians, the illustrator?

NATHALIE: We recorded the vocals first and then the arranger, Jean-Christophe Hoarau, who’s part of a wonderful klezmer group called Yankele, brought in the musicians. All kinds of musicians, not just traditional players. The publisher proposed Beatrice Alemagna as an illustrator. She’s very well-known in France but knew little about Jewish culture. She asked me a few questions about the songs and had “carte blanche†to take it in whichever directions she wanted to.