Monday, April 19, 2021

Etti Ankri (אתי אנקרי) sings the Psalms

Etti Ankri.jpg
CC BY-SA 3.0Link

My latest favourite Israeli singer is Etti Ankri. She received a lot of airtime at the tail-end of this semester's Introductory Hebrew II course both while I prepared for classes, and in class as ambient noise during group work and in the moments before class began each day. (Even if my students don't catch the words it counts as exposure to Hebrew.) 

Wikipedia will tell you that Etti Ankri is an Israeli actress and pop singer who underwent a sort of religious conversion to observant Judaism beginning in the early 2000's, and her music followed suit. Unlike the other Israeli musicians I highlighted in an earlier post, you won't find much more about Ankri in English online, though this 2009 interview in Haaretz is well worth your time (if you can get past the pay-wall) for its reflections on Jewish spirituality, song-writing, and just plain wisdom.

It goes without saying that Ankri is a fine musician. But although I enjoy her music a lot, I am especially attracted to the high incidence of biblical language and ideas in her lyrics. Frequently, in fact, her songs come straight out of the Psalms. 

Here are the examples I've noticed so far, beginning with her 2004 album, מיליונים ("Millions"):

Psalm 59  

The song ואני אשיר ("And I will sing") puts the Hebrew text of Psalm 59:17 to music:

Psalm 67

The final song on the album offers a rendition of Psalm 67 (including the superscription):

The album version is here.

Psalm 23

Ankri's 2009 album, בשירי רבי יהודה הלוי, puts to music some of the religious poems of the great medieval poet, Judah Halevi, but the album ends with a version of Psalm 23 that opens with a prayer influenced by Psalm 22:2 ('My God, My God, do not forsake me in darkness'):
The album version is here.

I noticed lines from the Psalms in three of the songs in Ankri's 2012 album, הניגוּן שלך ('Your Melody'):

Psalm 119

In פלגי מים, the chorus is drawn from Psalm 119:136, with a few minor changes--the most significant of which is a shift from third to first person. Instead of "Rivers of water run down my eyes, because they keep not thy law" (to quote the KJV) (פַּלְגֵי־מַיִם יָרְדוּ עֵינָי עַל לֹא־שָׁמְרוּ תוֹרָתֶךָ), Ankri sings "Rivers of water run down my eyes, because kept not thy law" (פלגי מים רבים ירדו עיני על שלא שמרתי תורתך):

Psalm 131

The chorus of מחוץ לזמן echoes a line from Psalm 131:1, "my heart is not lifted up, my eyes are not raised too high (לֹא־גָבַהּ לִבִּי וְלֹא־רָמוּ עֵינַי). In her rendition, Ankri sings "So that my heart will not be lifted up, my eyes not raised too high, you protect me from myself": 

 שלא יגבה ליבי
 ולא ירמו עיני
 אתה שומר אותי מפני 

 The tune is nice too:

Psalm 118:1

As usual, the final song on the album is from the Psalms, this time from Psalm 118:1: