The Samaritan music, sung by the Samaritans, in prayers , ceremonies, on Sabbath and festivals and on joyous as well as sorrowful occasions. The music is purely vocal, unaccompanied by musical instruments or other aids. More over, it is not recorded using musical notes, but is handed orally from generation to generation through teaching and participation in prayer service.
The Samaritans have hundreds of different melodies. Some of it are rhythmic, while others are non rhythmic, also some are light while others heavy. The music consists of many bends, frills, and syllables additions to a text , until sometimes two words can be sung for many minutes, and include many frills that must be carefully memorized by the singer. Sometimes the same verse can be sung in more than ten different melodies.
Over the years, Samaritan music has been studied by many musicians and scholars from all corners of the world, such as Abraham Zevi Idelsohn, Shlomo Hoffman and many others . Most scholars have concluded that Samaritan music is authentic, externally influential, and ancient.
The great Israeli musician, Menashe Ravina, has concluded his thoughts about the the Samaritan music , in his book ,Organum and the Samaritans ( Published in Tel Aviv , Israel. 1963, by the Israel Music Institute, page 60) :
This Samaritan prayer -singing couldn’t be termed merely ‘interesting’; the word does not fit the facts . Neither does the word ‘ strange’ correctly express the feelings of the listener.The Manner of reading is beyond what can be grasped within the framework of religious prayer. These sounds arouse in the listener unaccustomed to this type of singing the sensation of a terrifying experience. The impression may be gained that the chief aim of the cantor is to shock – to arouse a mysterious feeling of awe in the presence of an Unseen Power
One thing is clear: the sound is very ancient. The singing of the Samaritans is utterly unusual and original.
Samaritan music has many melodies, usually related to the different types of poems, or to the occasion. The singing itself has several forms:
- Singing in a choir – the whole audience sing together, at one tempo.
- Left and right Singing – The worshipers are divided into two groups: left and right. The group on the right , together with priest, sings first, one stanza of the poem, and when they reach a specific line of the stanza, the left begins to sing the next one, till the end.
- Single singing – the singer sings continuously in front of the audience. Sometimes, and usually at the end of the sentences, he lowers his voice, for rest and air.
- Single singing with breaks – The singer sings in front of the audience, and the audience answers him with a repeated chorus.
Listen and enjoy some parts of the Samaritan Music:
by: Osher Sassoni