Why follow the shoots when you can have the root?

Via Far Outliers, this lengthy and fascinating interview with Jeffrey Summit, “a rabbi and professor of ethnomusicology and Judaic studies at Tufts University,” about the Abayudaya, or the “Jewish people of Uganda”:

The once vibrant Sephardic and Mizrahi of Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, and Egypt, were established in North Africa approximately two millennia ago, but since 1948, the vast majority of North African Jews emigrated, settling in France, Israel, and the United States.

Now, in contrast to these communities, the Abayudaya, which means “Jewish people of Uganda,” proudly reference their conversion to Judaism in the 1920s, stating that they were drawn to Jewish practice by the truth of the Torah, the five books of Moses. Their founder, Semei Kakungulu, was a powerful Ganda leader, and he considered Christianity and Islam, and then according to community elders, said, “Why should I follow the shoots when I could have the root.”

Read the whole thing.

2 thoughts on “Why follow the shoots when you can have the root?

  1. I’ve listened to this CD and I have to admit that it does sound very cool (although a bit strophic for my tastes). As a church musician, though, I was struck by how much of the ‘Adon Olam’ sounded like the reworked protestant hymns. This is not to say that it is not ‘African’ or not ‘traditional’ or not ‘traditional African music’ or not — Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrica _is_ a Methodist hymn after all — but that there’s rather more mediation by the ‘shoots’ of the ‘root’ then may at first be apparent to some listeners.

    But then again a lot of protestant hymns are reworked Jewish texts like the psalms… which are reworked Ugaritic texts…

  2. I thought it was interesting that they came to Judiasm by way of the renegade Protestantism of the Malakites, so I’m not surprised that their music also shows similar influences.

    Can you recommend any tunes in particular? The songs are available as digital downloads from Amazon, but I don’t want the whole album…

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