The following two CDs are both from the Jewish Music Research Center series which also includes Music of the Mountain Jews, Jewish Women's Songs from India and other preservations of Jewish musical traditions. The two that I have and use as acapella CDs are The Hasidic Niggun as Sung by the Hasidim and The Western Sephardi Liturgical Tradition.
In the first all the songs are traditional hasidic melodies, many sung in a large group at a tish or farbregin or other mass gatherings. To hear the crowd singing a powerful "ai yai yai" in unison makes me feel like I'm there. Other tracks feature a single singer, some mournful, some happy. There is a thick, detailed booklet that comes with the two-CD set that describes each song and a little about the hasidic group it comes from.
Some songs are not specific to any one group and considered applicable to all hasidic groups. The CD calls these part of the pan-hasidic dynasty. That's a cool sounding phase. I personally hadn't even heard of many of these hasidic groups let alone knew that this many actually existed, and that makes it exciting.
A couple tracks are not acapella and use instruments. These tracks are performed by Mona Rosenblum and orchestra and recorded in the 1970s. Moshe Mona Rosenblum is the Israeli composer that created Moshiach Moshiach Moshiach and countless other hits for Mordechai Ben David and others. His tracks on the album are live perfomances with a small band which, to me, sound like prototypes of what the modern hasidic pop sound developed into. For more info on The Hasidic Niggun as Sung by the Hasidim click here.
The other CD in the series, The Western Sephardi Liturgical Tradition is just one guy, and therefore less exciting. His name is Abraham Lopes Cardozo and he single handedly sings all the tracks and thus preserves their melodies. If your family is from the Jewish comunity of Portugal or Amsterdam, then you might recognize these. I wasn't, but that doesn't stop me from enjoying the rich culture. For example, do you know how many different versions of Lecha Dodi there are? Thank goodness someone got the Portugese version. For more info on the CD click here.
My live poetry slam last week went well. You can check it out here: