Tuesday, November 1, 2011
We can't recall a Jewish wedding or a shul dinner that we've been to over the years that didn't include a roomful of women rushing to the dance floor to join in the circle dance called Misirlou (or Miserlou).
So when we heard of a new CD that includes a version with words in English and Spanish sung by Chubby Checker (remember The Twist?) we decided to take a closer look at the song and its origins.
It turns out that Misirlou is a Greek song about forbidden love, originating with Greek refugees from Turkey at the end of World War I. Misirlou translates as Eqyptian Girl. However, the Greek word Misirlou refers specifically to a Muslim Egyptian woman, thus this song refers to a cross-faith, cross-race relationship, a risqué subject at the time.
This song has had a long history of being adopted by various styles of music from klezmer to surf-rock. The instrumental group Shalom Salaam is continuing that tradition by singing it in Hebrew and English. In the video below, they perform it together with Miranda, a talented dancer. It's safe to say you're unlikely to see this performance at a shul dinner.
(A SPECIAL NOTE FOR NEW EMAIL SUBSCRIBERS: THE VIDEO IS NOT VIEWABLE DIRECTLY FROM THE EMAIL THAT YOU GET EACH DAY. YOU MUST CLICK ON THE TITLE AT THE TOP OF THE EMAIL TO REACH THE JEWISH HUMOR CENTRAL WEBSITE, FROM WHICH YOU CLICK ON THE PLAY BUTTON IN THE VIDEO IMAGE TO START THE VIDEO.)
But what about Chubby Checker? His version appears on a new CD called Kosher Nostra: Jewish Gangsters' Greatest Hits (No, we're not making this up, and Purim is four months away!). This album, produced by Oz Almog and Shantel, includes Jewish songs that were popular in the heyday of Jewish gangsters like Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel; songs such as The Anniversary Song by Connie Francis, Bei Mir Bist Du Sheyn by the Andrews Sisters, and, yes, Misirlou by Chubby Checker. Check out the Checker version in the video below, and share the origin of this song the next time you get up to dance at that wedding. Enjoy!