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Community News

Music: Singing the DNA of the


world
Victoria Hanna, who performed Aleph-Bet, is
coming to Bing Cabaret

Victoria Hanna is to perform on Nov. 29, 2017, at the Bing Concert


Hall Studio Cabaret at Stanford. (Einat Arif photo)

By PAUL FREEMAN | Bay Area News Group


PUBLISHED: November 13, 2017 at 8:37 pm | UPDATED: November 13, 2017 at 8:37 pm
To travel to so many places in the world and to communicate through my
music, this is one of the greatest things I could imagine, Israeli singer-
songwriter Victoria Hanna said.

As a child, Hanna could barely communicate. She suffered from a severe stutter.
The other kids were very cruel, she said in a phone interview. They were
laughing at me. I wasnt like the normal child. When you are a little bit different,
its not always easy to accept your surroundings.

Creativity provided the answer. For most artists, Hanna said, if they would
grow in a society where art would be out of the picture, they would be very
different. They would be unaccepted. And they would be very miserable.

Music proved to be Hannas salvation. Whenever I was singing, the stuttering


would disappear. I feel the most comfortable when Im singing, when Im
creating a new world and when Im performing. Everyday life was so tense that it
was full of stuttering. But when I was singing or in an imaginary world I
invented, everything was OK.

Hanna has invented wondrous, diverse music, impossible to categorize. She will
perform at Stanfords Bing Concert Hall Studio Cabaret on Wednesday, Nov. 29,

showcasing material from her debut album, Victoria Hanna. It was recently
released in Israel, will hit Europe in the spring and is offered on her website.
Hanna will have copies available at the concert.

Her original songs are inspired by ancient Hebrew text and traditional melodies,
but incorporate rap, hip-hop, rock and pop influences. Some are very melodic,
some more rhythmic.

Victoria Hanna is the combination of her first and middle names. She was
named after her two grandmothers.

One part of the album reflects the personality of Victoria, the other Hanna.
Victoria was from Egypt, Hanna from Iran. They were both married against
their will, when they were very young. This was the way they did it in the places
where they came from. Each one of them took the situation to a very different
reality, the singer-songwriter said.

Victoria was married at 16. She was rebellious and did exactly what she liked,
not what people expected from her. Hanna was opposite. She surrendered. She
accepted everything. She went very much inside herself.
Even the name Victoria is not a Hebrew name. So for me, she represents this
place of the deconstruction, the way I work with ancient Hebrew texts to
deconstruct them. It becomes something else. And Hanna, the songs that I
chose for her, theyre not percussive. Theyre more about yearning and have to
do with the power of the voice.

Hanna sings in Hebrew and Aramaic. Audience members who dont speak those
languages have told Hanna that they are nonetheless moved by her songs. They
respond to her mesmerizing, penetrating, beautiful voice and her unique songs.
She performs internationally, having toured in Mongolia, Poland, Mexico, Japan
and Australia.

I treat the language as a sound, so you dont necessarily need to understand the
language in order to feel the music and to enjoy the music.

Even Israelis dont always understand what shes singing. The ancient Hebrew
is sometimes very different from the everyday way they speak Hebrew in Israel,
Hanna said.

Languages can be something completely different from what we are used to.
Its not only a way to convey information. Its much more than that. Its like an
entity. Its sound. Sound is a vibration. So its the physical aspect of the
language how you can really feel the language in the body.

Shes in the midst of a six-month stay in the Bay Area, where shes teaching a
class on the missing link between music and language at UC-Berkeley. She
brought her family with her from Jerusalem her husband, a theater director,
and their three children, ages 8, 6 and 4.

Hanna was invited to the university by Professor Francesco Spagnolo, through


the Israel Institute. Spagnolo is curator of the Magnes Collection of Jewish Art
and Life.

Hanna is creating scores for ancient Hebrew amulets in the Magnes collection.
Many of the artifacts were said to have mystical properties. She is performing
segments of the works in progress on Tuesday nights, through Dec. 5, at
Berkeleys Magnes Museum. When the project is completed, a larger
presentation will take place.

Shes familiar with the nature of these amulets, because she grew up with these
types of sacred relics. Her father was an ultra-Orthodox rabbi. Because of her
familys religious beliefs, even after Hanna discovered how singing miraculously
defused the stuttering problem, she couldnt perform unfettered.

In Orthodox Judaism, its not recommended for a woman to sing out loud in
front of men, Hanna said. Its not very modest. So you can imagine that it
wasnt an easy journey.
But Hanna felt compelled to sing. Its a big gift to be able to express myself as
an artist, because when I look at my grandmothers, even if they had wanted to
do this, they would have looked at them like they were crazy. They just needed
to be in the kitchen and to raise the children. So Im very lucky to be born in a
reality where expression was accepted. Not only accepted, but honored.

Her family was reticent to acknowledge Hannas need to perform. In the


beginning, they completely didnt like it. But after a while, they understood and
accepted it, even though they would still not go to my shows.

Her audience grew larger when, in 2015, Hanna released a video for her song
Aleph-Bet. It went viral. It celebrates the Hebrew alphabet. In Kaballah
teaching, God created the world by speaking the 22 holy letters of that alphabet.
The letters are like the DNA of the world, Hanna said.

Her subsequent videos display imaginative, arresting visuals. Some have a


disarming, charming strangeness. All feature her distinctively enchanting
vocals.

She approaches the voice as an instrument and recognizes a shamanic element


within singing. You treat yourself as a channel, let the voice go through it and
then a lot of very interesting things can happen, Hanna said. Sound is the
primal thing. When we use sound, it connects us as human beings immediately.
Its the universal language.

She said that sometimes people around the globe associate Jerusalem primarily
with political friction. Our existence is not only politics. Politics can be very
bad and very hard. If we see the world only through the perspective of
politicians and politics, then its very depressing. But theres another way to live
in this world. You can make art. You can connect with sounds. You can show the
beauty of things.

Email Paul Freeman at paul@popcultureclassics.com.

Music
Who: Victoria Hanna

Where: Bing Concert Hall Studio Cabaret, 327 Lasuen St., Stanford

When: 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017

Tickets: $10-$30; www.live.stanford.edu or 650-724-2464

Artist website: www.victoriahanna.net


Tags:Aramaic, Hebrew

Paul Freeman

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