Bracha Tzfira (1910-1990) was an Israeli singer of Yemenite origin. Orphaned at a young age, she grew up as a foster child in Jerusalem at the beginning of the 20th century. In every household where she was sent, she picked up the different musical traditions of the family. After musical studies and a stint in acting, Bracha Tzfira moved to Berlin where she met the pianist who would become her longtime recital partner, Nachum Nardi. The duo toured Europe with great success, performing their transcriptions of Middle Eastern, Yemenite and Zionist songs. On her return to the Middle East in the 1930s, Bracha Tzfira became a person of reference to a whole generation of composers seeking to create a new national artistic language belonging to the Middle East. Although an influential figure in the history of music in Israel, Bracha Tzfira is not a widely known figure today, and with this tape piece I wished to highlight her musical legacy. I have combined musical excerpts from Bracha Tzfira’s performances with music by Yechiel Adaki, an influential musician who immigrated from Yemen who was one of the figures to whom she turned in her musical research in the realm of traditional music. This juxtaposition is for me a way of reflecting on the notions of tradition and heritage, as well as their (re)appropriation.
Tzfira was commissioned by Ensemble Nikel, as part of a series on the theme of the establishment of a musical tradition in Israel. It was premiered in Tel Aviv, on March 21st 2018.