Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Behind The Music-Vatispalel Chana

This post is a "behind the story" special post I will be writing twice a month, recounting the experiences and memories that came into play when writing some of my favorite songs. Many of these stories, you might have heard at concerts but I hope to add a little something extra each time. All my music can be purchased here. 

As a songwriter, I am constantly looking for inspiration for new songs. Sometimes it can be intangible and illusive, random inconclusive ideas floating in my head as I fall asleep, only to be forgotten in the morning. Often they come as an epiphany and seem so obvious; why have I not thought of this before.

Its hard to remember the exact experience I had writing each of the songs on my albums. Some came easy, melody and lyrics written in under and hour while some challenged my skills and forced me to think out of the box, resort to a thesaurus, a Siddur, some exterior inspiration to trigger my creativity. There were the songs I had to completely restructure, even go back and start from the drawing board.  Many uncompleted lyrics sat on the shelf for a while and were later merged into other songs. A few I collaborated on, allowing myself to trust another writer to seek out the imbalance and imperfections in my material. Many were just abandoned, scribbllings in notebook, languishing in a bottom drawer for years to come.

These days, with deadlines looming and the limitations my homemaking provides, the writing process is much more of a logical process. I used to believe I wrote by instinct, without a rhyme or reason, but now I am aware that songwriting is a honed skill like any other and these days I go at it with a plan.

Part of the plan is to write a song that moves people. What is the purpose of a song if not to touch hearts, changes moods, uplift spirits, and create divine inspiration?

When I access my index of songs I've written over the years, it's not hard to identify the songs that truly took on a life of their own. And these are the songs I have received the most feedback whether at concerts or in letters. These are the ones that can still bring me to tears even as I sing them for the hundredth time. Those songs have become much bigger than me; greater than the paper I wrote them on, than the keyboard I played them on, than the voice I sang them with. I believe Hashem has occupied them and they are holy. Chasidus teaches that any physical matter a Jewish person manipulates with good, can be raised to incredible spiritual heights.

In the words of Yossi Green,

"What does it mean to be a singer? What does it mean to be a singer of Jewish music? What do we accomplish when we sing? What does it mean? My opinion always know the world says that people sing with a voice  and my opinion is that people don't sing with a voice. A person sings with their heart. The question is, how much does he let his voice get in the way?"

One of the most unique songwriting experiences I had was writing the song "Vatispalel Chana"  Everything about that song is holy. I wrote is shortly after I got married, in Eretz Yisroel, on a train ride from Chaifa, where we visited the cave of Eliyahu Hanavi on Har Hakarmel. The lyrics are practically verbatim from the Navi and the tune I came up with on Friday night. While I cut up the salad, I sang it to an empty apartment without a pencil and guitar. Until today, that song moves me like it is not my own. And it's not. It is Chana's. I just try not to let my voice get in the way.

It's always remains a challenge for me to come up with the cd artwork as the visual aspect of art remains my achilles heel. With Vatispalel Chana, I wanted to tie Chana Hanaviya, my namesake, into the original artwork we were creating. The graphic artist hand drew the mountain baron Chana walked on, and included Kever Shmuel Hanavi, where her son remains buried to this day. You can see it better in the pencils. 

I insisted in vibrant colors and the floral theme, all representing fertility, growth and femininity. 

The rays of the sun brought Hashem's blessing for Chana into the picture and my guitar, an extension of myself basks in His light.

After some work on the logo, this is the final cover. 

You can listen here, you can buy here.


  1. Thank you for sharing a glimpse of the raw and intimate songwriter's journey. Moving and inspiring.

  2. Thank you for sharing the background to this incredible song. I had actually just finished listening to it as I logged on to your blog.

  3. Wow...I have chills. This is gorgeous from start to finish. And the artwork is just breathtaking!

  4. Thank u for writing. I love ur music sooo SOO much. I just got this album. Thank u for explaining the process it took to make the album cover. I was always a bit puzzled by it, and now I understand so thank u.

  5. my name is also Chana. I always liked this song specifically (as i love your music in general), the slow and original tune and the emotional story of a Jewish mother. it has a higher and spiritual feel to it too.
    thank you

    I also really appreciated chancing upon your blog and finding the "behind the music column".

    you should continue to be creative and write songs in good health

    --Chani alb