You might not know the words, but you certainly know the tune. Just last month, I was passing through San Juan Capistrano when I heard a guitar player strumming the song at an Italian restaurant. The song, "Hava Nagila," is a Jewish song of celebration. The charming documentary, "Hava Nagila: The Movie," asks who, what and where and is currently playing at the Laemmle Playhouse 7 in Pasadena.
Like many popular folk traditions, the origins aren't always well-documented and uncontested.
This is a song that you hear at weddings, bar mitzvahs and baseball games. If you were watching the London Summer Olympics, you also heard and saw an Olympic gymnast win a gold medal while performing the floor exercise to this song.
Over a hundred years old, the song has been recorded by people with varied styles such as Harry Belafonte, Italian-American Connie Francis and country singer Glen Campbell. All three appear in this documentary. Star Trek fans alert. Leonard Nimoy also is interviewed. There are also clips of the Muppets and The Simpsons. Yes, this documentary wants you to have fun because the song has morphed into various humorous (intentional and non-intentional) performances.
Director/producer Roberta Grossman with writer/producer Sophie Sartain don't take this topic too seriously and even the controversy doesn't get down and dirty. Why should it? The lyrics tell us to rejoice and be glad. If this is one of your favorite tunes or if you like music trivia, then spend a little time to learn about the history of "Hava Nagila."
Hava nagila, hava nagila
Let us rejoice, let us rejoice
Hava nagila ve-nismeha
Let us rejoice and be glad
Hava neranena, hava neranena
Let us sing, let us sing
Hava neranena ve-nismeha
Let us sing and be glad
Uru, uru ahim
Awake, awake, brothers
Uru ahim be-lev sameah!
Awake, brothers, with a joyful heart!