With haunting vocals floating over keys that are alternately mystical, calming, and uplifting, singer Loolwa Khazzoom and pianist Mikkel Lee Meyers create a new hybrid sound integrating ancient Iraqi Jewish sacred chants with New Age piano and synthesizer. While the main melody of the songs are true to the way Khazzoom sang them during childhood, and the way her ancestors sang them for generations in Iraq, the harmonies and open vocalization are original and improvised, as are the piano and synthesizer parts – all captured in a live studio recording.
The song selections on SHADDAI – Yoducha Ra’ayonai, Ya Ribon Olam, and Baruch Babeh – are deeply meaningful to Khazzoom. As a young child, the first and third songs had a magical power of transforming her mental-emotional state – instantly calming her distress, stopping a flood of tears midstream, and leaving her with a whole-being sense of peace. This experience foreshadowed Khazoom’spowerful response to music decades later, when facing debilitating chronic pain and cancer: Khazzoom discovered that music was her greatest medicine of all, with the power to heal her even on the physical level.
The second song was the favorite of Khazzoom’s mother, and Khazzoom and her mother enjoyed singing it together each Shebbath (Jewish sabbath). Mother held the traditional melody, while daughter created original harmonies, with voices that blended perfectly. After losing her mother in 2019, it was especially important to Khazzoom to include this song on the album, and during the recording process, she strongly felt her mother’s presence in the studio. SHADDAI album artwork was created by Seattle-based calligraphy artist Ruben Shimonov, a Bukharan Jewish immigrant from Uzbekistan.
About Shaddai: Chants Shaddai Chants is a musical project fusing ancient Iraqi Jewish sacred chants – sung in Hebrew and Judeo-Arabic – with improvisational vocals and New Age instrumentation, for a unique soundtrack to support meditation, yoga, massage, and conscious dance practice.
Iraqi-Israeli-American singer Loolwa Khazzoom has had a meandering career as a musician, dancer, writer, educator, and more, all with the central organizing principle of individual and collective healing. She is the singer, songwriter, and bass player for the band Iraqis in Pajamas, which combines ancient Iraqi Jewish prayer with original alternative and punk rock. Her music, writing, and other work has been featured in top media including The New York Times and Rolling Stone; she has performed and presented at leading venues including Harvard University and the Simon Wiesenthal Center; and she has published two books, taught throughout the Ivy League and at universities nationwide – The Flying Camel: Essays on Identity by Women of North African and Middle Eastern Jewish Heritage and Consequence: Beyond Resisting Rape. Khazzoom offers up her unique blend of ancient, sacred, and original music as the catalyst for deep healing and transformation, on the levels of heart, mind, soul, and body.