The Neshama Music Project consists of part-time, volunteer musicians who lead the Temple Israel Shabbat Chesed Services in Wynberg and the Shabbat Rina Services in Green Point, and who perform for Cape Town Jewish Seniors.
The leader of the group, Fabio Diliberto, talks a bit about how the group got started. “About three years ago I started going to Temple Israel. They’d already started setting [the group] up and had something happening. I went to Shul for one of those services and thought it was really great, so I joined and learnt everything with them and thought, let’s try and grow this thing and make it as good as it can be. Without meaning it to happen, I kind of took it on as a project.”
They chose their name (neshama meaning soul) because most of the band members have found that music has allowed them to rediscover their Judaism. Fabio says that “we were like Jews in the wilderness spiritually and we found that music really brought us back together and connected us to our Judaism and our souls. Most of us have the same story that music connects us to our roots. And music is a big part of Jewish life and now we want to take it out and hopefully connect other people.”
This is what led them to start performing at Jewish senior associations and homes, such as Highlands House. Around two years ago, the group began playing Sunday afternoon concerts for seniors because “whenever they would come as visitors, they always loved it, so we thought it would be nice to take it to them. We perform a repertoire of Kabbalat Shabbat and explain it all and just spend a really nice Sunday afternoon with them.” The group aims to host these kinds of shows every six to eight weeks and, in the future, once the members have expanded their repertoire, they hope to play at weddings and bar mitzvahs.
While the group is fairly fluid in number and changes depending on availability. The core group comprises Fabio Diliberto (band leader) on guitar and vocals; Hedi Lampert on guitar, keyboard and vocals; Henry Shields on double bass; Marianne Winter on the violin (Marianne has emigrated but whenever she visits she plays with the band); Samantha Horwitz on the flute; Roy Fine, Nidhi Chaitow and Warren Wilenski on percussion; Greg Lyons, Bev Lyons and Andi Kuti Alexander on vocals; and special appearances by Rabbi Greg Alexander on guitar, vocals and for spiritual inspiration.
Since their performances are based on prayer, the group has tried to change the songs up and make the experience more like a concert by adding a few extra verses or some instrumental sections. They started off practising for the services but, after performing together for such a long time, are able to just go in and play.
The group says that the message of Neshama is summed up perfectly through a song they sing called ‘Olam Chesed Yibaneh’ written by Rabbi Menachem Creditor. The piece is “a song of resistance, a song of hope, a song that declares, ‘I won’t stand for hatred but instead I stand for love.’ Creditor recognised that to build a whole world of love, it starts with an individual, and what better medium to spread love and kindness than through music?”
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