Idol Chatter

When it comes to music, ethnic is in. From mainstream pop artists like Christina Aguilera, Shakira, and J.Lo singing in their native languages, to Madonna sampling a Hebrew song on her “Confessions on a Dancefloor” album, using foreign languages in contemporary songsmithing is pretty common … unless the language you’re thinking of is Samaritan.

Sofi Tsedaka’s story is not one you hear every day. The singer was born into a Samaritan compound in Holon, Israel (near Tel Aviv). Sofi studied in Israeli schools while receiving afteroon instruction in the Samaritan language and religion. And her debut CD features lyrics in the language of the Samaritans between tracks with Hebrew vocals.

Quick history lesson: The Samaritans have lived in the Holy Land for thousands of years and are probably best known for the parable of the Good Samaritan in the New Testament Book of Luke. The Samaritans believe themselves to be the remnants of Israelites exiled by the Assyrians in 722 B.C. They practice a religion closely linked to Judaism and venerate a version of the Old Testament, but are not Jews. By now the Samaritan population has been nearly erased.

By the time Sofi reached high school, she was well on her way to leaving the sect. And after studying for conversion to Judaism and marrying (and divorcing) a Jew, the sect excommunicated her. She became a singer and a model/actress–the striking red-head starred in soap operas and children’s television shows.

In her new song, Sofi “intones the first passages of the Book of Genesis in the Samaritan tongue. Other tracks sample the unique rhythms and whooping chants of Samaritan prayers and songs.” While there is no indication that Sofi’s album is a renewed interest in her either joining the Samaritan sect (whose numbers currently are holding at “precisely 705”) or learning their language, for Sofi, it represents “a gesture of reconciliation with the Samaritans.”

And you better believe that when YouTube posts video of her, we’ll bring it to you here.

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