Kapelya: Unveiling a Feminine Sound in Hasidic Song

There are gates, both heavenly and innerworldly, that cannot be opened except by melody and song. In the Chabad-Lubavitch community where Chana Raskin grew up, this was common knowledge: sacred song is a vehicle for both personal and collective transformation. From a young age, Raskin was deeply connected to the nigunim (melodies) and musical traditions that surrounded her. She internalized the melodies of hundreds of voices singing, merging in a sea of sound. For years after she moved away from home, she sang these melodies alone, until she took a leap and began teaching traditional nigunim to groups of women through the musical listening and performance project RAZA.

RAZA’s new album Kapelya, a deeply moving recording of twenty-two women singing Hasidic nigunim, is a love letter to the songs Raskin grew up with, and an inspired addition to the wild and sacred history of efforts to preserve and expand Hasidic musical traditions. In this multimedia folio, which presents reflections on several nigunim from the album, Raskin attempts to trace the resonance and meaning of the project as a whole—its potential for healing and transformation—on the page, as well as in song and photographic documentation.

Kapelya: Unveiling a Feminine Sound in Hasidic Song is a project of Ayin Press and Hadar’s Rising Song Institute.