Bar Papas songs are highly original compositions for one main reason: It wasn’t a true musician’s mind putting them all together.
In the Bar Papas case, they played their instruments for long hours journeying back and forth up and down the fret board until something (a pick?) struck a chord.
This is how Amihai and Shimshon developed their own material before they met and how they managed through their musical chevruta after becoming a team.
Perhaps to a real musician this sounds like a normal process. However, real musicianship was the farthest thing from the minds of these musical greenhorns. This wasn’t about fame, fortune, ego, or proving something. It was about avoda, service of and to, God. It was a beautiful mesh of Torah learning and doing something special with the breaks and downtime that involved or integrated the learning into life. Making this music wasn’t just fun and it wasn’t just a way to wind down or ‘kill time’ in the middle of or end of the day. It was an effort to make the most of and raise up every moment. That’s how the Bar Papas developed material and that’s what brings us to Hashiveynu.
The initial melody came about for Amihai sometime around 1996/97 during numerous after work sessions late at night back in Boston. He’d come home around midnight and take out his Gibson Les Paul and play around unplugged while his cat Xena (may her kind hearted feline soul rest in peace) gave him an audience. The Gibson was perfect for nighttime and going unplugged not only kept his efforts low key but also gave him some space to think about what he was doing.
At the time he was exploring chords that worked nicely with open strings and ended up with the basic structure for Hashiveynu. It didn’t have any words until the fall of 1998 when he began mixing liturgy with his original melodies. When he sat down with Shimshon the native Detroitian instantly put down a simple but creative finger picking riff that complimented the chords nicely.
From there Hashiveynu became one of the early Bar Papas hits and over time one of the center pieces of Bar Papas shows.
When the Bar Papas hit the Jerusalem music scene the song grew to have a mesmerizing jazzy intro which often included harmonica and a few other instruments. In just a short time, the ‘intro’ to Hashiveynu grew into it’s own entity, some would say an actual song itself. However, it was always intended as the precursor to doing teshuvah and so will always be what comes before Hashiveynu.
In making the album Nesiya Tova, the intro was given it’s own track and subsequently the album title name.
Nevertheless, it retained it’s distinct placement in Bar Papas lore by pretty much running right into Hashiveynu. The thinking behind it was this: Hashiveynu is about asking God to return us to Him and renewing our days like the days of old, before we made mistakes that effected us as individuals and caused pain to others; perhaps back to a time in our lives when we saw the world through the innocent eyes of a child.
If that was the case, since there is such a yearning in each one of us, it comes from a desire to do better, miraculously while in the midst of our darkest times. On a metaphysical level, what the track Nesiya Tova represents is the bottom of the pit and we’ve all been there.
Those times when we realize in the middle of the low that we can do better, that we want to do better. Eventually we get there and do teshuvah but in that retched moment before we surface, well that’s when we need the biggest blessings for a nesiya tova, a safe and good journey out.
(Listen below or to listen to the songs one after the other automatically start with Nesiya Tova here.)