Zum Gali Gali – Israeli Folk Song & Round

Here I go sorting through stacks of music again. This time I ran across the Israeli folk song, “Zum Gali Gali.” When played as a round, it becomes a mesmerizing rhythmic “call and answer” song. The tune is in a minor mode with lots of strums across open strings. Plus, the chorus uses “nonsense” lyrics. It has the driving rhythm of a methodical work song and is alot of fun to play. I tabbed it out for the Key of Em — tune a dulcimer to DAD and place a capo at the first fret. I don’t have many photos of Israel, but here is one. My daughter and friend, on a trip to Israel several years ago, are overlooking the Masada Mountains.

Song’s origins

The exact origins of this folk song are unknown. It seems to have originated around the time of Israeli independence and the Zionist movement. That would have been in 1948 or thereabouts. During this time, many kibbutz were being established. In the kibburz, Israel’s new Jewish settlers formed collective and communal farming communities. They literally turned the dessert into a green and blooming countryside. An alternate title to this song is the “Israeli Work Song.” Perhaps the farm workers chanted the tune to work in unison while digging and performing other tasks in the fields requiring a steady beat. Here are young women from that era working on an Israeli kibbutz.

The chorus, “zum gali gali,” are nonsense lyrics which cannot be translated into English. They are repeated over and over creating a rhythmic chant. The verses relate to working together in the fields from sunrise to sunset. There are many variations to the lyrics, here is an example:

From the dawn till setting sun, Every one finds work to be done
From the dawn till night does come, There’s a task for every one.

Join together in a song. Make the day’s work seem half as long.
Join together in a song. Come and dance join in the song.

Playing the tune as a round on the dulcimer

This tune can be played as a 2-part round. The second part comes in quickly — on the second measure — so be ready to start. When played as a round, it takes on an exciting “chant” like quality and “back and forth” rhythm between the two parts. Make sure to emphasize the first beat of “zum” to create a rhythmic sound.

I made this arrangement in the Key of Em. Tune the dulcimer to DAD and place a capo on the first fret. There are no harmony notes, it is played entirely on the melody string — with one exception. Strum across all the strings.

This tune can add a little variety to your jam sessions and performances. We played it in February during “round night” at one of our weekly meetings.

Sometimes it pays not to throw things away. I have rediscovered a great new round to add to my dulcimer repertoire of music which was hidden stacks of music. Enjoy the tune and a PDF version to download and play.

2 comments

  1. Thank you!!! This sounds like a wonderful addition for our group… appreciate your sharing! My group is the HeartStrings of Bridgeport, Tx. We are currently playing Celtic music to celebrate Spring… love it! Have any special TAB in that venu? Best wishes!
    Carolyn Marlett

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello, We just finished an Irish gig — there is a treasure trove of Irish music arranged for dulcimer that it is hard to know where to begin. So many dulcimer players have written tablature books of Irish music going back to my first Irish book by Lois Hornbostel published by Mel Bay to more current self-published books. In your area, Helen Johnson arranged many Irish tunes and many of Margaret Wright’s tunes are of Irish origin. My tune last month is Irish — although that one may be difficult for a group to play; it is more of a solo piece. Good Luck and enjoy this round.

      Like

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