Some words are so powerful everyone wants to write music to them. The Rambam’s holy statement affirming anticipation of Mashiach is an example — there are dozens of tunes to “Ani Maamin.” Which one is your favorite?
Musician and Arranger Yitzy Berry
“It has to be the legendary ‘Ani Maamin’ composed during the war, as the cattle cars delivered Yidden to Auschwitz. My father, Suki Berry, recorded it with MBD on Niggunei Beit Abba and Once Upon a Niggun. Slow but resonant with the eternal solemnity of its declaration, this ‘Ani Maamin’ is still widely known and sung today, testimony to the faith millions of Jews maintained even as their world went black — they knew they would likely be killed, but the nation would live on to greet Mashiach.”
Music producer and marketer Sruly Meyer
“My favorite is MBD’s ‘Ani Maamin’ from the Moshiach Moshiach Moshiach album (the slow ‘Ani Maamin,’ not to be confused with the fast ‘Moshiach Moshiach’). I probably identify with it most because it was what I listened to when I was a kid, nonstop, for years. For me, Mashiach is the definitive Jewish music album. The ‘Ani Maamin’ melody is very warm and comforting, and when you hear the words, it gives you a hopeful feeling toward the coming of Mashiach — especially that distinctive, repeated high part, ‘Oy yoy yoy, im kol zeh achakeh lo, im kol zeh achakeh lo…’ ”
Composer Yitzi Waldner and singer Shloimy Gertner
“We both vote for MBD’s old ‘Ani Maamin’ from the Let My People Go album, released in 1991. With its fluid style showcasing MBD’s unique vocal range and power — ‘v’af al pi, v’af al pi… v’af al pi sheyismameha’ — the song was a longtime concert and kumzitz hit.”
Singer Beri Weber
“For me it’s Shlomo Carlebach’s ‘Ani Maamin’ (which he remade into ‘Bakeish Rachamim’) — there’s so much yearning in the tune, and it’s definitely stood the test of time.”
“Siman Tov Umazel Tov”
Sheya Mendlowitz’s enduring wedding tune is still the favorite
This celebratory niggun was first sung at the grandstand wedding of the Belzer Rebbe’s only son, Rav Aharon Mordechai, in 1993, and released on the album produced in honor of that occasion, Mazel Tov Beis Belz 2. From there, it has traveled in ever increasing circles, played at hundreds of thousands of weddings after the chassan breaks the glass, as the band makes itself heard over shouts of “mazel tov,” hugs and kisses and handshakes, and handclapping bochurim dancing backwards to lead the new couple away from the chuppah. “Siman tov u’mazel tov u’mazel tov v’siman tov, ye-hei lanu, ul’chol Yisrael.. a a a a ya ya, a ya ya, a ya ya ya, a a a a ya ya, ya ya ya yay…
Sheya Mendlowitz remembers how the tune came to him. “It was about 3 a.m. on a Motzaei Shabbos in 1993, I was up, at home in New York, and the tune just popped into my head. Soon I was dancing around the room to ‘Siman Tov Umazel Tov.’ I couldn’t share it with anyone local at that hour, so I called Mona Rosenblum in Israel with the new song. I sang it to him a few times, asked if it was any good or maybe I should just go back to sleep.
“Mona set up his answering machine to record the song, so that he could play along, and after playing it a few times, he put me on the phone with someone who happened to be sitting with him — renowned baal tefillah and baal menagen of the Belzer Rebbe’s court, Reb Yirmiyah Damen — consulting on songs for the upcoming album in honor of the huge Belzer simchah. On the spot, Yirmiyah said to me, ‘Sheya, ich miz dus hubben — I have to have it.’ ”