Aharon Berk lives in Johannesburg, South Africa, where he learns in kollel and is a featured wedding and events singer
Aharon Berk lives in Johannesburg, South Africa, where he learns in kollel and is a featured wedding and events singer with his Azamra band. Over the past year, he’s released two singles: “Tefillas HaEmunah,” his original composition, and the inspiring chuppah song “Ve’erastich Li.”
THE DIFFERENCE IN A SOUTH AFRICAN WEDDING
In South Africa, chuppahs generally take place in the afternoon in a beautiful outdoor setting, with the wedding dinner happening that evening in a hall. In this way the chuppah becomes a special experience in its own right, and doesn’t get “lost” as it sometimes does in other places. As chuppahs are my passion and main focus, I find this setup especially conducive to making the chuppah more meaningful for the chassan and kallah. It’s a time of heightened kedushah, when the marriage actually takes place.
A NEAR WEDDING EMERGENCY
I had a chuppah booked on the day my wife was coming home after giving birth to our third child. I had arrived at the hospital with adequate time to help her check out, but there was a delay with the discharge papers. The clock was ticking, and I was frantically worried that I would miss the chuppah. We finally managed to leave and rush back to town — and yes, I made the chuppah, with just minutes to spare.
A SONG WITH PERFECT HARMONIES
Soon after Yaakov Shwekey released Yitzi Waldner’s “Tefillas HaShlah” on his Musica album, I was asked to sing it at a chuppah. I remember my first thoughts when I listened to it — how touching the song was, and also how original the vocal arrangements were. It was unlike anything I had heard before — the harmonies woven together so beautifully and delicately.
MY FAVORITE PIECE OF NUSACH
Avraham Fried’s “Veshomru,” composed by Yossi Green (from My Fellow Jew). Whenever I get a chance to be shaliach tzibbur on Friday night, I use it. It’s so beautiful and soul-stirring, and really puts me in the Shabbos mood.
A SONG I HOPE MY KIDS WILL APPRECIATE
It’s always a high point for me when we sing “Mah Ashiv LaHashem” in Hallel, because really, how can I repay Hashem for all that He has done for me? When we then say “Ana Hashem, ani avdecha — I am Your servant,” I think of how the only way to repay Hashem is to serve Him as best as we can. The classic composition of Shlomo Carlebach really drives the message home for me. I hope my children will appreciate it too, and realize the depths of what it means to be a true eved Hashem.
MY FAVORITE ENGLISH SONG
“Lulei Sorascha” by Abie Rotenberg on Journeys 3 is definitely up there. It inspires me to strengthen myself in my learning every time I hear it. Another personal favorite is “Who Am I?” from the same album. I feel a deep connection to children with special needs, and the message, that we are very much the same after all, especially resonates with me.
MY ALL-TIME FAVORITE CHUPPAH PROCESSIONAL
Shwekey’s “Mi Adir.” Practically every couple asks me to sing it.
MY FAVORITE FRIDAY NIGHT NIGGUN
Kah Ribon, from the first Dveykus album. We sang it at the Shabbos table when I was a kid, so it brings back really warm memories.
A SONG THAT GIVES ME CHIZUK
A few months after Covid hit, we were in lockdown here in Johannesburg. The atmosphere was gloomy, helplessness was in the air, and I really needed some way of getting chizuk. I sat by the piano with the words of the Sefer Hatechinos for “Bitachon,” and Hashem inspired me with the melody for my song “Tefillas HaEmunah.” It gave me such courage and strength, and I hope it can do that for others too.
A GREAT CONNECTOR FOR ALL KINDS OF JEWS
“Im Eshkachech Yerushalayim.” I think everyone, from all walks of life, is stirred by these words. After all, our hearts are all there, waiting for Mashiach.
MY EARLIEST SONG-RELATED MEMORY
As a child living in Israel, I joined a choir in my community in Telz Stone. I was so excited to be in a choir for the first time, and the song that most stands out in my memory is “Ko Amar Hashem Zacharti Lach Chesed Neurayich.”
A SONG THAT BRINGS ME BACK TO YESHIVAH DAYS
I learned in Yeshivas Shaarei Torah in Manchester, England. Some of us would get together after seder on Thursday night and enjoy an informal kumzitz. The one song from then that still sticks in my mind is Shloime Gertner’s “Rochel,” from his album Nisim. It was the beautiful melody together with the harmonies we used to do. Whenever I think of the song it brings back those special memories of yeshivah and the friendships I made there.
MY MUSICAL MENTORS
My parents were my earliest mentors. My father taught me nusach and melody, whereas my mother taught me the beauty of harmony. Later, as I developed as a vocalist, I learned a lot from Yaakov Shwekey. What I love is his easy higher notes, and the uncomplicated yet meaningful style of singing. I also consider Avraham Fried a mentor in how to add expression and meaning to a song.
THE ONE ALBUM I’D TAKE ALONG ON A ROAD TRIP
It would be one of the Dveykus albums I grew up on. Actually, I grew up on all of them, and they became part of who I am. I never tire of listening to the songs.
A SONG THAT HELPS ME UNWIND
Any song by Ishay Ribo. I love the truly original compositions and lyrics, complemented by his soothing vocals and beautiful guitar playing.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 889)