Hava Nagila

"Hava Nagila" (הבה נגילה in Hebrew) is a Hebrew folk song, the title meaning "Let us rejoice". It is a song of celebration, especially popular amongst Jewish and Roma communities. In popular culture, it is used as a metonym for Judaism, and is a staple of band performers at Jewish festivals. As the Jewish faith is celebrated all thoughout the world, this song is connected internationally.

The melody is a Hasidic melody of uncertain origin. The commonly used text was probably composed by Abraham Zevi (Zvi) Idelsohn in 1918 to celebrate the British victory in Palestine during World War I as well as the Balfour Declaration.

The transliteration, spelling of the title and lyrics vary.


Transliteration Hebrew text English translation
Hava nagila הבה נגילה Let's rejoice
Hava nagila הבה נגילה Let's rejoice
Hava nagila ve nis'mecha הבה נגילה ונשמחה Let's rejoice and be happy
  (repeat stanza once)  
Hava neranenah הבה נרננה Let's sing
Hava neranenah הבה נרננה Let's sing
Hava neranenah ve nis'mecha הבה נרננה ונשמחה Let's sing and be happy
  (repeat stanza once)  
Uru, uru achim! !עורו, עורו אחים Awake, awake, brothers!
Uru achim b'lev sameach עורו אחים בלב שמח Awake brothers with a happy heart
  (repeat line three times)  
Uru achim, uru achim! !עורו אחים, עורו אחים Awake, brothers, awake, brothers!
B'lev sameach בלב שמח With a happy heart

It should be noted that ch is pronounced like the German ch after a back vowel, as in Bach or Spanish j [IPA: /x/].


  • Was played in the 1934 Our Gang comedy "Washee Ironee" on violin by Wally Albright at his mother's society party
  • In 1957, Harry Belafonte recorded a version of "Hava Nagila" on his album An Evening with Belafonte.
  • In 1959, Dalida recorded a French version, "Hava Naguila", on her album Le disque d'or de Dalida.
  • In 1963, Bob Dylan recorded a short talking blues version of it and was released in 1991 on the Bootleg Series Vol. 1-3 1962-1991 Rare and Unreleased.
  • In 1963, Harold Land recorded a version for his album Jazz Impressions of Folk Music.
  • In the 1963 film Captain Newman, M.D., a group of World War II Italian Prisoners of War held at a US Army airfield in the Southwestern US volunteer to participate in the base holiday pageant; they ask one of the American soldiers, a Jewish corporal played by Tony Curtis, to teach them an American Indian song. They end up singing "Havah Nagilah" to Indian war drums and dressed in Native American warrior garb.
  • In 1964 Alma Cogan recorded it on a tribute live album for singer Michael Holliday
  • In 1963, Dick Dale released a surf rock version of "Hava Nagila" on his King of the Surf Guitar album.
  • In 1967, Julie Andrews sang "Hava Nagila" as Millie Dillmount in Thoroughly Modern Millie.
  • In 1968 Solomon King recorded the song for his 'She wears my ring' album
  • In 1973 Frankie Vaughan recorded the song for an album. The song was a long time stage favourite of his and had special meaning because he was Jewish
  • In 1979, A bagpipe version was played in the background of the intro to the Monty Python soundtrack Life of Brian. In the movie itself, Terry Jones can be heard singing it after his character's vow of silence is broken by Brian trodding on his foot.
  • In 1979, a studio record by the british singer Matt Monro, produced by Capitol Records.
  • In 1980, Neil Diamond, as Yussel Rabinovich, stage name Jess Robin, performs "Hava Nagila" during the party commemorating the 25th anniversary of the service his father, a cantor, has rendered to his community in the film The Jazz Singer. Sir Laurence Olivier acts out the cantor, whose grief over his widowerhood inspires his son to lead the party guests through the selection as an effort to cheer up his father.
  • In 1985, performed during the terrorist attack at the restaurant in Terry Gilliam's Brazil.
  • In 1986, Adrenalin OD, recorded an instrumental surf rock version under the title "Surfin' Jew" on their album Humungousfungusamongus.
  • In 1986, the Krewmen (British Psychobilly Band) performed the selection on their third album.
  • In 1987, heavy metal band Anthrax used the melody as the main riff in "I'm the Man".
  • In 1987,on the episode Hammeroid of the series Sledge Hammer, Captain Trunk played by Harrison Page sings the song on a telethon.
  • In 1992, this song was sung in the PBS series Barney & Friends episode "A World of Music".
  • In 1996, Party Animals released a single called "Hava Naquila" from their debut album Good Vibrations.
  • In 1996, Scooter released a version called "Last Minute" on their album Our Happy Hardcore.
  • In 1996 Spanish flamenco duo Azúcar Moreno recorded a dance/rock version with a men's choir on their album Esclava De Tu Piel.
  • In 1998, Timo Tolkki and Jens Johansson from Stratovarius played Hava Nagila in unison during a guitar/keyboard duel on Holy Solos, on their live album Visions of Europe
  • In 2000, Kaliya released "Ritual Tibetan", containing elements associated with "Hava Nagila".
  • In 2002, A $10,000 Winning Clip, "Look Ma, No Hands!" on the popular ABC series America's Funniest Home Videos.
  • In 2003, Phil sang the song in Daddy Day Care.
  • In 2004, punk cover band Me First and the Gimme Gimmes performed the song on their album Ruin Jonny's Bar Mitzvah, which was recorded live at an actual Bar Mitzvah. The album also features a "Christmas Arrangement," which is played to the tune of José Feliciano's "Feliz Navidad" and includes the line "I wanna wish you a Rosh Hashanah".
  • In 2004, Franz Ferdinand used a portion of the song in their single "The Dark of the Matinée".
  • In 2004, Infernal used the music in "Balagan (Hava Nagila)" on their album From Paris to Berlin.
  • In 2005, Polish heavy metal band Rootwater recorded a hardcore version, half in original Hebrew, half in Polish.
  • In 2005, the song was featured in the movie Wedding Crashers, in a wedding scene.
  • In 2006, Twisted Sister used the tune in "Oh Come All Ye Faithful" on their album A Twisted Christmas.
  • In 2006, was featured on the Disney Channel series That's so Raven in the episode "Raven, Sydney, and The Man", in a scene at a Bar Mitzvah Party.
  • In 2006, the song appeared in the BBC2 Christmas bumper edition of the show Never Mind the Buzzcocks.
  • In 2007, 17-year old British performer Lauren Rose released a version titled "Hava Nagila (Baby Let's Dance)", which bookmakers have placed 16-1 odds on the song being Britain's number one selling song on Christmas Day.

Caribbean based

Many Caribbean-based musical groups have used "Hava Nagilah" as an instrumental piece – either as a show opener or as a showcase song – with the melody adapted to local rhythms. Mon Rivera made a plena version, which he used as an icebreaker in his presentations. "Hava Nagilah" was also arranged as a merengue and was virtually a standard for various Dominican bands such as Johnny Ventura's Combo Show, Freddy Kenton's, and the Conjunto Quisqueya. Sonata Arctica, a power metal band from Finland, play the melody of "Hava Nagilah" with lyrics about Vodka at the end of their live DVD For the Sake of Revenge.


"Have a nagila / Have two nagilas / Have three nagilas / They're pretty small". Saturday Night Live had a Sweeney Sisters sketch using the same joke.

  • On the comedy TV sketch show In Living Color, annoying soul singers Cephus and Reesie sing "Hava Nagila" at a bar mitzvah but with the lyrics, "Hava nagila/Have a tortilla".
  • The Simpsons also parodied this song on three occasions.
    • In the episode "The Father, the Son, and the Holy Guest Star", Marge, Ned Flanders and Reverend Lovejoy were trying to convert Bart back from Catholicism, when he suggests that he should choose his own religion, upon which he suggests Judaism and sings: "Don't have / a cow, man / Don't have / a cow, man / Have a piece of fish. Oy!"
    • In the episode "Dude, Where's My Ranch?", Bart and Lisa were going door to door caroling. When they got to Krusty's house, they sang: "Have a / nice Christmas / Have a / nice Christmas / Have a / nice Christmas / Non-Christian friend"
    • In the episode "Bart vs Lisa vs The Third Grade" Bart 'loses his mind' during a class test and is carried on the hands of various imaginary characters whilst they sing the original words of Hava Nagila.
  • On the comedy TV show Will and Grace, Molly Shannen plays Val, a kleptomaniacal neighbor who steals Grace's music box, which she claims is an Irish music box. When Grace opens the music box and it begins playing Hava Nagila, Val begins singing, "Gosh and begorra / gosh and begorra / gosh and begorra / my Irish eyes."
  • American Dad! Episode Haylias when Hayley tries to kill Stan, he desperately pushes her onto a chair while yelling "Jewish Chair Dance" replacing all Hebrew lyrics with blah.
  • The OpenBSD 4.0 release song "Humppa Negala" performed and recorded by Ty Semaka and Jonathan Lewis.
  • Hip Hop Hoodíos recorded a song called "Havana Nagila".
  • Bob Dylan recorded a song called "Talkin' Hava Negeilah Blues".
  • Allan Sherman recorded a song to the tune of "Hava Nagila" called "Harvey and Sheila".
  • Comedian and folk singer Jasper Carrott used to sing "Hava Nagila" at his shows, intentionally mistranslating the lyrics as:

"My bicycle has been struck by lightning / The chief rabbi has eloped with a nun / The saddle has fallen off my bicycle / The policeman's donkey has molested my parrot"

"Vodka, we need some vodka, I want some vodka"

  • Comedy a cappella group Da Vinci's Notebook include a few measures of the culturally inappropriate "Hava Nagila" (along with "The Mexican Hat Dance") for comic effect in the middle of their "Another Irish Drinking Song."
  • The Smothers Brothers performed "Hava Nagila" on their album Think Ethnic, calling it a Venezuelan rain dance.
  • The episode Control of the TV show House MD features a scene where Dr. House is playing the song Baba O'Riley on his iPod when someone turns it off to talk to him. When he turns it back on, he accidentally switches tracks and "Hava Nagila" begins playing.

See also


External links

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