Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Rivkah - Daughters of Israel Hear Me

Rikvah Krinskya traveling soul all alone trying to find her way back home the path she left seems out of reach, she's praying to be heard....you have a speck of God in you, you're a Jewish girl....

I thought I knew how this review was going to go. The album cover is labeled for women only and so I've had it sitting on my desk for a couple of months waiting for me to write about Kol Isha. I expected to make some nice comments about the singer, note the irony of the male music producer sending the disc to me for a review, and then write more on the women's only music scene. But something else happened. I listened to it and heard it.

Back when I was in college the first Tori Amos album came out. I remember being in the puppet lab at about 1 in the morning working on puppets for an upcoming show when one of the puppeteers came in. She waked over to the shared boom-box, turned off what ever was on and put the disc in. She told us to listen. We did. We've never been quite the same since. There was something about that album that was deep and scary and beautiful and true. The album got passed from hand to hand for weeks until we all new every word and the melodies were tattooed on our lives.

Rivkah Krinsky's "In Your Hands" is like that, though not scary, not shattered like the Amos album. Instead there is a vibrant joy here. But it is a knowing joy, one that feels and transcends pain. In his book "Inner Rhythms: The Kabbalah of Music" DovBer Pinson writes "When a person contemplates how far [s]he is from the truth, and how separate, alone and alienated [s]he is in this world, and from God, [s]he becomes frightened, bitter, and down on [her]self. This experience is called Marirrut....When someone is bitter about [her] situation, and examines [her]spiritual life, [s]he realizes that [s]he has distanced [her]self from the path ... [s]he is overwhelmed with a longing for Godliness and holiness." Krinsky's lyrics are filled with this kind of longing, and it resonates for me more than anything I've heard in a while.

In particular the song Jewish Girl speak volumes to me. It's the story of an identity crisis in a girl who longs for something but isn't sure what. That what turns out to be her Jewish identify restored to her through the help of holy rebbe. A story like that could easily have been insipid and cloying, but it wasn't. Instead I've listened to it over and over again. Something about her phrasing is both universal and so specific that it shook me. The chorus, which could have trite instead was fiercely proud. "Your heart it knows it's true, you have a speck of God in you"

I empathize so much with the girls uncertainty and longing it that hurts to listen to it. But I haven't had any happy ending yet. I'm just as alienated and confused as ever. Not fully committed, not part of a real Jewish community, not truly believing, but not giving up either. I don't think that giving myself over to a kindly rebbe is the answer for me, like it is for the girl, but who knows. I do know that listening to the song has me motivated to grab my tallis and teffilin off the shelf and get back to the Chabad house for morning prayers. I haven't been in over a year. And maybe this time I'll take up the rabbi's offer to come over to his house for a Shabbat meal.

By the way, I realize I haven't talked at all about what the album sounds like. Which is strange because that's where I usually start with music and Rivkah's music is well worth writing about. She has a sound that is reminiscent of Sara McLaughlin and Sinead O'Conner, a sound that is at the same time lush and understated, melodic and edgy. But here, listen for yourself....

Rivkah Krinsky Sampler

This sample is courtesy of her publisher, Sameach Records and the Sameach Music Podcast. You can buy the album at their Jewish Jukebox website. You can find out more about Rivkah at her website and MySpace page.

One last comment on the "women only" nature of this album. I hope if Rivkah reads this review she's not too upset that I (a Jewish guy) has listened to it. I promise to save it for my daughters when they're old enough. They'll love it and, I think, need it.

1 comment:

chana said...

i loved the review. so poignant. beautiful album. i've heard it over and over.