Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Chanukah Radio - Programming Lite Rock Radio

Ok, Chanukah is coming and will be here before we know it. Some of us, by necessity, are planning for it already. Radio stations, for example, are starting to put together their Chanukah playlists. And I don't just mean Jewish radio programs. I got a great email recently from one of the DJ's at Hartford Connecticut's WRCH 100.5 FM "Lite Relaxing Favorites." The DJ, Joan Dylan, is a great lady who does 100.5's weekday 9am to 2pm slot and was looking to spruce up her Chanukah music. Evidently, while Joan was well stocked in Christmas music, her Chanukah playlist was pretty thin, limited to "Kenny G, The Hanukkah song, and light the candles of freedom, and a few others that are quite nice but mainly instrumental." And it was bugging her fans, who wanted more and better. Could I help? Sure thing.

Ok. Those of you have followed Teruah must be chuckling right now. Yes, helping folks connect with great Jewish music is one of the main points of the blog. And yes, I used to be a fill-in DJ on my school's radio station and have deep love for all things radio. But, the part of me that's still a punk kid and an unrepentant music snob shudders and gasps. Did it have to be a lite rock radio station? Yes. It did. I listened to a few of Joan's shows to get her vibe and, while I find the whole thing a bit, well, lite, I have to say the lady has good taste.

So my challenge. Find her Chanukah songs that are fresh, contemporary, uptempo, that will fit in with her programming but still stand out to her Jewish fans (who, it seems, are a vocal lot). This was going to be interesting. Klezmer was probably out, as was anything to old or folky or liturgical sounding. This is adult radio, so no kids songs. I did some digging, which is always fun, and came up with an initial list.(click on links for album info including music samples)

Marc Cohn - Rock of Ages - Festival of Light Volume 1 - 2000
Barenaked Ladies - Hanukkah Blessings - Barenaked for the Holidays - 2004
Kenny Ellis - Sevivon Sov, Sov, Sov - Hanukkah Swings - 2005
Julie Silver - Chanukah, Oh Chanukah - It's Chanukah Time - 2006
Klezmatics - Hanuka's Flame - Woody Guthries Happy Joyous Hanukkah - 2006

The result, Julie Silver and the Barenaked Ladies were in, the rest were out. Joan personally loved the Marc Cohn track (as do I) but it was a bit heavy for her station format. With two wins in hand, I put together a second list.

RebbeSoul - Rock of Ages - Change the World With A Sound - 2002
Safam - Candles of the Menorah - The Chanukah Collection - 2000
Safam - Eight Little Candles - The Chanukah Collection - 2000
Lipa - Oy Chanukah - The Lipa Experience - 2007
Craig Taubman - Maoz Tzur - Celebrate Hanukkah - 2000
Debbie Friedman - Not By Might - Celebrate Hanukkah - 2000
Flory Jagoda - Ocho Kanelikas - Celebrate Hanukkah - 2000
Rabbi Joe Black - Judah Maccabee - Aleph Bet Boogie - 1990
The Leevees - Latke Clan - Hanukkah Rocks - JDub - 2006
Michelle Citrin - Light One Candle - Lights: Celebrate Hanukkah Live in Concert - 2008

The results...Safam's "Candles of the Menorah" and "Eight Little Candles" and Rabbi Joe Black's "Judah Macabee." That's a total five new Chanukah tracks on the air in Connecticut. According to Joan, "I know everyone is very happy. You have made allot of Jewish people very happy here as we have not been able to bring great fresh song selections to them each year when we go all Christmas. A big thanks to you!!!!" Great, Joan, I'm glad to help out. I'm going to be forwarding this list and some other, not as "lite" friendly tracks to XM Radio's Radio Hanukkah show.

I also have to say, I love this collection. While there are lots of wonderful Chanukah tracks that didn't meet Lite 100.5's format, there is not a dud in this collection. Grab them all and make the 2008 Teruah Lite Rock Hanukkah Album.

So what did I miss? What other Chanukah songs should your local radio stations be playing this year?


Anonymous said...

I keep surfin blgs to find people talking about Chanaka?

i'll have to check out this Holiday. it is very foreign to me.

Jack said...

You should, Chris. I saw from your profile that you're a Christian musician, so I'm not surprised that you don't have much experience with it. Chanukah is a festive Jewish holiday that usually takes place in December on the American calendar. It celebrates a miraculous military victory that enabled Jews to once again practice our religion openly and, when we rededicated the temple, a miraculous lamp that burned for eight days on one day of holy oil, long enough for new holy oil to be prepared. The holiday thanks God for the miracles. Celebrates usually involve lighting a menorah a candle holder with nine branches, 8 for the 8 days and one to light the others with, parties with food like potato pancakes or jelly doughnuts (things made with oil).

The funny thing about Chanukah in the US is that Chanukah is a pretty minor Jewish holiday, not at all comparable to importance of Christmas to Christians. But it's probably the best known Jewish holiday to Christians because of the proximity on the calendar to Christmas.

You can read more about it at a lot of websites such as Judaism101 and Wikipedia. If you're in an area with a decent sized Jewish population, feel free to drop by one of the Chanukah parties sponsored by the local synagogue (temple, shul) or Jewish Community Center. They'd be happy to have you swing by.

Anonymous said...

Susan Salidor, who is a well known award winning children's singer in Chicago, has a number of Hannukah songs including her original song "Gimmel Gimmel Shin" which explains the dreidel game. Also, she has a number of Hannukah songs inlcuding "One Little Hannukah Candle". She actually has a new Jewish Cd coming out, entitled "Songs in the Key of Chai"
More info about her can be found on www.susansalidor.com

Anonymous said...

Erran Baron Cohen's Songs in the Key of Hanukkah is incredible all. I just bought it yesterday and I've never heard Hanukkah music done this way before. Very very refreshing!

Lisa. x

Frank, Andrew said...

It celebrates a miraculous military victory that enabled Jews to once again practice our religion openly and, when we rededicated the temple, a miraculous lamp that burned for eight days on one day of holy oil, long enough for new holy oil to be prepared.

Anonymous said...

How "lite" is this station to NOT include Michelle Citrin?! Otherwise good choices for the station ( which must be clearchan to be so tight with the playlist)

Jack said...

Hi QueenPat,

To answer your questions...I don't believe they're a ClearChannel station, but I really don't know. I'm sure that Michele Citrin wasn't too light for them. The only Chanukkah song of Citrin's is her cover of Peter Yarrow's "Light One Candle." They already have Yarrow's version and it's been popular with their listeners. I think they were more excited about adding more variety to their mix than new versions of songs that they had well covered. That's me reading between the lines. I haven't discussed Citrin specifically with the DJ or Music Director.

Lauren Mayer said...

If you're open to a humorous take on Chanukah, please check out my brand new album, "Latkes, Schmatkes!", featuring songs like "A Good Old Down Home Country Chanukah", "Jew-In-A-Gentile-World-Blues", and the title track's salute to the mess involved with homemade latkes. You can check out clips online, and the album & individual song downloads are available on iTunes, Amazon, and on my website, www.laurenmayer.com.