Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Dafna's Halilah Hazeh

Last week I got Dafna / ShirFun's "Halilah Hazeh" in the mail, just in time for Passover. I'm always excited to see new kids recordings, but am always a bit hesitant. Reviewing kids music is tricky, kids listen to music differently than adults do. I've been doing this long enough to have a few basic have a few elements that I listen for. If the recording's got them, we're in business. If not, probably not. I'm also in luck that I have two kids and lot of long car rides for album testing.

First, here's Dafna's offical blurb
"Shir Fun was created by Israeli music therapist, Dafna Israel-Kotok, whose passion for Jewish and Israeli music and culture has been cultivated all of her life. Growing up in a moshav on Israel’s Mediterranean coast, she learned to play the guitar from her father at an early age and together, they became a central musical figure to her community’s cultural celebrations. After her service in the Israeli army, Dafna attended university in the U.S, obtaining a degree in music therapy."
Second, before I do my review, here's a video of the title track...

Dafna's Halilah Hazeh

Ok...now for my thoughts. As I said there are certain things I listen for in a kids album.

1. Is the singer having a good time. Seriously. There are some depressing, self-important, kids albums out there. Dafna does fine here. She enjoys this music and her enjoyment is infectious.

2. Is the singer a songleader or a performer. Kids want to sing, jump, dance, thwack, or kapow. Pretty much anything but applaud. Music that invites them in is good, music that does clever wonderful things for show isn't. Halilah Hazeh is a bit mixed here. There are bit too many times where Dafna winds up for a big ending or does something else showy. Not bad, but iffy.

3. Are the vocals up front in the music. Can you understand the lyrics. Kids like guitar, drums, what-have-you just fine, as long as they don't get in the way. Seriously. It's all about the human voice and what the voice is signing about about. Mind you, the lyrics don't have to make sense and in many kids songs they don't, but they have to be clear. Dafna's got a challenge here. She's singing quite beautifully and clearly in Hebrew. For some kids, including mine, that's just fine. My kids don't speak Hebrew but they've got the rhythm of it through synagogue. Singing along with it, even though they don't understand the words, suits them just fine. But there were a lot of places where there was just too much guitar, shaky egg, or what-have-you. Again, not bad just iffy.

So my feeling, as the adult listener? A solid kids album but not necessarily a great one. Dafna's got a good voice. I enjoyed Dafna's interpretations of the classics. Her originals are well performed but not as compelling. But c'mon. We've been singing Dayenu and Eliyahu HaNavi for how many centuries? They're a tough comparison point.

How about the experts, my kids? They weren't much taken with the originals either, but sang right along with the classics. In fact, my elder daughter asked me to replay a number of them. We're using her version of the Four Questions (Ma Nisthana) when practicing for our seder. That's a pretty good sign. Would the originals grow on them? I'll have to report back later. I will say that my two favorite recent Jewish kids albums Oy Baby 1 and 2 and Shira Kleins Shirlala Chanukkah grabbed them immidiately, new songs or no.

But my little experts aren't yours. Hop over to Dafna's website and see what you think. Or better yet, put your little experts to work and see what they think.


One light music said...

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Thank you for your time.
Dherek Abernathy

Jack said...

Hi Dherek, I've checked your site out a couple of times and honestly, your Jewish music section is pretty weak. Shoot me an email at jackzero@gmail.com. I honestly don't understand your market. Who buys this kind of backing track?