Friday, January 15, 2010

The Silver Age of American Jewish Music is Happening Now! And Why We're Missing It. (Extended Play)

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As I mentioned in my 'upcoming Michigan Jewish Music events' post earlier this week, I'm going to be giving an extended version of my Ignite Ann Arbor talk. It's going to be February 28 at 1 pm at the Ann Arbor District Library in downtown Ann Arbor. It should be a lot of fun, I hope you can all come.

It's very timely, but the great Ann Arbor Ignite folks just put the video of my earlier talk online. It's only 5 minutes I don't sound nearly as goofy as I'd feared. Just mildly goofy. I promise to be no less goofy in person.



Here's the full description of the talk.
The Silver Age of American Jewish Music is Happening Now! And Why We're Missing It. (Extended Play)

Jewish music is exploding. Bands and labels and venues are multiplying. Rock. Hip Hop. Reggae. Punk. Klezmer. Sephardic. Choral. Chamber Music. Jazz. Chassidic-Pop. Breslov Techno. Niggunim. Pop-liturgical. Bible-gum. Beat Box. Boy Choirs. House. Socialist Yiddish Gothic. Indie. Weird hybrids. Avant-Garde experiments. Earnest
devotion. But we're not immigrants clustered in tenements, in range of a local Yiddish radio station anymore. A revolution is happening but we're scattered across a big nation with no common media to connect us....except the net. Will it be enough?

This Extended Play version of Jack's recent 5 minute Ignite Ann Arbor talk will be loaded with more music, a road-map of the contemporary Jewish Music scene, a case study in social-networking Jewish Music, and the greatest Jewish song you've never heard.

Bio

Jack Zaientz is the author of Teruah, a popular Jewish music blog. Jack has been interviewed regarding Jewish music by the Israeli National Radio and was recently ranked by the Jewish Telegraphy Agency as the #36 most influential Jewish twitter.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Jeremy Cool Habash - Israeli Ethiopean Rapper

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My twitter buddy, MochaJuden, sent around a link this video clip from the movie 2009 Israeli Film "Children of the Bible," directed by Nitza Gonen. It features Jeremy Cool Habash, an Israeli rapper of Ethiopian descent. According to an article on Boston.com, Habash is
"A graduate of yeshiva -- an Orthodox Jewish religious school system -- Habash steers clear of mainstream rap topics as well, preferring to sing about his love for Judaism, his concern about youth getting lost in alcohol and drugs, and his anguish about the treatment of Ethiopian Jews in Israel."
The clip on has a only few seconds of Habash rapping at the very end, but he's a wonderful storyteller.





If you're in NYC, you can catch a screening of Children of the Bible on February 11, 2010 at the 14th NY Sephardic Jewish Film Festival. If you want to screen the film, you can get info from Dragoman Film Distibution.

I haven't been able to find much information in English about Habash. If you're in the know, drop me a note. Thanks.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Skafyah - Jump in!

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I love this time of year. There's a huge crop of new videos from Chanukkah concerts popping up daily. Here's a fun one from Skafya, a Chassidic reggae band out of the University of Miami. Good stuff.

Jump In Live-12-14-09 At University of Miami Skafyah Hasidic Jewish Reggae Group


You can get more info at their website and check out more of their videos at YouTube.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Upcoming Michigan Jewish Music Events

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This is the North Coast (aka Michigan) and things get a bit slow here in the winter. But there's still some good Jewish music related events coming up. And I'm involved in two of them!

The Red Sea Pedestrians play the Ann Arbor Ark, Jan 13

The Red Sea PedestriansOne of my favorite Michigan bands hits the best venue in the area.

"The Red Sea Pedestrians are a musical melting pot, bringing together six distinctive multi-instrumentalists and singer-songwriters to investigate klezmer music and a host of other styles. Their live shows and their CD, "A Lesson in Cartography," have built up a buzz that's extended across the Midwest from their home base in Kalamazoo."




Yiddishe Cup plays the Ann Arbor Ark, Jan 23

Yiddishe CupA klezmer band by way of Catskills cha-cha. I saw them live last year and had a blast.

"We dare you not to dance!" Reviving the wacky Jewish humor of the '50s and '60s by parodying everything from cha-cha to doo-wop to rock, Northeast Ohio's Yiddishe Cup is also one of the tightest, most vigorous klezmer bands around. Year after year they wind up on Jewish-music ten-best lists, and their live shows are legendary. Get ready for songs like "Gentile on My Mind" or "Meshugeneh Mambo"! But they can also play it straight, bringing the energy and tradition of klezmer music to their delighted audiences"







The Silver Age of American Jewish Music is Happening Now! And Why We're Missing It. (Extended Play) - February 28 at 1pm the downtown Ann Arbor District Library

Teruah presents the Silver Age of Jewish Music The Ann Arbor District Library invited to redo my Ignite talk in a longer form. Come join the fun!

Jewish music is exploding. Bands and labels and venues are multiplying. Rock. Hip Hop. Reggae. Punk. Klezmer. Sephardic. Choral. Chamber Music. Jazz. Chassidic-Pop. Breslov Techno. Niggunim. Pop-liturgical. Bible-gum. Beat Box. Boy Choirs. House. Socialist Yiddish Gothic. Indie. Weird hybrids. Avant-Garde experiments. Earnest devotion. But we're not immigrants clustered in tenements, in range of a local Yiddish radio station anymore. A revolution is happening but we're scattered across a big nation with no common media to connect us....except the net. Will it be enough?

This Extended Play version of Jack's recent 5 minute Ignite Ann Arbor talk will be loaded with more music, a road-map of the contemporary Jewish Music scene, a case study in social-networking Jewish Music, and the greatest Jewish song you've never heard. Jack Zaientz is the author of Teruah, a popular Jewish music blog. Jack has been interviewed regarding Jewish music by the Israeli National Radio and was recently ranked by the Jewish Telegraphy Agency as the #36 most influential Jewish twitter.




The JCC Stephen Gottlieb Music Festival, March 6-14 around metro Detroit.

Rabbi Joe BlackTruth in advertising...I'm now on the steering committee of this festival. For 1 whole meeting now. I'm going to be offering up my Jewish music knowledge and rolodex as well as my (limited, though enthusiastic) abilities in internet marketing. The following, though, is my personal take on the fest not an official blurb.

This is a community wide Jewish music festival serving the metro-Detroit area. This year's schedule includes contemporary Jewish musician (e.g. songleader) Rabbi Joe Black, a workshop on Jewish healing through music, Inbal Segev and Elena Baksht Chamber Duo playing a program celebrating Jewish masterpieces including compositions by Ron Yedidia, Ernest Bloch, and Paul Ben-Haim, Shircago! a Jewish a capella group from Chicago, and a concert and discussion with Matisyahu (a live event broadcast via satellite from NYC). All that and a performance by Hal Linden, a teen battle of the bands, a concert of Michigan cantors, jazz, and opera music. See the music fest website for the full schedule.

Learning Jewish Liturgy Online

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Daniel Sieradski, of Jewschool.com, is a very smart, very engaged, and sometimes controversial figure in the Jewish community. Personally, I place him very high on my list of people I really want to chat with over beer and plan the revolution. Which revolution will vary by the mood we're in. There are about a dozen or so that I can think of.

Dan can think of even more. In fact, he's thought of so many he's going open source with the whole idea of revolution. He recently started a website called "31 days, 31 ideas" where he lays out the blueprints for 31 revolutions that he feels need to happen. Each is, at it's heart, a simple idea. But each, if implemented well, could have a significant positive impact on the Jewish community. Each is a technical tool conceived of to solve a significant social/religious problem. To give you a taste of what he's thinking about, here are the titles of three of his ideas (he's published 9 so far):
  • Pop-Up Parsha: "I love the Sunlight Foundation, the D.C.-based philanthropic foundation which provides support to hackers working on software projects that increase transparency and accountability in government. My ultimate wish is to see the creation of something similar for the Jewish community — a laboratory that develops solutions that increase, if not the transparency of our communal institutions, the transparency and accessibility of our tradition itself.
  • The Open Source Beit Midrash: Yesterday, I spoke about the need to create a repository of sacred Jewish texts encoded in XML, a format that would enable software developers to take the creation of Jewish educational Web applications to the next level. Today, I’m going to show you an application I’ve been dreaming about in various incarnations for about five years, The Open Source Beit Midrash, which will only be possible when such a repository comes into existence.
  • Niggun Please: Jewish Liturgical Music Database: Yesterday I talked about a tool, the Jewish Book Builder, that would help individuals and communities create their own prayerbooks and looked at some current implementations of that idea, including the Open Siddur Project. In my post, I described “a future in which creating customized siddurim, bentshers, haggadot, chumashim and all manner of liturgical and scriptural books is as commonplace as making a mixtape (or an MP3 playlist, as it were)." Today’s project is actually about further personalizing the prayer experience by providing a means for Jews to explore and learn the music of tefillah (Jewish prayer) by making for themselves downloadable audio playlists, and for the Jewish community to compile collectively the sum knowledge of their musical heritage by contributing to an open database of niggunim (liturgical melodies).
Ok, so go figure that last one got me all worked up. What a fantastic idea. If you care about liturgical music at all, go read the whole concept. It deals head on with two separate but related issues...the ability to pray in a group, which is central to Jewish practice, and the ability to learn new prayers in order to do the former. Jewish communities do not all use the same melodies, even if they are using the same prayerbook. When prayerbooks vary, or when the community does a lot of supplementing of the prayerbook, the differences between communites goes up dramatically. To someone entering the community, or even just visiting, this can be a substantial and alienating barrier even when the people in the community are welcoming and supportive. I've experienced it many times. In fact, every time I've moved (which I won't count here).

I don't have the time or energy right now to build the system that Dan is advocating, but I'm going to think more about it. Maybe someday I'll take the plunge. For the moment I wanted to share it and to pass along a few temporary stop-gaps. The first couple Dan mentions in his post, the rest are my contributions. All are websites that provide audio recordings of prayers that can be used to help us expand our knowledge, our ability to pray in groups, and our ability to join with new groups as the circumstances require.

From Dan...

1. SiddurAudio.com - "the work of a Conservative rabbi who recorded himself singing Friday night services and posted the audio online"

2. Kol Zimrah Resources - "created by Shir Yaakov Feinstein-Feit for congregants of the independent minyan he had co-founded in New York"

3. Sing! the audio weblog for niggunum

4. Neohasid.org’s niggun database

5. Chabad.org’s audio collection, "which contains a vast number of popular Chabad niggunim"

6. An Invitation to Piyut, a massive Israeli database of liturgical music

7. The Zemirot Database, "a project of a group of young Conservative Jews who, in 2007, took the initiative unto themselves to create a project very similar to the one"

Here are some of my additions...

7. HotShabbat.com and TotShabbat.com Both websites are maintained by the Hava Nashira community, which supports the pop-liturgical / songleader community. Both sites have audio recordings, often supplied by the composer / performer, of a wide variety of prayers & songs. TotShabbat, as the name implies, focuses on kids services.

8. Hebrewsongs.com While better for pop & folk songs, and better on lyrics than audio recordings, HebrewSongs does have a number of liturgical pieces available and is worth checking out.

9. VirtualCantor.com A skilled cantor has recorded a huge array of Shabbat, weekday, festival and holiday nusach. Each recording is well indexed and easily findable.

10 Project Z'mirot One of my personal favorites, "Project Z'mirot allows Jews from around the globe to share their favorite Ruach songs and melodies, and to learn new songs from others. "

11. Zemirot Project (not to be confused with Project Z'mirot or the Zemirot Database). A smaller collection of Shabbat and festival prayers, with page references to the NCSY bencher.

12. Sephardic Pizmonim Project Similar to the Invitation to Piyut site you mentioned. Huge archive of recorded Sepharidc pizmonim, including prayers, cantillations, maqams, and pizmonim.

13. Sephardic Hazzanut Project Similar to Virtual Cantor, but focusing on Sephardic nusach. The recordings are from a single Sephardic cantor working his way through "all the parashiot and Shahrit of Shabbat for all the main seven maqamot."

14. And finally, of course, You Tube. There are few popular Shabbat or festival prayers that haven't been video taped and uploaded at some point.

None of this should suggest that learning by yourself is the best answer. Learning with others is always preferable, but sometimes it's not just not possible or timely. So check out these resources. And, if you interested in taking on Dan's challenge of implementing a Jewish liturgy database, give Dan a yell.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Some Serious KlezKamp Swag

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My grandmother went to KlezKamp this year. In the words of it's organizers, "Since its founding in 1984, KlezKamp has become the single most important Yiddish cultural event in the world." Without question. And it's the single most important gathering of klezmer and Yiddish folk musicians in the world, too. And my Grandmother went. I'm so proud. She's always been cooler than me. Not only did she have a great time listening to the world-class musicians and learning about Yiddish culture, she collected a bag of swag for her jealous grandson. That'd be me. I just got it in the mail today and haven't even had a chance to call her yet. But I can't resist showing off the loot. Grandma went a little crazy, not that I blame her.

She bought me
Not to mention, she passed along the KlezKamp goodie-bag which had any number of fun bits including
  • David Benedict's "Shofar Service" 1976. Sheet Music
  • Sidney Sukoenig's "May The Words, for mixed choir and organ." 1953. Sheet Music
  • Jill Gellerman's "A Survey of Influences on Hasidic Dance." 2009. Pamphlet.
  • A 1984-1985 copy of the Journal of Jewish Music and Liturgy.
  • Advertisements for a "The Jewish People's Philharmonic Chorus" concert (June in New York City), KlezCalifornia (February in Palo Alto), and Ilana Cravitz book "Klezmer Fiddle: A How-To Guide"
And, because I can't resist. Here's a great video from KlezKamp. Hey Gram, you dancing in there? I'll be you are.

Krakowiak, Yiddish Style

Monday, January 4, 2010

Sam Kay...Pop Cantor in training

2 comments:
Sam Kay is a high school student up in West Bloomfield, MI and is studying to be a Reform cantor with Temple Israel cantor Michael Smolash. Kay has stepped in to cover for Temple Israel soloist Neil Michaels and plays with the temple's Yom Sheini band. And now he's cut a music video. (Oh, and there's rumor of record label interest). Not too shabby.

Sam Kay - Raise Your Voice, of Temple Israel, West Bloomfield


I'll be honest that Kay's style is way too smooth pop for me. Not my speed. But he does it well and I could see him building a real fan base in the Rick Recht and Dan Nichols crowd. Or in the secular pop community, if he goes in that direction. I don't have any contact information on Kay yet, so if you loved the video let me know and I'll get you in touch with him once I get the info. Or, you can go check out this article on him written by Mitchell Barnett for Teen2Teen.

Jewish Music, Texas Style

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There's a bit of unconscious chauvinism in Jewish America. The standard image is that all the Jews are in New York, except those that moved out to LA. Of course that's nonsense, there are small and large Jewish populations all over the US. Detroit has had a huge Jewish population since the mid 1800's and Cleveland has been a Jewish center since the 1700's. Oh yeah. And Texas too.

Other than my thing for Jewish cowboys, I too forgot about the sizable Jewish population in the Lone Star State. I was reminded recently by an email from Avraham Solomon. Solomon is Jewish simcha musician in Houston with a stellar pedigree.
"Avraham Solomon's musical career started at a very young age with the Miami Boys Choir. He was a star soloist and is featured on several MBC albums including Torah Today, Miami Experience 1 and later on as an adult at the Miami Experience 5 concert in Nassau Coliseum performing in front of 15,000 fans. Avraham got involved in vocal performance with orchestras shortly after high school where he performed with a variety of Jewish wedding orchestras and bands on the east coast including: Neginah Orchestra, Steven Scott, Aish Orchestras and Singers, Barock Orchestra, and many others. During this time he also evolved musically and vocally by joining Jewish A capella groups such as Kol Zimra and Harmonia entertaining at bar mitzvahs , bat mitzvahs, engagement parties, shul dinners and other events. Kol Zimra enjoyed working with Avraham and asked that he be featured on thier first album:Kulanu Beyachad. Avraham's musical repertoire also includes cantorial experience for the High Holidays as well as piano."
He wanted me to know that Jewish music was alive and well and Texas. Which is a great thing. I get down to Houston a couple of times a year for work and hope to meet Solomon one of my trips. Here he is gigging at a local Jewish wedding. He's got some serious pipes.



And some serious prog-rock keyboard action. Love it.

Lag B'omer at the Young Israel of Houston


You can also hear him do a great one-man band simcah set, here.

I'm glad to hear Texas represent. If you know of great Jewish music from offbeat locations, please drop me a line.

Friday, January 1, 2010

"Johnny's Yo-Yo" and "The Passion of the Pasha"...The night club routines of Ruth Wallis and Fanny Brice

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My wife and I are talking about getting a babysitter and going out this weekend. Maybe to a comedy show. In that spirit, here are a couple of videos of great Jewish comedians past. The first is the legendary Fanny Brice. The second is not no so legendary, but wonderfully talented Ruth Wallis. I learned about Wallis only recently through the excellent Idelsohn Society blog. According to Wallis' son ....
"Ruth Wallis wrote words and music to 150+ songs. Her career spanned three decades and four continents. Typecast as solely a risque cabaret performer, her music was eschewed by the media and banned in Boston during the Eisenhower era. December 22nd will mark the second anniversary of my mother's passing. Since then, she's received more notice from the mainstream media than during her 30 year career. "

The attention is well deserved, though it's a shame it came so late. For more info check out the post, or her NY Times obituary. You can also grab her recent re-release album "Boobs" on Amazon or Emusic. Hysterical. I'm particularly fond of her songs "Cape Canaveral Blues" and "Marriage Jewish Style". Here's one of her songs not found on the ablum.

RUTH WALLIS Johnny had a yo-yo


Fanny BriceFanny Brice was a famous Jewish comedian, singer, and actress, who headlined the Zigfield Follies in the 20's and 30's and went on to earn both a Grammy and a star on the Hollywood walk of fame. Here are clips from Brice's night-club act, where she mixes English and Yiddish into an off-kilter faux-arabic melange.

Fanny Brice (Yinglish Patter Song)

From YouTube user YidVidz's notes.....
"Fanny Brice sings, "I'm Sacha, the Passion of the Pasha". This is a compilation of clips from all available sources. Filmed in the late 1920s, it gives us a window into Brice's celebrated nightclub routine. The incongruity of singing in a Yiddish accent the story of an Arab sheik's favorite harem-girl (Sasha? a Jewess?), replete with sexual innuendo. Several more of Brice's brilliant comedy songs can be seen in the commercially released movie Be Yourself."