Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Piyut collection at Avi Chai

One of the great things about writing a blog like this is that I'm going to spend an inordinate amount of time being ignorant in public. For example, I had never hear the term 'piyut' before last week. After I blogged about the niggunim collection at Heichel Menachem I saw that Klezmershack posted the same site and followed up with a link to large piyutim collection hosted by Piyut.Org. So what are Piyut?

According to Wikipedia:

A piyyut (plural piyyutim, Hebrew פיוט, IPA: [pijút] and [pijutím]) is a Jewish liturgical poem, usually designated to be sung, chanted, or recited during religious services...For example, the best-known piyyut may be Adon Olam ("Master of the World")...Another well-beloved piyyut is Yigdal ("May God be Hallowed")

Piyut.org's goal is "to give the widest possible view into the world of piyut from the distant past until today" and inclucdes some more colorful descriptions of piyut including:

The piyut decorates the prayers, the life cycle and the yearly cycle, every place where the sigh of the heart overpowers the mind. When words do not suffice and the melody is called for; and where that which is fixed yields its place to that which is renewed.

Avigdor Shinan

A definition that I heard from a man who was sitting outside a corner store on Becher street and saw me looking at an notice inviting the public to sing the songs of supplication at the Addes synagogue: "You should know" he said "Piyutim are the sweetness of the Torah"

Uri Kroizer
The site has text and audio recordings of hundreds of piyut, often with the same piyut recorded by artists from more than one musical tradition. Unfortunately for me the text is in Hebrew, which I can recite but can't really read. I'll just have to enjoy the music.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

More Best of 2006: Jewschool

Mobius, of OrthodoxAnarchist and Jewschool, weighs in with "Jewschool's Best of 2006." His best of list includes more than just music (Stephen Colbert wins for 'best TV show'), but his choices for music are interesting:

"MusicAmy Winehouse (SL: “She’s smoking.”)
Runners-up: Regina Spektor, Golem (JA: “We had a Chanukah hora going for like a half hour in Boston.”), Y-Love, Rav Shmuel, Sway Machinery, Vulgar Bulgars, The Moshav Band, C Lanzbom & Noah Solomon, Hadag Nachash (DR: “Gets some points for writing a song in which they sexually proposition California.”)"

The lists includes not-particularly Jewish (Amy Winehouse) pop, not-particularly Jewish (Regina Spektor) and particularly Jewish (Rav Shmuel) indie singer-songwriters, both straight-up (Vulgur Bulgars) and punk (Golem) klezmer, cantorial art rock w/horns (Sway Machinery), folky jewish campfire guitar (C Lanzbom), chassidic hip-hop (Y-Love) and Israeli funk (Hadag Nachash). Quite a mix of styles and degrees of "Jewishness" of their music.

A couple of specific notes:

I hadn't heard of Amy Winehouse before seeing her on the Jewschool list. I did a quick check and according to her website and wikipedia entry, she's a well regarded British jazz and soul singer with a couple of albums to her credit. Her website and myspace page both have audio clips if you want to check her out. I did and, while she clearly has a good voice, the tracks are way to pop for me.

The first runner up Regina Spektor, on the other hand, is pretty cool. She reminds of me of a slightly less dramatic Tori Amos (or more dramatic Norah Jones?). Nothing about her music is particularly Jewish to me, but I thank Mobius for brining her to my attention.

And I'm thrilled that they noticed The Vulgar Bulgars. The VBs are a pretty straight up Klezmer band. No Jazz. No punk. Nothing fusion or radical about it. Just darn good. I had commented in my previous post that the center of energy in Jewish Music seemd to have moved away from the Klezmer revival. While I still think that's true, and the rest of
there are lots of excellent klezmer bands out there. It's great to see one recognized.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Ambarchi/Avenaim : The Alter Rebbe's Nigun

Writing my post about nigunim reminds me of one of my favorite albums: Oren Ambarchi and Robbie Avenaim's "The Alter Rebbe's Nigun." This recording is not at all part of the contemporary Chassidic music scence, but draws heavily on Chassidic nigunim. The album was released in 1999 by my favorite label, John Zorn's Tzadik Radical Jewish Culture. The Tzadik blurb describes it like this:

Formerly orthodox Hasidic students of Talmud and Tanya, these two members of the Australian punk unit PHLEGM have brought together influences from Boredoms and the Japanese noise scene, traditional Jewish Nigunim and Yiddish theatre, Marc Ribot, Ornette Coleman and countless others to create a new world of twisted dreams and startling sonorities.

Ari Davidow of Klezmershack described it like this:

Opening with gentle guitars, and quickly descending to the clash of disharmonic guitar, then on to heavy metal soaring, the album begins with the first level, "Asiyah" (Action). Then there is the spaciness of "Yetzirah" (Formation), with pipelike tubes of sound, followed by shofar-like crescendos as something builds.... Gradually, we are left with creaks of sound slowly leaving behind silence as we move to the third sphere, "Beriah" (Creation) and the buzz of kazoo-like ullulation. Now space begins to close in as sound gathers, filling the emptiness, and eventually, amid the random percussion, there is the rapid-fire of guitar notes, gradually replaced by a glockenspiel playing a hasidic nigun. And finally, on to Atzilut (emanation). Behind a reading, in a very Ashkenazic Hebrew, about the Alter Rebbe's nigun, looping and spliced, the sounds begin to slowly reverberate, as from afar. Electronica, sound, slowly begin to create an ethereal, fascinating texture. After all, in true Jewish fashion, text must be part of the highest level of G-dly emanation; formed text is no less a part of what it means to be Jewish than the sounds we gather around that text. Suddenly, the words are processed further, so that they become as babble behind a now-noisy tapestry of white noise, crashing, random guitar chords, and then the words resolve themselves as recognizable nigun, created out of the white noise, gradually building in passion until it sounds like a huge crowd of dancing, singing hassidim. Then silence, and the rebbe resumes reading over gentle guitar picking out sounds that, again, resolve themselves as nigun, sounding more an more like human voice, wordless. Asiyah. Action.

Great review. I can't do better and won't try. The album is once again in heavy rotation.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

A Treasure Trove of Nigunim

One of the regular posters on the Shamash.Org Jewish Music mailing list shared a pointer to an amazing collection of Chassidic niguninim. The collection, which also includes audio lessons on a variety of Chassidic topics, includes both versions with Yiddish and English introductions and commentary. The collection is hosted by Heichel Menachem, a non-profit organization, "established in 1994 to spread the teachings of Chassidus (Hassidism)."

I've had an interest in nigun for a while, but this is the first place I've run across that not only has a good collection but does a great a job of leaving them situated in their religious context. I'll be listening to these for weeks and learning a lot about Chassidus from the comments.

I'm particularly happy to run across this site right now. As I mentioned in a previous post I've been trying to get my head around the frum music scene. While I read the blogs and listen to the podcasts, I've had a hard time really getting into the music. My theory has been that I just don't have the basic reference points to know how to listen to music (I also hate the perky, glossy production, but that's a different issue). I've come to understand that the driving energy of the frum music community is Chassidus, which has a long and deep musical tradition.

One of my goals right now is to get my head (and ears) into that musical tradition. Nigun is an important part of that and provides a basis (I think) for a lot of the currently popular chassidic music. And this collection of nigun has the raw, authentic, unproduced field recording sound that I can appreciate.

One thing I'm trying to find right now are some good essays (hopefully with accompanying recordings) that talk about the role of music in Chassidus. I'm aware of a highly regarded one called "Song in Hassidic Life" by the prolific Jewish music author Velvel Pasternak. Unfortunately, the article doesn't seem to be online anymore. I've emailed Pasternak's publishing company, Tara Music, to see if they can provide a copy. If I can get the article or can round up any other good references or nigun collections, I'll let everyone know.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Album Art as Social History (sort of)

I attended a lecture on Jewish music recently given by a respected university researcher. In this lecture, he equated Jewish music with klezmer. He then spent an hour using klezmer as a lens to inspect Jewish and African-American relations vis a vis the relationship of klezmer and jazz. A big part of his discussion was using klezmer as a metaphor for Jewish culture and religious life. You know how this goes, klezmer fizzled as American Jews assimilated in the first decades of the 20th century only to be revived in the late 1970's as the children (or grandchildren) of assimilated Jews tried to find meaning in their religion (or at least, in there cultural history). So the story goes.

But that story misses the point that music was still being made by Jews for a Jewish audience. And I'm not talking about Chassidic music, though there was rich vein of that happening too. I mean a whole world of Jewish artists interacting with American pop culture including swing bands, the Barry Sisters, the Irving Fields Trio and all of the other artists working then and now to write songs, play music, and celebrate their Jewish identity.

The folks at "You Will Know Us By The Trail of Our Vinyl..." get it. Here's there motto:
"the history of the Jews in America has been spelled out in books and dramatized on the big screen. But it has never been told through LP covers. Until now."
They've got a blog that discusses Jewish music and Jewish culture, by presenting and analyzing Jewish album art. And what a culture it is...

Now, I'm not claiming that these albums and the others that have been so lovingly presented by the "Trail of our Vinyl" guys represent our finest musical moments. But they're more reflective of our cultural history than the klezmer to klezmer myth.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Teruah on the Town

My lovely wife and I had dinner at a Central European style restaurant in Michigan recently. For dinner companions we had a line of 6 to 24 inch high wooden Jewish musicians. I had to grab a picture (on my camera phone, sorry for the poor quality). I have no idea where they came from and forgot to ask the staff if they knew.

2nd Annual JVibe Music Awards

I'm not a big fan of awards and awards ceremonies. I'm a long time music snob who doesn't think that popularity of an musician has any correlation to their musical ability. That said, I'm always interested to see whose getting nominated. It gives me an idea of what trends are happening (or ending) and every so often points me toward someone that I'd overlooked. Hey. Just cause I'm a snob, doens't mean I'm right. Some popular musicians are good. It happens.

Anyway, that's a long preamble to my putting in a plug for the 2nd Annual JVibe Music Awards. The categories and nominees are already established, but the voting for top position will be open until the end of January. I couldn't care less who wins, but the list of nominees is fascinating.

You've got frum rockers Blue Fringe, hip-hop dj Handler and mc Y-Love, and ska-reggae beat-boxer Matisyahu. You've Israeli pop stars Ivri Lider and Idan Raichel. And, of course, you've got Judaica shop staple Debbie Friedman.

So what does this say to me? First, it's another piece of evidence that the klezmer revival isn't the center of the Jewish music scence anymore. There's only one klezmer band, Golem, on the list, and they're known for their punk rock esthetic. Second, I really need to get my head around the Israeli scene. I was only familiar with one of the Israeli bands on the list (Hadag Nahash). Finally, it said I need to listen to my history. While I knew just about all of the non-Israeli groups, I didn't know most of "lifetime achievement award" nominees. I've been trying to get my head around all of the different forms that 'Jewish Music' takes for years now and I'm still regularly amazed (and delighted) how little I know.

Oh, one last thing, vote for Balkan Beat Box, huh? As a favor to me? Those guys are amazing.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


I was listening to the Nusach Chazzanut (liturgical / cantorial music) channel this afternoon. Sometimes you just have to get your chazzanut on. I'm about a thousand miles away tonight and thinking about Shabbos dinner with my family. We're not shomer Shabbos, but we take Shabbos dinner pretty seriously. I start looking forward to it sometime Wednesday afternoon and by Thursday, I've got the chazzanut playing and am thinking Shabbos thoughts all afternoon.

So, music playing, work to be avoided, and the internet at hand, I did my usual wanna-be reference librarian thing and started looking for chazzanut websites. Chazzanut Online is a great starting point, with articles about cantorial music and important cantors, midi files, reference links and images of historic sheet music and manuscripts.

Virtual Cantor is another great site. They've got a real do-it-yourself, learn the nusach (melodies of the service) attitude. They offer .mp3 recordings of most (all?) of the important services, including Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, various Rosh Chodesh, the whole Haggadah, and the Megillah of Esther (Purim is coming!). The recordings are made for learning-from not for high style, but they still are quite listenable. Makes me want to seriously try to master some of these. Right now I can do the Kabbalat Shabbat service and random bits of the Shabbat and festival Torah services. Ah well. Maybe some day.

Sway Machinery Demo EP Available

So, for the last 6 months or so the Sway Machinery has been on my "Jewish music artists whom I really wish would release an album so I can buy it" list. I discovered the Sway Machinery on one of my MySpace crawls a while back and listened to their MySpace tracks and the tracks on their website repeatedly. I was taken with their squanky, bluesy, very New York and very Jewish sound. I've got a soft spot for a good horn section and SM delivers, and Jeremiah Lockwood's vocals are captivating and soulful. According to his bio, Lockwood is the grandson of a cantor and grew up steeped in the cantorial tradition. You can hear in his voice, though you can also hear echos of blues, jazz, and punk clubs. My kind of stuff exactly. Of course, their shows have all been MMFH (many miles from here).

But no albums for sale. Their discography listed a few earlier albums and film scores, but no pointers to where they could be ordered or downloaded. So I finally emailed Jerimiah to see what was up. Here's his reply

"We have currently available a demo EP of The Sway Machinery, featuring the bands current quintet line-up and musical concept. Our first album (self-titled) is still in print. Sadly, our second and best recorded effort, Subway Car Dreaming, has been out of print for some time. These first two CDs feature the band's old incarnation as a rock-oriented power trio. I offer (to the small number of people who are interested) a package of the first album, the EP and a CDR of Subway Car Dreaming for $25... We are currently working on a new album, but it will be some time untill it hits the street."
Thanks Jeremiah. I'll be ordering mine asap. For more information email Info@swaymachinery.com.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Israeli Music Videos

If you promise not to ask me what "Jewish music" is, I'll promise not to tell you. I've seen the topic debated too frequently to care much about anyone's opinion (including my own). What I will say is that Israeli bands don't generally make my cut by just singing in Hebrew. On the other hand, I could see it turning into one of those guilty pleasures that I won't tell you about (much).

What brings this up is a web site called "Free Jewish Music", a site put up by IsraeliMusicTV

IMTV is on a mission to provide entertainment media to the fast growing segment of young Americans and Modern Orthodox who identify with Israeli youth culture.

Not me. But that's ok. I identify with free music videos. The bad news is that only one or two of the videos have (to me) any Jewish feel to them. It also doesn't look like the site has been updated recently. The good news is it has a link to a great YouTube video of David Broza, the one of the only Israeli musicians whose albums I own and love. His Masada live concert recording "Starting to Breathe" is one of my all time favorite albums. The video is described as

"a musical collaboration between Israeli pop-star David Broza & the popular Palestinian singer Said Murad. Their song is a melancholy but hopeful message about the land they both love and share."

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Israeli Albums on Ebay

The Dreidel Day mix reminded me of how little I know about Israeli music other a passing familiarity with Ofra Haza (meaning I ran into her name two days ago and bought one album yesterday). So, I did what all reasonable people do. I went to eBay. Most of what I found were Israeli pressings of American or European albums. But there was a smattering of Israeli albums. There was a bunch of interesting cantorial albums, but what really caught my eye was a small cluster of rock and pop albums. Now, I haven't heard of (or heard) these groups so I can't comment on the music. The album covers, though, were lovely. I'm a big fan of album cover art and poster art. I'm be tempted to pick these up just to frame them. But I won't. Someday I'll have a record player again and will probably regret not grabbing these.

Matisyahu and the Klezmatics nominated for 2007 Grammy Awards

Both Matisyahu and the Klezmatics have been nominated for Grammy awards this year. Not, of course, in Jewish music category. There isn't one. And not in the one of the FIVE Gospel categories (which is fine with me. I'm just grumpy). The Klezmatics album "Wonder Wheel" has been nominated in the World Music category, along with albums by Richard Bono, Salif Kieta, Ladyship Black Mambazo, and Ali Farka Toure. Matisyahu's album "Youth" has been nominated in the Reggae category, along with albums by Buju Banton, Ziggy Marley, Sly and Robbie, and UB40. All worthy musicians (my wife has a non-so-secret fondness for UB40 dating back to her college days).

CBS is hosting the award ceremony this year. As far as I can tell, they haven't announced which awards will be announced live on-air, and which will have been announced pre-show and then reported on during the show. My guess is that both will be off air announcements, but I'll probably watch anyway. It would make my month to see either group get to accept their award (should they win) on national television.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Myspace Reviews: Shtreiml and Khevre

One of my favorite time-wasters is going Jewish music social-networking on sites like myspace.com. What will happen is that I get a pointer to a band with a myspace page and then follow their "friends" links to other bands I might be interested in. Today the originating band was Shtreiml and the source was the Jewish music mailing list hosted by Shamash.org. Shtreiml was announcing a few upcoming shows all, sadly, MMFH (Many Miles From Here).

So, I was off and wandering. Like most bands, Shtreiml's myspace page let me listen to some of their songs and get an idea what they're about. And I was delighted. Shtreiml has a great sound, combining "klezmer, gypsy music and jazz" with a focus on the unusual combination of the oud and harmonica. I've never heard anything quite like it, but I was quite enchanted. Sadly for me, their albums are on cdbaby.com but not emusic.com. Cdbaby is one of my favorite online stores and deserves everyone's business, but I have a subscription to download albums from emusic and would have nabbed one of Shtreiml's on the spot if it had been there.

From Shtreiml I found Khevre. Khevre has an understated klezmer / jazz sound, with a fabulous upright base and a wonderful female lead singer. Khevre is based in my once home-town of Boston, MA, but I don't think they were active yet when I lived there. Now, Khevre does have their album on emusic and I grabbed it immediately and will listen to it on my commute home tonight.

That's all I had time for during today's wander. But I'll use both Shtreiml and Khevre as jumping off points for more myspace wandering sometime soon.

More on Dreidel Day

I exchanged some email with Mike the 2600 King over the weekend. I wanted to hear more about how Dreidel Day happened and hoping to get a track list. No luck on the track list, Mike is holding it close, but he was forthcoming about DD's origin.

Mike: "i put out the mix kinda just to do it. i'd been hearing a bunch of great mixes with all christmas-related funk or hip hop tracks and figured i had enough records to do a chanukah mix, even though the first song on there is the only one that's technically a chanukah song.

all of the records are israeli and from the '60s and '70s except for "hava nagila," which was on polydor. i'm not really trying to have the tracklisting blogged about and i'm also working to build this up to a full-length 60 minute mix, so hopefully that's something i can finish some time this year."
Thanks for the history Mike.

I was listening to the DD again and was perplexed by the last sample, which sounded like a very anti-semetic pro-Palestinian song. I'm guessing that Mike was being satirical, because the song was funny as hell. Just in a really negative direction.

Ok. Mike just set me straight. He's definitely being satirical. The track is from the very satirical Sacha Baron Cohen TV show "Da Ali G Show."

By the way, it turns out Mike is also a talented graphic designer. Check out his site TwelveCarPileup.com

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Matisyahu's "No Place to Be" - The reviews are starting to come in

"Live at Stubbs" was amazing. "Youth" wasn't. A DJ friend told me recently that Matisyahu's rocky transition to Sony Records has killed his career. So, should I buy "No Place To Be"? I thought I'd go see what the early reviews looked like..

Tower Records review "The disc contains some true oddities that work to both broaden Matisyahu's appeal for pop audiences and solidify his reputation within the reggae community....

Billboard's Review "EPs piggybacked onto holiday DVD releases aren't usually worth multiple spins, but "No Place to Be" is the exception...thanks to its inclusion of clever, catchy remixes of some of the Hasidic reggae phenom's hookiest songs... While beautifully shot, the live DVD gets off to a glacial start and never quite reaches its potential. Slotted in between songs, though, are a few genuinely gorgeous clips of Matisyahu being interviewed and/ or filmed in the streets of Israel.—Wes Orshoski"

Sounds ok. I guess I'll pick up a copy and see for myself. I hope that his next full album can recapture the engery of Stubbs. In the meantime, I'll watch some Matisyahu videos and download an old live show, or listen to his podcast.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Jewish Liturgical Music and Chant Development

While looking for one thing, I found another. The thing I was looking for (he said sheepishly) was to see if Google had found this blog yet. Nope. The thing I found was Liturgica.com, an online catalog of liturgical music and texts. I don't know anything about Liturgica, but the writing style, references, and web store products suggest it's staunchly Christian. Love those "Judeo-Christian" and "Old Testament" references.

What got me interested was a series of academic essays on Jewish liturgical music and chant development. This is a topic I know nothing about, other than personal experience with contemporary Conservative Jewish practice. I haven't had a chance to read through these essays in detail, but they've jumped to the top of my reading list.
There are a number of Jewish sources that I'll need to follow up with, the first one being the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. HUJ has a publications list and a CD store that are pretty exciting.

Dreidel Day - a funky Chanukah mix

Channukah is over so I guess I should hold any Channukah posts for next year. But...I just listened to "Dreidel Day" by 'Mike the 2600 King' on the new Something Jewish podcast and wanted to pass along the goodness. I'm not exactly sure how to describe Driedel Day. It sounds like 15 minutes of Israeli pop songs from the 1970's mixed together for a Channukah dance party. The mixing and scratching aren't wonderful, but who cares. The whole track is a blast, the DJing sounds like it was done live. And Mike said it can be ours. Thanks Mike!

My problem now is that I need to hunt down the original tracks and I don't have a clue where to start. I guess that's what makes this fun. I'll report back what I find.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion X2

The Protocols of Learned Elders of Zion caught my attention twice this week. First, I saw about half of a new PBS documentary called "Anti-Semitism in the 21st Century: The Resurgence." There was a long discussion of how the Protocols have been popularized in the Middle East via the Nazis. I didn't know that. The producer did a great job, though it's hard to tell a story like that without leaving parts of the story out. Message aside, the musical score was composed by Andy Sterman, a NYC tenor sax player, who'll be playing on Jan 19th at the Rubin Museum of Art in NYC (MMFH - many miles from here).

The other sighting this week is Rav Shemuel's slightly lighter take on the Protocols.

Where's the good frum music?

So, taste is a personal thing. But I'm hoping someone can help me out. I'm reasonably aware of the Orthodox and Chassid music scene. I've never been to one of the shows, but I browse and listen to clips on Mostly Music and Sameach's Jewish Jukebox. I even listen to Sameach's podcast. The musicians are fine. The sentiment I can get behind. Why does all the music have to sound so over-produced, sugar-coated and bland?

For example, there are a couple of tracks on Avraham Fried's new album "Bein Kach Ubein Kach" that are ok, but the big single "Father Don't Cry" kills me. There's a strong feeling, but everything else is completely forgetable. If you haven't heard it, check out the video. Fried's popular and has a large back-catalog of recordings. But he doesn't do a thing for me.

Maybe it's because I grew up with different musical references. Maybe it's because I don't go to the shows (I can think of a number of musicians whose live music is much better than their recordings). Maybe it's really is just bland and overproduced and I'm right. Who knows. But I don't like not enjoying an entire genre of Jewish music. If anyone can point me to albums I'd be interested in, I'd greatly appreciate it.

P.S I listened to the latest Sameach podcast on the drive in this morning and was reminded what fun it is. The two guys who dj it have great on-air chemistry and keep it moving. I enjoy most of the tracks, but have never heard anything I'd like enough to buy a copy of. I buy albums regularly after hearing tracks on Radio Free Klezmer or Something Jewish.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Yiddishe Cup at the Ark

The Ark - Yiddishe Cup

Detroit is the nearest area with a real Jewish population, so forgive me for being overly excited that we're getting in an out of town Klezmer band. We only get 1 or two a year. Yiddishe Cup is coming to the Ark, in Ann Arbor, on February 3. I hadn't heard of them before, but Ari at Klezmershack likes them.

"This is the most outrageous combination of '50s Borscht Belt shtick and post-modern Jewish deconstruction I've heard in years and, boy, did we need it."
--Ari Davidow, Klezmershack.com

Best of 2006

It's the end of the year and all the best of lists are coming out.
My take on the awards...the klezmer revival is no longer the center of the action for contemporary Jewish music. While there are a number of great klezmer bands out there, there's a lot more brewing. Ashkenazi (including klezmer, cantorial, Yiddish theater, niggunim), Sephardic and Misrachi are all being blended with hip-hop, reggae, latin, tango, electronica, classical, avante-garde jazz, blues, rock. Not all of the blending works, but lots of it does. And there's a lot of energy in it. Here are two interesting ones

Ten For ‘06 The best Jewish recordings of the year.
George Robinson - Special To The Jewish Week

"All in all, 2006 was a very good year for Jewish music. Fourteen CDs won the five-star plaudit, which is certainly a hopeful sign and a pointed rejoinder to those naysayers who have been proclaiming the death of (choose one): a) klezmer; b) New Jewish Music, c) old Jewish music. On the downside, however, four of these albums were the product of deceased composers/artists. That means that the kiddush cup is better than 70 percent full. Mazel tov!"

Best Music 2006
Mordy (aka MC Atzilut) posted the his best of list on Jewschool.

"Criteria for inclusion: I felt it somehow added to Jewish music, or made an impact on Jewish music or Jewish listeners - even if it wasn’t overtly Jewish. An album in 2005 that I listened to mostly in 2006 qualified - as did a single that didn’t get wide-release (Myspace babies). Otherwise, it’s what I want - and since it’s one of the few of its kind, you’ll take it and like it. I kid! Oh, and because it’s Jewish music, it’s a list of everything - singles mixed with albums mixed with artists. Deal with it!"

OYHOO Festival Jewish Music Awards

"The JEWISH MUSIC AWARDS 2006 were announced on Monday evening, September 11th at the Museum of Jewish Heritage. The fun evening was hosted by the comedian/actress Jackie Hoffman and included four musical performances including: Y-Love, Soulfarm, Rachel Sage and Benny Bwoy. The show was highlighted by a presentation to the world reknown composer Steve Reich who was presented with a lifetime achievement award by fellow composer David Lang. Steve Reich is being honored this season by Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, and Brooklyn Academy of Music in conjunction with his 70th birthday. The nominees and subsequent winners were picked by a group of 25 leading journalists who write about Jewish music."

Something Jewish Podcast

They're back! After a 7 month hiatus Leslie and Caroline have started producing their weekly Jewish Music radio show Something Jewish again. SJ is actually a radio show on Resonance101.4fm in central London, but they thoughtfully also put it out via a podcast feed.

Here's this week's playlist:

Gershon Kingsley, Jewish Experience (Remixed by Mexican Institute of Sound) from the album God Is A Moog.

Under the Matzos Tree by Ada Jones remixed by Mocean Worker’s from the album album Jewface.

Shiru L’Adonai by Dan Nicholls and E18hteen from the album My Heart Is In The East.

Saudade by Elisete from the album Elisete – Remixes.

Bublichki by Golem from the album Fresh Off Boat.

My Garden by Y-Love

Shushan by Balkan Beat Box from the album Balkan Beat Box.

Mike the 2600 King – Dreidel Day

(And Caroline, if you happen to read this, I'm "Jack from Ann Arbor." Glad you're back on the air.)

Getting this blog started

So, I love Jewish music. Obsessed really.

I'm a Conservative Jew in Michigan, living in a very Christian farm town. I'm not as frum as I'd like to be, but I do ok. Listening to Jewish music helps me stay connected on a day to day basis with being part of a larger Jewish community.

And, it's fabulous music. Well, lots of it is. There's a lot of crap out there too.

I'm not an expert in anything, but I run across a lot of interesting bands, events, musical styles, blogs, catalogs, webpages, podcasts, and odd bits that I thought it would fun to share them and hopefully get to know other folks with similar interests. Since Jewish music is both a spiritual and a secular thing, I expect both sentiments to show up in my posts.

Why the name Teruah... Teruah is the a call on the shofar on Rosh Hashanna, "a wailing sound, a sound broken into many parts"

Rav Abbahu said, "Why do we blow a ram’s horn? The Holy One, Blessed Be He, said: ‘Sound before Me a ram’s horn so that I may remember on your behalf the binding of Isaac the son of Avraham, and account it to you as if you had bound yourselves before Me."

(Quotes from The Shofar A Cry From The Depths at http://www.ou.org/chagim/roshhashannah/theshofar.html)