Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Hip Hop Hoodios - Viva la Guantanamera

Hip Hop Hoodios - Viva la GuantanameraI am now officially a member of (meaning I clicked to join) the myspace Jewish Rockers group. I may be 20 15 10 years too old to really be a rocker, but I figure it's not really a mid-life crisis if I never stopped listening to music and my new Dr. Marten's Quartz Cap Toe Shoe are just office-friendly replacements for my favorite harness Wellington boots. Am I sounding pathetic yet? My lovely wife just pats me on the head and smiles when I go on this rant. sigh.

Anyway, the first thing on the Jewish Rockers forum that caught my eye was a notice about the new Hip Hop Hoodio's EP "Viva la Guantanamera"
"Oye! Latino-Jewish crew Hip Hop Hoodíos will be releasing the “Viva la Guantanamera EP,” a special digital-only album benefiting Amnesty International, on August 1st. The new song “Viva la Guantanamera” is an allstar collaboration with members of two Grammy-winning artists (Ozomatli & The Klezmatics), and also features contributions from Kemo The Blaxican (of Latin hip-hop pioneers Delinquent Habits), and Walter Miranda (Beastie Boys, Plastilina Mosh). Hip Hop Hoodíos are tying in with Amnesty International’s campaign to close Guantanamo Bay Prison and encourage the full restoration of due process, and are donating 18% of net profits from digital sales of the “Viva la Guantanamera” single to Amnesty. You can listen to and preview the new single "Viva la Guantanamera" here: www.myspace.com/hiphophoodios"
I have to say, I've had the previous Hip Hop Hoodios EP, "Raza Hoodia" for a while and while I thought it was ok, it didn't grab me enough to get their follow-up album "Agua Pa' La Gente." After listening to the "Viva la Guantanamera" track on their myspace page, it's clear I need to revisit Raza and maybe shell out for Agua and Viva.

This is great stuff. Part of it is the production. Viva has the Hoodio's sound, but the production screams Ozomatli. Which is a great thing. WilDog from Ozo has a knack for setting hip-hop vocals against acoustic instruments (I mean horns, here) in a way that makes hip-hop more like Latino party music than a modern urban dance sound. I'm not sure that's a great explanation, but boy does it work for me. Ozomatli is also interesting to listen to because of the Arabic influences. WilDog has previous Jewish music credentials from doing a cool remix of Irving Fields version of Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen for a Reboot Stereophonic "Passover Remix" album.

Here's the Hoodio's Gorritos Cosmico from "Agua Pa' la Gente"

Monday, July 30, 2007

Don't watch this video

It's dark, hard to follow and very odd.

But...it's the only documented collaboration of man (Sid Yiddish) and Furby "Your Emoto-tronic Friend"that I'm aware of, and certainly the only one featuring a shofar.

I bravely watched the video all the way through and can report this: the shofar toots, the Furb(ies?) beep and boop, and occasionally someone seems to be doing something with a guitar (a something that shouldn't be described as playing).

I pass this video along in my efforts to capture the spirit and adventure of Jewish music. But please don't watch it.

Suite For Furby On Shofar In D Minor (Art Bootleg Version)

Friday, July 27, 2007

The Spirit Series: Voices of the Conservative Movement

I got an odd letter in the (snail) mail the other day. It was from The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (which I support) saying, more or less, "I hope you liked the CD we sent you".


Actually, this was a double Huh? because 1) I didn't get any CD in the mail and 2) didn't have any idea that USCJ produced CDs. (I'm actually aware of precious little self-identified Conservative music.) I talked to them on the phone and still don't have 1 sorted out. It seems they did a fund raiser by sending CDs out hoping for donations and somehow I got the donation letter but not the disc. Story of my life.

As for 2, they sure do produce music. They've been working on "The Spirit Series" for a while. The series is has six offerings and is

"A joyous series of music CDs jointly produced by the Cantors Assembly and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, featuring music and prayers sung by members of the Cantors Assembly with familiar favorites and new compositions, and Hebrew texts, translations, and commentaries on the selections"

I ordered two of them, the Spirit of Shabbat and the Spirit of the High Holy Days and should get them in a week or so. I'll report in when I get them.

By the way, if you click on each album cover you'll get a full page (.pdf) advertisement.

The Spirit of the Jewish Wedding The Spirit of Hanukkah The Spirit of Passover The Spirit of the High Holy Days The Spirit of Israel The Spirit of Shabbat

Thursday, July 26, 2007

DJ Typsy Gypsy Balkan Hotstep Mixtapes

Typsy GypsyI've always loved mix tapes. It's always a trip to see how a musician or music fan hears music. What goes with what and where do you go from there. It used to be that I'd trade mix tapes with friends on cassette tape (yep. I'm that old. sigh) Today, the internet is filled with mix tapes put together by DJs for parties and clubs. A lot of them are pretty tedious. Let's be honest...a lot of club music is made for bumping and jumping to, not listening to. But every once and a while I hear one that gets a fast track to my iPod. Today's are the DJ Typsy Gypsy Balkan Hotstep mixes.

"Balkan beats! So So Hopa! Typsy Gypsy from Belgium mixed a double sided mixtape full of Balkan, Gypsy, Klezmer and everything over 150 bpm! Together with Sam Rabam Typsy Gypsy forms the dj collective Balkan Hot Stepsoundsystem. 'Balkan Hot Step' makes you go hopa!!"

Yeah. So there. The Klezmer shows up in a number of tracks, but takes center stage in two Amsterdam Klezmer Band remixes. Great stuff. The rest is kick up the heels Balkan horn madness mixed and remixed. You can check out the tracklistings on the 'T Nieuwe Werck blog. You can listen to them and download them right here...

Download Balkan Hot Step Part 1 Here

Download Balkan Hot Step Part 2 Here

hat tip to Boing Boing

Sunday, July 22, 2007

17th Jewish Culture Festival in Krackow, Poland

Following up on the Klezfest St. Petersburg videos I posted earlier, here are some videos from the 17th Jewish Culture Festival in Krakow, Poland. The festival was held at the end of June and featured music, lectures, workshops and tours of Krakow's Kazimierz Jewish Quarter.

Beyond The Pale

Alfred Schreyer

Lerner Moguilevsky Duo

Socalled - (These Are) The Good Old Days

Klezfest St Petersburg

Klezfest St. PetersburgIt's funny. My first love in Jewish music is Klezmer, but I haven't posted about it in while. So I went to YouTube to see if anything new was posted recently and found a bunch of great Klezfest St Petersburg videos just begging to be blogged. So here goes.

According to the Klezfest website,
"KlezFest was first conceived in the 1990’s as a program for musicians from Jewish communities of the former USSR, which were beginning to revive. Since then, KlezFest has developed into a prestigious international music forum. At KlezFest, klezmorim from different countries and different continents gather for dialogue, for the exchange of experiences and information, and most of all — for playing music together."
It appears that the videos have been uploaded by the official Klezfest sponsors. If so, thanks folks. It's great to see Klezmer alive and well in Russia. The videos span the history of Klezfest and highlight both European and American musicians. Great stuff. I love the opening clarinet in the first video.

Gennady Fomin "Shiza-hora" (KlezFest St.Petersburg 2007)

"Shuloym alaykhem" Performers: Lorin Sklamberg, Michael Alpert, Christian Dawid (Klezfest in St.Petersburg)

Immigration suite. Performers: Adrienne Cooper & Zalmen Mlotek(Klezfest St.Petersburg 2001)

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Temple: Coming Home

Another one from the mailbag....

I got a note yesterday from the folks at Sounds True, "your direct source for audio courses, books, videos, and music for personal and spiritual transformation." They're promoting the new album, "Coming Home" by Temple, a voice and guitar duo out of Boulder, Colorado. I haven't heard the album yet, so can't comment on it, but thought I'd pass on this YouTube video. It gives a nice feel for them and their performance style. According to their press pack, they've played the Boulder Jewish festival, the 12th Annual International Aleph Kallah-Jewish Renewal Conference, and the Washington Jewish Music Festival and will be touring festivals and yoga centers this summer. You can also check out some sound clips from "Coming Home" at the Sounds True website album page or at Temple's myspace page. Temple also has their own webpage at "HebrewChanting.com"

Temple - Hebrew Chanting with Danya Uriel and Eyal Rivlin

By the way, if you happened to be in Boulder earlier this year (or last year?) you could have attended a class given by Danya Uriel and Eyan Rivlian (aka Temple) at Naropa University called "Temple of Song: The Ecstacy of Hebrew Chanting." Naropa is a degree giving University who's "approach to learning integrates the best of Eastern and Western educational traditions, helping students know themselves more deeply and engage constructively with others."
"Hebrew chanting invokes the collective consciousness of four millennia of ancient mystical teachings. In this experiential workshop, chants and nigguns will be explored along with attunements (kavvanot) and contemplations into the deeper meanings of the ancient Hebrew prayers and mantras. These powerful chants can be used for meditation, healing, prayer, and as vehicles to connect with the spiraling rhythm of the Jewish year. No previous musical background or knowledge of Hebrew is necessary. This class will be offered in a safe and open-hearted environment, with live accompaniment.

Eyal Rivlin and Danya Uriel are dedicated to revitalizing Jewish chanting as a form of meditation and ecstatic prayer. They create and share their music in the service of inspiration, community building, and devotion. Drawing on the power of the repetition of ancient sacred phrases, they use Hebrew chants to create an experiential connection to the One. Danya and Eyal's CD, Temple: Breath of Devotion, will be released in June 2006. HebrewChanting.com."

So, if your musical taste and/or spiritual needs lean in this direction you should check this album out.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Jewels of Elul

I got a nice note the other day from the folks at Craig 'n Co. announcing the third year of their 'Jewels of Elul' project.
"Beginning August 15, on each of the 29 days of Elul, we will post a 'Jewel' of an inspiration from an amazing group of individuals. From Deepak Chopra to the Dalai Lama and Kirk Douglas to Matisyahu, these wonderful people will share their thoughts on 'Hope and Healing'."
According to the tradition, Elul is the "the time that Moses spent on Mount Sinai preparing the second set of tablets after the incident of the golden calf (Ex. 32; 34:27-28)" and is a time of repentance leading up to the High Holidays of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. (see Judaism101, OU.Org, or Chabbad.Org for more Elul)

The "Jewels" website has the last two years worth of essays. Reading through it's clear that it's a mixed bag of personalities and perspectives. I'm not sure they constitute the best of Jewish wisdom and didn't find many of them that moving, but a couple of them really grabbed me. My favorite was the essay for Elul 28, 5765 (2005) titled "Godsong" by Ellen Dreskin, cantor and director of programs for Synagogue 3000.

"Midrash tells us that our name, Yisrael, when vocalized differently, can become "Yashir Eil" - "God will sing." We are God's song in this world. Full of potential for harmony - tension, joy, sorrow, anger, comfort, pain, and majesty - God sings through each of us. Elul is the time to focus and question: what Godsong will be heard through my life in the coming year?

Chasidic wisdom likens each of us to a shofar. Were it not for the breath of God blowing through me, I would make no sound at all. Elul is the time to tune up, sharpen our skills, and be a song that is worthy of being heard.

The shofar is narrow at the beginning and wide at the end. May we remember to begin with ourselves, and then open our hearts and our ears and our eyes to understand that we too can be bigger - we can be wider - and our smallest actions can make a huge difference in the world.

"Yashir Eil." Be the song; make it good. Awaken others - with your voice and your gifts and your actions - to sing out also, and give honor to the Composer of it all."

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Jews In Cuba

I don't know much about the history of Jews (and Jewish music) in Cuba outside of Irving Fields 'Bagels and Bongos' and Roberto J. Rodriquez recordings. I ran across this lovingly made video this afternoon. It's a slide show of mostly pre-Castro Cuban Jewish life with a soundtrack from The Barry Sisters 'Hannah from Havanah' and Cesaria Evora's 'Besame Mucho."


For additional information you can check out any of these websites:


Balkan Beat Box

I know I've mentioned Balkan Beat Box before. The BBB guys are a crazy hip-hop horn band party machines from New York and Israel. There are a bunch of BBB videos on YouTube. Mostly concert footage. And this video, which is part concert recording and part band interview.

Balkan Beat Box Live@Gebäude9 Cologne

I like listening to bands talk about their musical vision. There is supposed to be a longer version at http://www.eyelense.com/, but I haven't checked yet.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Acappella for the Three Weeks

Back in May I wrote about the period of mourning (Sefira Part 1, Sefira Part 2)that corresponds with the Counting of the Omer and its traditional restrictions on instrumental music. We're now in the Three Weeks, starting July 3 and ending on July 24, the second major period of mourning in the Jewish year. It memorializes the destruction of the 2nd Temple and the beginning of the Diaspora and, by extension, symbolizes our longing for the time of the moshiach when the temple will be rebuilt and the Diaspora will end. In the traditional Jewish community, the Three Weeks has restrictions on instrumental music similar to those associated with the Counting of the Omer and has developed a similar tradition of acappella music.

In my Sefira posts I mention a number of Jewish acappella albums and link to some YouTube vidoes of acappella performances. Here are two more. The first is 8th Day, one of my favorite orthodox/chassid pop groups. The second is from Hassidic rapper Y-Love and beat-box artist Yuri Lane.

8th Day - Ayeh Mekom - Chabad Telethon

Y-Love & Yuri Lane Purim Beat Box Freestyle for Sefira

You can also listen to acappella group SIX13 recorded on the JM in the AM show, pickup lots of Jewish Sefira-friendly acappella albums at JewishJukebox.com, and check out these sites for more information on the Three Weeks:

1. Chabad.org "The Three Weeks and Tish Ba'Av"

2. OU.org "A Chronology of Destruction: The Three Weeks"

3. Aish.com "Tish B'av and the Three Weeks"

4. YU Torah Online "Rabbi Hartstein- Music, Shaving & Haircuts in The Three Weeks" (A recorded shuir, or lesson)

5. VBM Torah Studies "The Three Weeks and the Nine Days"

(Hat tip to The Jewish Music Review for the 8th Day video and the JM in the AM link)

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Sephardic Music Roundup

I met a nice fellow last week who's wife has a Sephardic background. I promised him I'd send him a list of good Sephardic music resources. I'm not an expert, but will list the best stuff I've found. If anyone wants to add to my list, please leave me a comment. I'd appreciate it.

For the purpose of this roundup, I'm including both European, North African, and Middle Eastern music and emphasizing contemporary recordings.

I'll start with Sephardic liturgical music.

1. Renanot Institute for Jewish Music (in Israel). My Post. "The Renanot Institute deals with the documentation, research and promotion of Jewish music of the various ethnic Jewish communities, as well as with the promotion of religious Jewish singing and cantorial music in every possible way." Has articles, some online music clips, and has recordings for sale.

2. Sephardic Pizmonim Project. My Post. "Founded in September 2002, [the Project] is dedicated to the preservation of the liturgical traditions of the Sephardic Middle Eastern Jewish community." Has articles, LOTS of online recordings, and has recordings for sale.

3. An Invitation to Piyut. My Post. "The piyut purifies and refines key components of Hebrew culture into a totality: language, music, mysticism, history, legend, philosophy, and prayer, as well as personal, family, and national stories and emotions. The signing of piyut makes it possible to experience this totality in its deepest sense....We aim to gather in one place a meaningful selection of piyutim from all Jewish cultures in a manner recognizing the varied styles and influences existing in the Jewish tradition, turning the website into an “international home” for piyut." Has articles, LOTS of lyrics, LOTS of online recordings, and an online piyut radio station.

Sephardic Popular Music

Ok. So there are way too many great Sephardic popular recordings to list here (see Judith Cohen's bibliography below for more). But here are some starting points that I like.

1. Flory Jagoda. My Post. Jagoda is a Sephardic folksinger originally from Bosnia who performs traditional Sephardic songs passed down through her family as well as her own compositions. She has become a sort of grande dame of Sephardic Music in the US, recording a series of albums, authoring a songbook and receiving a Heritage Fellowship.

2. Pharoh's Daughter. "Blending a psychedelic sensibility and a pan-Mediterranean sensuality, Basya Schechter leads her band, Pharaoh's Daughter, through swirling Hasidic chants, Mizrachi and Sephardi folk-rock, and spiritual stylings filtered through percussion, flute, strings and electronica. Her sound has been cultivated by her Hasidic music background and a series of trips to the Middle East, Africa, Israel, Egypt, Central Africa, Turkey, Kurdistan and Greece." Pharoh's Daughter is wonderful and in heavy rotation. The Pharoh's Daughter website.

3. Divahn. "Anyone who thinks Jewish music equals klezmer needs to hear Divahn's Middle Eastern and Sephardic grooves Divahn infuses traditional songs with sophisticated harmonies and arrangements using tabla, cello, rabel, doumbek, violin and other acoustic instruments, plus vocals in Hebrew, Judeo-Spanish, Persian, Arabic, Aramaic and Turkish." The Divahn website.

4. The Sara Aroeste Band. My Post. "Most influenced by the music and language of her Spanish roots, Aroeste grounds her music in Ladino, or castillian Spanish, the language originated by Spanish Jews after their expulsion from Spain in 1492. American born, Aroeste has decided to revive this rich body of music by combining it with more contemporary musical influences." Their website and myspace page.

5. The Songs of Sepharad. "The Sons of Sepharad unites three world-renowned singers of Sephardic Music - Aaron Bensoussan, Gerard Edery and Alberto Mizrahi - in a thrilling musical consort that takes audiences on a voyage of discovery. Exploring songs in Ladino, Greek, Turkish, Arabic, Hebrew and other languages passed down from the Golden Age of Spain, these brilliant artists embrace the rich musical trove of the Sephardim as a living legacy, plumbing its antique treasures as they contribute to its continuing evolution by composing new songs in the genre." Their website.

6. Ofra Haza. "A popular Israeli singer, actress and international recording artist. Of Yemenite Jewish ancestry, Haza was born the youngest of nine children in the poor Tel Aviv neighborhood of Hatikvah. She became an instant local and then national success story, the subject of great pride for many Israelis of Yemenite origin." A good Wikipedia entry, recordings at Harmony Ridge, the Ofra Haza Video Collection, and YouTube videos. My favorite album is "Homeland Songs." (As I understand it, Yemenite and Iraqi Jews don't really consider themselves Sephardic, but Haza is worth putting on just about any list. So she's included.)

7. Sephardic Tinge. Anthony Coleman's piano jazz combo takes on Sephardic rhythms and melodies with quirky elegance. I love all of his albums, but Morenica is my favorite. His recordings are available through Tzadik Radical Jewish Culture.

8.Balkan Beat Box. "Blending electronic music with hard-edged folk music from the Balkans, North Africa, and the Middle East, the exciting and internationally acclaimed
collective Balkan Beat Box is out to prove that all the world is indeed a stage -- and that we are all gypsies." Their website and JDub Records.

9. Zohar - Keter. An amazing collaboration between American jazz pianist Uri Caine and Sephardic cantor Aaron Bensoussan. This was one of the albums that inspired my love affair with Jewish music and showed me it's possibilities. Its out of print but you can find it on ArtistDirect and through Half.Com.

10. Tanja Solnik 'From Generation to Generation: A Legacy of Lullabies' Traditional Jewish lullabies sung in Ladino, Yiddish and Hebrew. "This beautiful collection of haunting Jewish lullabies celebrates a unique musical heritage. Tanja Solnik has a beautiful voice... Appealing to all ages and backgrounds" While not strictly a Sephardic recording, it's loaded with classic Sephardic lulabies including Numi Numi, two versions of Durme, and Durme Mi Angelico. There's also a sequel "Lullabies and Love Songs."


1. The Sephardic Music Festival. "The New York Sephardic Music Festival (NY-SMF) seeks to increase interest in and awareness of the Sephardic culture, including Mizrahi, Yemenite and Ladino traditions, highlighting the diversity that exists within the Sephardic branch of Jewish culture and history. The latest Sephardic musical talents in the U. S. will be showcased, working to reinvigorate the thriving Sephardic culture that exists and is waiting to be re-discovered. Our goal is to give people the opportunity to learn and enjoy this rich, sensual tradition that has the power to make hips shake and souls soar." Annually in December.


1. Hatikvah Music. One of the mainstays of Jewish music, with more a wide variety of Sephardic recordings.

2. Harmony Ridge Music."With the explosion of World music in the last few years, has come an increasing interest in the roots of Sephardic music. The artists listed ... represent an intense investigation and creative interpretation of ancient and spiritual music."

3. Tzadik Radical Jewish Culture. "There is a life of tradition that does not merely consist of conservative preservation, the constant continuation of the spiritual and cultural possessions of a community" Tzadik is my favorite label. It continually puts out fabulous and original Jewish music, with a leaning toward jazz.

4. Smithsonian Global Sound. The Smithsonian's music label, which includes the historic Smithsonian Folkways recordings. Lots of classic field recordings from all over the world including Gloria Levy's 1959 recording "Sephardic Folk Songs" and lots of other Sephardic recordings.

5. Emusic.com. Emusic is my favorite online vendor. It's subscription based and has lots of great stuff including most of the artists listed above.

And finally, general info on Sephardic Music

1. Judith R. Cohen's "A Short Bibliography of Sephardic Music" on KlezmerShack. "Here are some short reviews which I've basically adapted from: my "Sonography of Judeo-Spanish Song, Jewish Folklore and Ethnology Review" from my update notes, and from my brief reviews in "the Rough Guide to World Music", and the Journal of American Folklore." Includes documentaries as wells as musical recordings.

2. Judith Cohen's "Sephardic Song" on the World Zionist Organization site. "Sephardic music is really a complex of musics. Depending on how one interprets the term "Sephardic," it might refer to music of the Jews descended from those exiled from late 15th-century Spain and Portugal, or it may refer to the music of all Jews not categorized as Ashkenazic, even though such a large proportion of them would more accurately be designated "Mizrakhi" -or "Eastern," "Oriental."

3. Catherine Madsen's "In Search of Sephardic Music" on KlezmerShack. "The story of this music is a complicated mix of tradition and innovation, folk transmission and commercial adaptation, and shifting cultural and aesthetic expectations."

4. Foundation for the Advancement of Sephardic Studies and Culture. "For nearly 40 years the Foundation has been dedicated to preserving and promoting the complex and centuries-old culture of the Sephardic communities of Turkey, Greece, the Balkans, Europe and the U.S. Emigration, and the devastation of the Holocaust, have combined to weaken historic communities which had resisted assimilation, where Ladino, the Sephardic language, was used continuously and unique cultural traditions were practiced." Not so much about music in particular, but lots of other great info about Sephardic history and culture.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Boaz Mauda video from Kochav Nolad (A Star Is Born)

Eva Broman pointed the Jewish Music mailing list to this cool video of Boaz Mauda performing on the Israeli TV Show Kochav Nolad (A Star is Born). I haven't followed Kokhav Nolad much. My impression has been that the performances are pretty much bland pop like American Idol. But, according to Broman, Mauda is a "Yemenite singer performing a song that has also been sung by Zohar Argov and Ofra Haza." While I find the arrangement a little flat (as I usually do for the American Idol type performances), Mauda sure can sing.

boaz mauda kochav nola 5 בועז מעודה כוכב נולד 5

The song that he's singing is Yad Anuga. According to the online sources I've found (including singer Esther Ofarim's website) Yad Anuga is a Zalman Shneur poem written in 1906 that migrated to Israel, was set to music (possibly twice) and became a standard pioneer song. Unfortunately, Hebrew Songs, my best source of English translations of Hebrew lyrics, seems to be down at the moment so I don't know what the song's about. That always bugs me, but what can you do. There are lots of recordings of Yad Anuga available from Ofarim, Ofra Haza, Amy Glicklich, and others.

Here's a Ofra Haza recording from the Fantasy Video Collection.

Ofra Haza - Yad Anuga

(Is it only me, but when the mirage fellow comes over the hill on horse back in full costume, didn't you want it to be Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran?)

Yay! HebrewSongs is back online. Here's a link to their translation and notes on Yad Anuga.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

More on Oybaby

OyBabyA couple of weeks ago I posted about OyBaby2, "an exciting concept in children's Judaica ... that combine[s] stimulating imagery with beautiful and fun Hebrew songs to create a rich Jewish experience for children six months and up." While both of my girls loved Baby Einstein videos, I was a bit skeptical that they would go for OyBaby. I figured they were too old (now age 2 1/2 and 4 1/2) for this sort of thing. Wow, was I wrong. The little wigglers have been running around the house for the last two weeks singing "Henei Ma Tov" and "David Melech Yisrael." Not only that, I've had some wonderful discussions with my older girl about who King David was, what a prophet is, what "Tumbalalika" and "Dayenu" mean and and what "Maoz Tzur" is all about. And she initiated each of these conversations. Papa's so proud! The little one's not so aware of the lyrics yet. She just adores the puppets and has to run and find me when "Zum Gali Gali" comes on because, you know, it's "Papa's favorite."

So how did this happen? After I posted the Oybaby2 trailer video, Rob Wolf, the creator of Oybaby, sent me the CD's and DVD's for OyBaby and OyBaby2 so I could check them out. Thanks Rob. I really appreciate it. My kids are hooked, we've got the both the DVDs and CD's in heavy rotation. And so is my Dad, who was out visiting this weekend. I need to by the CD's for him. And I need to buy the DVDs for a friend who has little ones about the age of mine. And for my brother and sister and law who have a little one on the way. Sigh.

If you've got little ones you should check out OyBaby. The production values are great. The arrangements and the musicianship is lovely, and surprisingly sophisticated in spots. The content, focusing on the expected Jewish set pieces (lots of Shabbat and Hannukah candles), is presented well. There is a nice alternation between the Baby Einstein style "look, a shiny toy, let's stare at it, let's keep staring at it" visuals for the littlest ones and puppet shows and other visual narratives for the (slightly) older kids. There are a couple of clunkers, but all in all the Oybabies are a real treat.

And if you act now....

Seriously, Rob said that Teruah Jewish Music readers can "use coupon code "apples" for a 20% discount at our website"

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Jericho's Echo - Punk in Israel

Listening to The Shondes last week reminded me of a documentary about Punk music in Israel that I had meant to post. The documentary, called Jericho's Echo, has been screen around the world to pretty rave reviews. I haven't seen it yet though the DVD is on my wish list. Watching the trailer was trip. Despite the two decades since I hung out in punk clubs and the different country and social context, I felt right at home watching the documentary trailer. I knew those kids. And it was fascinating seeing both how they are responding to a chaotic, conflict focused, political system (I came of age at the end of the Cold War under Reagan) and how chaotic they are themselves. That's Punk for you. It's always been a microcosm of political society. Back in my day, there were racist skinheads and nationalist skinheads (not the same at all). There were punks full of 'live fast die young' nihilism and straightedge punks who wanted to better themselves. That's just for starters, it got way more complicated than that at times. But it's all there in the Israel scene. The nationalist-skinhead looking Israeli punk in the trailer spouting the same old "if they don't want to live here, than just leave" rhetoric brought back memories, and not altogether pleasant ones, of the arguments we used to get into.

Jericho's Echo Trailer

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Renanot - the Institute for Jewish Music

So, once again I looked for one thing and found another. I was looking for more about the Reform music scene. I found Transcontinental Music, a division of the Union for Reform Judaism. It has a nice listing of Reform oriented titles. I added it to my 'sources' list for further inventorying later.

I also found Renanot, 'The Institute for Jewish Music,' in Israel, which is not at all affiliated with the Reform Judaism. Renanot focuses on studying and preserving the musical traditions of the distinct ethnic Jewish groups throught the diaspora including Askenaiz, Morroco, Afganistan, Indian, Sephardic Jerusalem, Yemen, and. They hold teaching seminars, trains cantors and publish books and music (mostly on cassette tapes. Yikes!). A lot of the material appears to be liturgical music, including Torah and haftorah melodies, the mincha and mariv service, and something called 'samai'. There are also Shabbat zemirot and 'Romances in Ladino.'

While the thought of buying cassette tapes gives me the shudders, they do have some very enticing sound clips. I'll have to think about it.

Eliane Hoffman Watts wins NEA Heritage Fellowship

From the NEA Heritiage Fellowship Awards website:

"In 1982 the National Endowment for the Arts established the NEA National Heritage Awards as a way of honoring American folk artists for their contributions to our national cultural mosaic. Modelled after the Japanese "National Living Treasures" concept, the idea began with Bess Lomax Hawes, then director of the Folk Arts Program. Since its inception, over 300 artists have received the Heritage Award"

NEA's Bio for Watts :
"Elaine Hoffman Watts' family came to the United States from a town near Odessa in the former Soviet Union. Her father, Jacob Hoffman, was a prominent member of a klezmer band that was recorded in the 1920s. Elaine received training from her father and uncles in the family's repertoire of polkas, freilachs, mazurkas, shers, and other tunes of Eastern European Jewish musical tradition. She became the first woman graduate in percussion from the Curtis Institute of Music. With many opportunities before her, Watts chose to maintain the three-generation family tradition of playing klezmer music at weddings, bar mitzvahs, and other social events. She points out that being a woman and a drummer often was a barrier in her career but as one klezmer scholar observes, "Elaine is an important role-model to young players who otherwise would have no clue that women were indeed a part of traditional Yiddish music. Because those of us who study traditional Yiddish culture have no homeland in Europe to which we can return, we rely heavily on the 78-rpm recordings that were made during the early years of the 20th century. The vast majority of musicians on those recordings were men, and Elaine's presence is critical in redressing this imbalance."
The NEA bio page has a few music samples. Great stuff. You can also pick up her album 'I remember Klezmer, the Art of Klezmer Drumming' at CDBaby.

hat/tip to the Shamash.Org Jewish Music Mailing List

Monday, July 2, 2007

Klezmer and metal bands mashup

My pal Keith at 'Metal Jew' just posted about this decidedly strange video. Go read his comments about it and then watch the video. Definitely one of the odder melanges I've seen lately.

Klezmer and metal bands mashup in More Music @ The Moore

Music, Setting, and Grass Clippings

It's about 6:00 AM and I just got in from hauling 20 or so bags of grass clippings from our shed to the curb. This involved rebagging about half of them because the bio-degradable brown paper bags were a bit over-enthusiastic. Sigh. Anyway, nothing like some mindless yard work to get my mind wandering.

What I was mulling was a section of the Hava Nashira (see yesterday's post) 'Guide to Songleaders'
First and foremost, the songleader is to fulfill this title precisely. Songleaders at [OSRUI] function in order to facilitate the musical preparation of the community. Anything less or more than that is an abrogation of the role. Therefore, a first conclusion is that the songleader never functions as a performer during sessions. Some good clues as to how you are being perceived are whether or not your [campers] are singing with you or just watching you. Secondly, regular applause is typically due of a performer, not an effective songleader.

I'm sure there is proper musical terminology for 'the place or context where a peice of music is expected to be performed' but I don't know what it is (yes, I'll look it up. It's 6:00am, bear with me). For the moment, call it the 'expected setting.' So, to the degree that the musician's associated with Hava Nashira consider themselves 'songleaders,' you (by you I mean 'I', you probably know this already) have to listen to them as though they were songleaders. That means you can't listen to a recording of one of them as if it was a popular record meant to be listened away from a sing-along crowd.

This is clearly a message I was being given by Beth Schafer's fans when I panned her record. A number of them described how meaningful the album was and the place where they sang along to it. And I fessed up that I had never sung along and only listened in isolation. I didn't realize, though, how big an issue that probably is. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not about to revise my review of the Schafer album. But it does give me some insight into it and some of the other Reform Jewish / 'Contemporary Jewish Music' performers to whom I've been lukewarm.

I'm familiar with this distinction about 'expected setting' from the klezmer community. There is frequent discussion about how klezmer, originally a simcha (party, wedding) music that was played live and danced to, is now as often played in concert halls to a seated, clapping, audience. The performers seem to be divided about whether that matters or not. Some performers suggest that the performances lose some of their vitality because of their disconnection from the dancing, others seem more comfortable with it.

The Orthodox / Chassidic music scence is also a simcha scence, but seems (by the posters and video's I've seen) to have a lot of sit down and clap concerts too. Liturgical music, including cantorial and niggunim recordings, are pretty linked to shul and home in the context of religious practice.

I'm not going to try to map out this whole space right now. I've got to go shower and get these stinky clippings of me and wake everyone else up. But I've got to think about this more.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Hava Nashira & Hot Shabbat - Reform / 'Contemporary Jewish Music' resources

Logo for the Hava Nashira WorkshopWhen I started writing this blog I was very self-concious about how little I, a Conservative Jew, knew about the Chassidic and Orthodox music scenes. But at least I know I didn't know much. I've been totally blind-sided by how little I know about Reform community's 'Contemporary Jewish Music' scene. I'm probably not even getting the terms right yet. Anyway, I'm starting to find some useful resources that are helping me get my head around it.

Hava Nashira is one such resource. The HN website serves as 'A Resource for Jewish Songleaders, Songwriters, Performers, Music Educators and all those involved in the transmission of Jewish heritage, religion and culture through music and is affiliated with the Reform community's Olin-Sang-Ruby Union Institute. The website has a variety of offerings including lists of useful recordings and songbooks, musician resources, song leader guides, a mailing list, and information about the annual workshop. This year's workshop was just last month. Here's the workshop description:

Every year since 1992, in early June, people with a common interest in songleading, teaching and leading Jewish music gather on the grounds of Olin-Sang-Ruby Union Institute Camp in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin for the Hava Nashira Songleading and Music Workshop. At this unique event, some of the finest Jewish music innovators and composers, including Debbie Friedman, Cantor Jeff Klepper, & Rabbi Dan Freelander, Craig Taubman, Julie Silver, Rabbi Joe Black, Cantor Josee Wolff, Cantor Ellen Dreskin, Merri Lovinger Arian, Cantor Jordan Franzel, Rabbi Lisa Zur, Dan Nichols, Cantor Rosalie Will Boxt, Peter & Ellen Allard, and Danny Maseng have shared their music and their skills. Participants of all ages, backgrounds, and religious practice come to improve their own skills, network with others and share ideas in a supportive, nurturing atmosphere.
The folks listed as participants are more or less the same set of folks I associate with the 'Contemporary Jewish Music' scene which confirms my assessment that CJM is a Reform community phenomena. Like I said, I think I'm finally getting my head around this. I'm going to subscribe to their mailing list. Hopefully that will help me get a better feel of what that community is thinking about and where they're going. I'm also hoping it will help me find recordings/performers I can relate to. After listening to a bunch of recordings I'm finally starting to find some Chassidic and Orthodox musicians that I like. I hope to the same in the Reform / CJM community.

There are two resources associated with Hava Nashira that should help me with that. First, the 'Hot Shabbat' website has a long list of liturgical and folk recordings, many with full track or sample downloads (often Real Media files). Second, the Hava Nashira site's 'Useful Recordings' page has a long list liturgical, folk, and popular recordings and links to the artists websites. Skimming the list I saw a number of names that I've mentioned in prior posts including Beth Schafer, Rich Retch, Judy Caplan Ginsburgh, Craig Taubman and Debbie Friedman as well as a lot of others. I think I'll be spending a bunch of time on these lists.

Jamming Outside - from the Hava Nashira Photo Gallery
Jamming Outside - from the Hava Nashira photo gallery