Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Mommy and Me: Dahlia Topolosky's "Kol Nearim / Voice of Children"

Dahlia Topolosky's Kol Nearim / Voice of childrenWhoosh. There's a big wind coming.

I got a nice email today from Dahlia Topolosky about her new album "Kol Nearim / Voice of Children". I haven't heard the whole album yet, but the song clips on CDBaby are definitely worth checking out. Nice voice. Nice guitar. And Topolosky has a unique approach and context for this album...

Waddle waddle like a penguin clapping your feathers

"Dahlia was greatly inspired by the music and teachings of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, who used his soul music to teach, inspire, and bring all people together. In college and after, Dahlia started to perform for women and have concerts/sing-alongs where she would share jewish mystical teachings and sing many melodies of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, as well as other Jewish soul music. ..

Dahlia also started the first Jewish mommy and me music and movement class, Kol Nearim/Voice of Children, in Riverdale, NY, together with her friend Jenny Sassoon (who plays percussions on the album!). All the lyrics on this album, Kol Nearim/Voice of Children, were originally written by Dahlia for her music class."
Stretch your hands high, your hands high, your hands...

It's a pity my littlest one is asleep already, I'd love to grab her and dance around to the "Waddle Like a Penguin." She used to be sure that she was a giraffe. She'd love doing penguin waddle. Dahlia said that she'd send me a copy of the disc. If she does, I'll do a more thought out review, but until then I'll have to content myself with the track samples.

Los Angles Klezmer Wedding Bands

One of my brothers is getting married in the spring in LA (Yay!). We're all quite thrilled. He and his fiancée are thinking about booking a klezmer band and they gave me ring the other night hoping I might help the find the right folks. I sure hope I can, because my wife and I had the most amazing klezmer wedding band in the world (The Wholesale Klezmer Band) for our wedding and they absolutely made the night. (Unfortunately, the WKB is based in New England, which is pretty darn far from LA)

One of things that makes looking for a klezmer wedding band tricky is that not all klezmer bands want to or know how to play weddings. And by this I don't mean that the good klezmer band doesn't know how to show up, play a set at the reception and then scram. For me there are two big questions (other than can they play), can they lead dancing and do they understand / can they participate in the traditional Jewish ceremony. These are both big deals. If you grew up in the Conservative movement like I did, it's pretty likely that the closest thing to Jewish dancing most of your family has done was watch Fiddler on the Roof ten years ago. Having someone show basic dance steps helps folks stop thinking about their feet and just enjoy the dancing. Being able to show more than one dance (or throw in a showy little bottle dance) helps keep things interesting and everyone engaged.

Understanding the wedding process is important too. There are a lot of wonderful Jewish wedding traditions that get overlooked at most liberal Jewish weddings but are easy and rewarding to include and demand musical accompaniment / leadership. This includes the Khosns Tish, Groom's Party, and Kale Bazetsn, Seating of the Bride, as well as including a Badkhones, Wedding Jester, to amuse the bride, saterize the groom and generally cause trouble/joy. (See the Wholesale Klezmer Band's 'Guide To Jewish Weddings' for more info).

For me, finding out if the band can lead the dancing and can support the traditional Jewish wedding process is much more important than finding out whether they can slip a few swing tunes into the mix. That's what makes looking for a band hard. Most bands websites don't say whether they really want and can handle weddings. So it takes time to feel them out.

Here's the list of LA area bands I came up with for my brother and his fiancée, in more or less my priority order based on their websites (not factoring in $$, which I don't have yet). I'll be helping him vet the bands and will probably keep everyone posted on how it goes. If anyone knows a good klezmer wedding band that would play in the LA area that I didn't list, please let me know.

Ventura Klezmer BandVentura Klezmer Band: http://www.venturaklezmerband.com/ - Sounds excellent, does weddings, dance leading - yes, traditional ceremony - don't know. Lots of testimonials on the web page. A great sign.

Hollywood Kelzmer Band - http://www.hollywoodklezmer.com/ Sounds excellent, does weddings, don't know about dance leading or traditional ceremony

Klezmer Juice - http://www.klezmerjuice.com/ Sounds excellent, but don't know if they do weddings (extra points for being the wedding band in the movie "Wedding Crashers" UPDATE: Gustavo Bulgach from Klezmer Juice wants everyone to know that they definitely play weddings. 'we DO weddings... actually, WE did produce an play @ the Jewish wedding scene for the movie WEDDING CRASHERS... need more credentials?" Nope. Sounds great to me.

Extreme Klezmer - http://www.extremeklezmer.com/home.html - Sounds excellent, but don't know if they do weddings

Golden State Klezmer - http://www.goldenstateklezmers.com - Sounds excellent, but don't know if they do weddings

Dave Winstone - http://davewinstone.com/Klezmer.htm Does weddings, but isn't as klezmer focused as I'd like and doesn't provide sound samples on the website.

Ellis Island Band - http://www.ellisislandband.com/ No sound samples, don't know if they do weddings)

The Klezmer Boys - http://www.myspace.com/KlezmerBoys They'll do weddings, but the sound samples are pretty mediocre. (That's just my impression / taste. To me they sound like a classic cheesy wedding band, which I don't like. But that might be exactly what someone else is looking for. So they're on the list)

UPDATE: Keith and DrumSteve from the South Coast Simcha Band want everyone to know that they play weddings in the LA area and "perform a lively brand of East Coast style of Yiddish and Klezmer music ...with Jazz, Swing, Classic Rock, and Pop tunes for all of your guests to enjoy" Sorry for missing you, guys. My goof. You should add the term "Los Angeles" to your web page and make it easy for us 'googlers' to find you.

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Jewish FunkeyMonkeys

This was a tough weekend. My wife and I and the wigglers had to fly east for a funeral. The kids did great, better than us adults did. My older girl understood what was going on enough to keep trying to explain it to the younger one. It was an open casket Episcopalian funeral (there's a big Christian contingent on one branch of the family) which made for some interesting explanations...

The little one "How come she's lying down?"
The older one "Because she got old and died."
The little one "Oh"
...5 minutes later
The little one "How come she's still lying down?"

The one nice thing was seeing a bunch of the near and extend family. At the post-funeral reception I introduced myself to a nice fellow I hadn't talked to yet. It turns out he's a) Jewish and b) a musician who is working on a kids music project (though not a Jewish project). We hit it off and had a great chat.

The Jewish FunkeyMonkeysWhile he's not doing a Jewish music project, one of his friends is. The Jewish FunkeyMonkey's is the brainchild of Joshua Sitron, composer of the Dora The Explorer music (which is much loved by my kids). According to Sitron,
"The original inspiration for Jewish FunkeyMonkeys came in 2000, before the live band even existed. While recording music for Dora the Explorer with Boots the Monkey (the then 8-year old, Harrison Chad), the two started spontaneously jamming on a funny and funky version of 'Ma Nish Tanah: the Passover Four Questions song' in the recording booth (while waiting in between takes of Dora dialogue: 'bridge, gate, big red hill'.)

I haven't heard the full album yet, but the CDBaby sound clips are interesting. In particular, I liked the clips for "Shavlom Rav" and "Oseh Shalom." The other clips seem a little over-produced and a bit forced, but I'd like to try them out on the wigglers and see what they think. They might dig it. Check 'em out on CDBaby or the FunkeyMonkeys website and let me know what you think.Funkey Monkeys Banner

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Jewish Emo?

So, 'emo' music has always baffled me a bit. Musically, it's an offshoot of American hardcore punk, but lyrically has more in common with British "Alternative" bands of the late 80's. Thing that I find funny about it, and this is just me getting old I guess, is how redundant the combo is. Hard driving music about crying in your beer. Boys wearing mascara and writing poetry. Right, we've been here before. Repeatedly. But that doesn't mean that it isn't fun the second (or tenth) time around.

While I don't write about it, I listen to a lot of non-Jewish music and heard a fun emo track this afternoon, Fall Out Boy's "Thnks fr th Mmrs." It got me to ask the obvious (for me) question...is there Jewish emo?

The answer, it seems, is not so much. And the question was anticipated and tackled a few months ago by Arye Dworken of Heeb Magazine. I'll admit that I'm not a huge fan of Heeb. I find the writing to be an exercise in hip irony with little substance. My one year subscription lapsed without much sadness. The music writing in particular was pretty poor stuff. A lot of 'lets get some random person (someones aunt or rabbi) to write about contemporary music that they have no context for and then giggle about it'.

Anyway, Dworken's blog is much more interesting. And his two long posts on emo and Judaism are a good read. Here's an excerpt...
"...The most admirable aspect of emo is the encouragement of true, unrepentant expression. Emo asks that you hide nothing and express everything. Every girl that broke your heart—well, write a song about her. All the pain you’re feeling inside—share it with us so we can say, right on. I so know what you mean, man. But if there’s one self-perpetuating stereotype (out of many) that the Jews want to escape, it’s their propensity to complain. ... Now, stereotypically, being emo is too close to being Jewish and this is one reason why there are very few Jews in emo. ...Emo focuses so hard on the pain and the effects of bad things that it rarely seeks out a solution. The genre is so un-Jewish because it’s so unambitious.
Dworken goes on to list a few Jewish musicians in emo bands, including Joe Trohman of Fall Out Boy. None of these musicians, or the groups they belong to, publicly connect their music to Judaism, but the new Rockaway Park group "The Return" does. While they're not in the league of Fall Out boy yet, they're off to a good start. You can check them out at their Myspace page.

So it seems that while emo hasn't been a particularly popular genre for Jewish musicians, it hasn't been completely ignored either. If you want to get a slightly tongue-in-cheek view on what Jewish emo might look like, check out Mordechai Shinefield's "Jewish Emo Band" performance at Mima'amakim's "Telos and Tahlis" from May 2005.

I had a little more time today and went and actually read the Wikipedia article on emo and think I have a better handle on it. The article lays out three phases of emo, each of which steps further away from the punk scene. The first scene, though, has a number of bands that I'm pretty familiar with, including Fugazi and Dag Nasty (but not, 7 Seconds, which surprises me). It also cites the post-punk band Husker Du, one of my fav's, as a big influence. Huh. Shows you what happens when you blink. I missed all this. I wasn't listening to this kind of music much as the second and third phases's evolved. It also appears that most emo bands don't even like the term emo and don't get it either. Makes me feel a bit better ;)

For one last, tongue in cheek, look at emo check out the video "What is emo?" at YouTube.

Ok, Mordy Shinefield emailed me this morning about the Jewish emo musician Max Bemis and his band Say Anything. His song "Alive with the Glory of Love" is fabulous and definitely Jewish themed. Check out my post about the song and watch the video.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Wiggles + Shalom Aleichem = Pope John Paul II?

This is one of the oddest things I've ever seen.

I turned the TV on this morning so that my 3 year old could watch a few minutes of TV while she munched on her cereal. (This is probably a terrible habit, but oh well). Today's show of choice..The Wiggles. And what are the technicolor quartet doing? Singing 'Shalom Aleichem,' on a beach with their dancers dressed in something vaguely resembling Israeli peasant costumes (actually looking more Greek than Israeli). So, I ran to the computer to see if someone had clipped it and and posted it to YouTube.

No such luck, but I found this instead. A tribute to Catholic Pope John Paul II, using the Wiggles recording as background music. This is just wrong on so many levels.

Giovanni Paolo II

The video was posted by "neoagostino" from the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology who, I'm sure, was being totally earnest when picking the music. It's still weird.

Carlebach Yahrzeit commemorated by Jewish Broadcast and the Carlebach Shul

Banner for JewishBroadcast.com's Carlebach show
Sunday, October 28th will be the 10th Yahrzeit of Reb. Shlomo Carlebach and JewishBrodcast.Com and the Carlebach Shul will, independently, be commemorating the life of the "Singing Rabbi."

Carlebach was an much loved Orthodox Rabbi who was heavily influenced by Chassidic traditions and used music as a core part of a dedicated outreach program. He was a gifted musician and song writer and his compositions are still very popular, having been recorded and covered many times and have been incorporated in the liturgy of many shuls (including the Carlebach Shul, see below). Carlebach's recordings are still readily available through your favorite music store or online shop JewishJukebox.com, MostlyMusic.com and Hatikvah Music, for example, all have lots of titles in stock. Wikipedia lists his full discography. If you aren't familiar with his music, check out this YouTube video. It's pretty representative

Ruach Weekend 1992 Part 2 Shlomo Carlebach & Dovid Zeller

JewishBroadcast.com will be spend the day streaming audio of Carlebach songs and stories. (Note: JB requires a free login. Also, I've had trouble using JB with my Firefox browser, but it works fine with Windows Explorer)

The Carlebach Shul will be hosting a Yahrzeit commemoration weekend (Oct 26 to 28, 2007). The weekend will include a Tribute Concert on Saturday night featuring Heshy Broyde, Shloime Dachs, Yehuda Green,Eitan Katz, Eli Kranzler, The Nochi Krohn Band, SoulFarm, and Yisroel Williger. Carlebach's daughter Neshema Carlebach will perform on Sunday. If you're in the New York City area, they'd love to see you.

One last note, the Carlebach's estate has posted a set of his Divrei (words of) Torah at The Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach Foundation website. Great reading and good to remember that Carlebach was a rebbe first and musician second.

Hat Tip to the Jewish Music Review for the Jewish Broadcast banner add

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Podcasts and audio collected by the Jewish Webcasting Guide

I'm pretty proud of my 'Podcasts and Internet Audio' link list. But I've just met my match. The Jewish Webcasting Guide has a dozens I've never heard of and can't wait to check out. I'm pretty shameless and plan on pilfering a bunch of links. Here are a couple that I'm particularly excited to check out...

This is a delightfully creative music station that is produced daily by Yosi & Tzvia in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania. They welcome mix tapes, station ids, demos, audio tapes, etc. and will incorporate them into their shows.

Online Reggae Radio Station - Live365 Internet Radio - Israel
Playing the very best Israeli reggae music, Israeli dancehall music, Jewish reggae music, and reggae music with linkage to Israel, made by Israelis and international reggae artists, producers and bands, enjoy!

Traditional Jewish music. This station is broadcast over live365, an Internet multi- channel webcasting service.

Jews and Blues: Inside Out
A radio program from WBUR in Boston, an NPR station. The program originally aired in the summer of 2001. Researched and narrated by Michael Goldfarb, it shows how Jewish and African-American music merged in America. The entire documentary can be heard on WBUR's website.

Moroccan Tunes

Jewish melodies and tunes from Fez, Tangier, and Casablanca.

Play It Again, Maurice
A few years ago in Marseilles, a DJ put out a techno dance track that sampled the piano playing and singing of an older musician born and raised in Algeria. The track became an underground hit. In 2003, FRONTLINE/World sent a reporter on a journey to this cosmopolitan city to meet the man at the source of this compelling old-meets-new sound.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A Great Day on Eldridge Street

At 10am on a sunny day in August 1953, 57 famous jazz musicians stood on 126th Street in Harlem for an iconic group photo called "A Great Day in Harlem." 50 years (and a month or two) later, over 100 klezmer musicians from all over the world paid homage to that photo, to the spirit of Jewish New York, to each other, and to the Eldridge Street Synagogue, the "first great house of worship built on the Lower East Side by Eastern European Jews."

100 Klezmer musicians in front of the Eldridge Street Synagogue
I missed the announcements for the event but heard about the photo shoot from Brian Bender. He had gone down to NYC for the event with Wholesale Klezmer Band-mates Joe and Peggy Kurland. WKB played at my wedding 7 years ago. They're wonderful musicians and wonderful people. Brian just released the fun and eclectic Little Shop of Horas, which I'll be posting about soon.

Since hearing about it from Brian, I've seen numerous stories about it. Nextbook podcasted it. So did The Forward. Time Out New York wrote about it. The Forward did too. Dumneazu was there and blogged about it (first post, second post, third post.) So did Richard Silverstien (Tikun Olam) and Ellen Kushner. There's also a great set of photo's on Flickr posted by Susanne Schwimmer.

So this post is clearly a "me too" sort of thing. I wasn't there and don't have anything to add other than noting that Klezmer has come along way over the last 30 years.

Monday, October 22, 2007

George Robinson Jewish Week Articles

As much as I have fun with this blog, I'm well aware that I'm bluffing. I'm an amateur writer and music fan. But it's worth it because there aren't that many pro's working the Jewish music beat. George Robinson is one of my favorites. He's a frequent, and knowledgeable, voice on the Jewish Music mailing list and writes about Jewish music for the New York Jewish Week. I happened to swing by Jewish Week to see if any new articles had been posted and found a stack of them.

A couple of the links didn't work for me, but hopefully they will for you.
If you enjoy these, KlezmerShack has an archive of older Robinson articles.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Yood - Classic Rock from Israel

"Classic rock" usually makes me want to claw my ears off. I'm aware of all the great musicians and culture defining albums that built up the classic rock sound, but even though I grew up in the middle of it, it rarely worked for me. Bands like Led Zeppelin, Clapton, Van Halen, ZZ Top have a preening machoness that I find grating. (Ok, so I dug the 'smart' bands like Blue Oyster Cult, Queen, and RUSH but those were big exceptions).

I'm only bringing this up so that when I say, "I found this Israeli band, Yood, and they make me want to claw my ears off," you'll understand that it says more about me than about them. No complaints about their musicianship. They've got a fat sound, with solid riffs and tight rhythm section. The vocals aren't inspiring but get the job done. And, they make me want to claw my ears off.

So check them out and tell me what you think. You can find out more about them through their webpage or Myspace page. You can also check out their album (available through CDBaby.) Here's how they describe themselves...
YOOD, the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet, is the new name for great, big sound. Three guys originally from North America, for the last decade playing backup to the giants on the Israeli scene, take virtuosity to new levels on their debut album, Passin’over, which has the kind of soulful, soaring guitar riffs you feel before you hear. Drawing inspiration from Hendrix, Cream and Dylan, this professionally trained classic rock trio performs original music and lyrics along with classic covers

The Sway Machinery: Hidden Melodies Revealed: The Akeidah

I know I've posted about Sway Machinery before (see below), but I'm a big fan and can't resist. Here's another video from their recent live "Hidden Melodies Revealed" show. The video, filmed by uploaded (and filmed?) by Tatiana McCabe, highlights their Akeidah puppet show which was directed by Shawn Atkins with puppetry designed by Paul Andrejco.

The Sway Machinery: Hidden Melodies Revealed: The Akeidah

Related posts: Hidden Melodies Revealed: The Sway Machine, Sway Machinery Demo EP Available

Friday, October 19, 2007

German Goldenshteyn and Bessarabian Klezmer

German Goldenshteyn: Bessarabian KlezmerI was catching up on the Jewish music mailing list yesterday and ran across a term I didn't recognize: Bessarabian Klezmer. The cool kids in the room already know all about it, but for the benefit of the rest of us I hit Google and here's what I found....

First of all, Bessarabia is "is a historical term for the geographic entity in Eastern Europe bounded by the Dniester River on the East and the Prut River on the West," and is now referred to as Moldovia. Like most of Eastern Europe, pogroms, the Holocaust, and emigration significantly reduced the Bessarabian Jewish population.

One significant emigree was German Goldenshteyn (A"h, 6/9/2006), who "arrived with nearly a thousand klezmer tunes (many previously unknown) that he had transcribed over the years." This legacy, now published in the three volume series "German Goldenshteyn: 'Shpilt Klezmorimlach, Klingen zoln di Gesalach,'" forms the basis for the Bessarabian Klezmer repertoire in the US. Goldenshteyn has one available album, published posthumously and available through CDBaby. Klezmershack has a wonderful 1999 interview.

Bessarabian Klezmer, itself, is a border music strongly associated with Balkan and Roma (gypsy) music, and you hear that influence clearly in the quick rhythm and horn bass line in Goldenshteyn's "Medley of Moldavian ... (MySpace clip)". While I couldn't find any video of Goldenshteyn, there is no shortage of musicians who play in the Bessarabian style. Here are a couple examples:

The first is Alicia Svigals, Iliya Magalnyk and Marilyn Lerner playing at The Stone, New York, April 27, 2007. (Recorded by Misha.)

Bessarabian Medley (Klezmer)

The second is the Lansdorp String Trio. I was amazed to see the "violin with a horn (trumpet- violin or Stroh Viol."
"It's an early 20th century invention of John Matthias Augustus Stroh. These violins were made between 1904-42, and during the era of the Bessarabian klezmorim (the 1920's and 30's) widely used by dance band leaders. In modern folk music they may still be found in the Rumanian Bihor district."
I can't embed this one, so go see the Lansdorp String Trio video on YouTube. They also have a recording, "Bessarabian Groove" available through CDBaby.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Musique Klezmer par Nomadeus

There is something delightfully stagey and off-kilter about this performance by the French ensemble Nomadeus. Normally when klezmer revs up I hear swirling and dancing (no kidding, right?), but in Bazaar Yiddish I hear ... the pounding of a fist on a door, feet running and then horses? There is a narrative of some kind unfolding here and it's a joy to get lost in.

bazaar yiddish

Nomadeus has an album, Tzigish Land, available through Amazon.fr , a website and a bunch more videos.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Alexander Vaisman: drawings and paintings

When looking for one thing I found another. This time I found the artist Alexander Vaisman. Vaisman, born in 1967 in Chernovtsy, draws and paints "illuminate the experience of being Jewish under the different and often very difficult circumstances." There's a lot of life in these images. Check them out on his web site.

This drawing is titled "Tum balalaika, shpil balalaika" I wonder if he'd let me use it on a T-shirt?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Kavaret / Poogy

So, I remember an early post where I commented that I was interested in learning and writing about Jewish music, and that I wasn't interested in Israeli bands unless they were self-consciously Jewish. Forget it. Every time I turn around I find another cool Israeli band. I'm going to stop feeling guilty about it and just go with it.

Today's Israeli band is Kavaret, alternately known as Poogy. I got turned on to Kavaret by Ari, who commented on my recent Crembo post. According to Ari,
"My first memory of "crembo" mentions in Israeli pop would be from "Ani zokher ota me-ha-makolet" (I remember her from the grocery store) from the first Poogy album. Talk about fun nostalgia. I need a crembo now."

I had never heard of Poogy, so I decided to check them out. According to their Wikipedia page, Kavaret played in the 1970's and was immensely popular in Israel and toured around the world. After they broke up, their vocalist Gidi Gov went on to be pop star in his own right.

Kaveret - Poogy 1973 - Yo ya

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Aharon Razel's Crembo Song

I was catching up episodes of the Sameach Music Podcast at work on Friday. In episode 36 there were a couple of stand out tracks and I'll try to recognize each one with posts this week.

The first one that caught my attention is the joyful "Crembo" by Aharon Razel from his recent album "Connected To You". According to Sameach hosts Dov Katz and Sruly Myer (who are a hoot) Crembos (Krembos) are Israeli cream filled chocolate balls that were originally invented to give ice cream factories something to do in the winter. (Check out this first timers experience with Crembo).

The song is a yummy confection too. Check it out.

Aharon Razel - Crembo

Friday, October 12, 2007

Caspian Hat Dance: Masters of the Face-guitar and Smack-smack-drum

Caspian Hat DanceHey Keith...Here's a return volley.

Yesterday you turned me on to Den Flygande Bokrullen. Another foot stomping band I've been wanting to hoist pints in honor of is the Caspian Hat Dance. You can here lots of sample tracks at their Myspace Page, YouTube & their home page. In particular, check out the fine "Russian Hora" on MySpace page. According to their website, the Caspians play "original and traditional gypsy music, klezmer music, misbehaved drunken village wedding music, southern italian pizzica, and pretty songs sung in Roma on Bolivian mountaintops." Yeah. that.
Caspian Hat Dance - Russian Sher [2007.2.3 utrecht]

So, as I've demonstrated many times, I love bands self-indulgent self-descriptions. They do absolutely nothing to convey what a band sounds like, but speak volumes about how a band thinks about their music and what they want us to associate with their music. The Caspians have one of the best I've seen lately (this is swiped from their Myspace page)..

You arrive just as the sun is setting and the landscape is getting dark. You wonder briefly how you ended up at a remote village wedding in Rumainia but can't seem to remember. Half the guests are crying, half are laughing, most are drinking and every last one is dancing. The bride is delirious, the moon is gently relentless and the tambourines are spinning you around and around. The musicians play for hours on end, stopping occasionally only to suck on a bleeding finger. At first it looks like chaos. On closer inspection, it's irresponsibly happy, carefully painful music. On closer inspection yet, it's really just chaos. You are vaguely aware of someone's legs getting tired, and it doesn't seem to matter any more that your memories are sad. Just before you pass out under a tree, you hear yourself mutter a phrase you never heard before: 'Caspian Hat Dance' ..."

That's poetry that is. Where's my bottle of Gentleman Jack?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Den flygande bokrullen

Keith W. of the Klezmer Podcast just posted about a great klezmer band from Sweden called "Den flygande bokrullen." At his recommendation I checked them out and am equally enamored. These guys are great. A whomping good time klezmer bar / party band. I'm particularly fond of their track 'Smurf vs. Godzilla' (check it out on their MySpace page). It's total goof. The track in the video below, posted to YouTube by Pettskronk, is more straight up klezmer. It makes wish I was out a bar with my wife, hoisting a pint or three of a good porter, stomping in time, and playing air-clarinet.

Den Flygande Bokrullen

Excerpts from Daniel Cainer's Jewish Chronicles

"From Daniel Cainer's Jewish Chronicles - a show of songs and stories about Jewish identity"

Excerpts from Jewish Chronicles

You can learn more about Daniel Cainer and subscribe to his podcast at his website.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Zohar: World Fusion Beat Scientists

Erran Baron CohenAbout two years ago I stumbled onto one of the bands that, for my ears, would define my musical interests for years to come. That band is the Argentinian-born, Paris based, Gotan Project. (In fact, you can say my current favorite area of music is a triangle defined by Gotan Project, the New York band Firewater, and the SF combo Davka.) Gotan Project isn't a Jewish project, but it's fine music. The combo made the observation that their beloved Argentinian Tango, with it's slow lush romanticism, would blend perfectly with the emerging electronica style called 'downtempo.' And they were powerfully right. The electronica context lets them deconstruct and reassemble Tango, widening it's compositional space while remaining true to it's defining musical motifs and ornamentations.

Ever since I was exposed to the Gotan Project, I've been convinced that someone should take on a similar project with Jewish music. I felt that the minor key edginess of Klezmer could be unwound and played out against a broader background and that the open desert keening of Misrachi (Middle Eastern / "Oriental") could be heightened by placing it into a contemporary context. Now, I'm clearly not the guy to try making the music, but Erran Baron Cohen might is. Cohen, and his combo, draw well-researched and precise influences from a range of Jewish, Arab, and Mediterranean sources. Their two albums, "one.three.seven" and "Do You Have Any Faith?" are pretty amazing explorations and are in currently in pretty heavy rotation. Check them out in this YouTube video posted by "thecrimesyndicate":

Zohar - Live

You can find out more about Zohar at their website, MySpace page, and this Spinner article by Steve Hochman.

Unlike, Gotan Project, which has pretty much defined and mastered a genre, I feel that Zohar has uncovered a rich area of exploration. There's so much more that can be done here.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Mailbag: new reviews, albums, events, and record collections

Like I said last month, I'm borrowing the 'mailbag' idea from Blog in Dm. I'm just not getting to some of these emails fast enough.

Klezmer Podcast
Keith's added a review of "Budowitz Live" to his MySpace Blog

Aryeh Kunstler
"We are currently mastering Aryeh Kunstler's debut album as we speak and it should be out within the month. " Kunstler plays some snappy classic rock and alt-rock influenced frum-rock a la 8th Day and Blue Fringe. Check out previews at his MySpace page and his bio and tour dates at his band website.

Little Shop of Horas

Original and traditional Jewish melodies blended with Latin, Caribbean,
African and Middle Eastern rhythms. With special guests:
Frank London (Klezmatics, Hasidic New Wave), Alicia Svigals (Klezmatics, Mikveh), Stuart Brotman (Brave Old World), Charles Neville (The Neville Brothers), Jose Gonzalez (Bando Criollo), Raquy Danziger (Raquy and the Cavemen)

You can hear sound samples at http://www.littleshopofhoras.com/musicstore.htm

JCom Radio

I got an email recently from Steve Newton of JCom Radio looking for "any help to build up a library of Jewish music will be much appreciated, we can take most formats, but audio CDs and digital files would be our preferred format." According to his website JCom based in England and "will soon be launching a whole new era for Jewish community broadcasting - on radio, online and on demand!" If you're a band or a promoter and are interested in sending review/broadcast copies of your work to JCom you can contact Steve at steve.newton@jcomradio.net

Judaica Sound Archives

JSA proudly announces the addition of four new online music collections.
  • The four albums in the Children’s Village collection highlight holiday songs.
  • Fran Avni acquaints children with their Jewish heritage through song and play in this collection of 14 albums. Sung in English and Hebrew her music educates and entertains youngsters of all ages.
  • One of the first to record a comedy album in Yiddish, Benny Bell is sure to make you laugh. Many of the songs on these 18 albums were never commercially released and are part of his personal collection of material.
  • You can hear the beautiful voice of Cantor Benjamin Maissner in this collection of 19 albums which includes holiday music as well as synagogue favorites.
Museum of Jewish Heritage
  • Idan Raichel Songs for Peace: The Acoustic Series. October 8, 9, 10
    7 P.M. Featuring Idan Raichel, with Colombian singer/songwriter Marta Gómez, New African Jazz and Soul artist Somi, Ethiopian-Israeli singer Cabra Casay, and percussion master Itamar Doari. Join Israeli artist Idan Raichel for his very first series of intimate acoustic concerts in New York.
  • Vladimir Feltsman Virtuoso Pianist: Music from Poland and Russia. Wednesday, October 17 at 7 P.M. Since his arrival in the U.S. from the Soviet Union in 1987, world-class pianist Vladimir Feltsman has graced every major concert hall in the country, including notable performances at Carnegie Hall and the White House. He will perform music from Poland's keyboard master, Chopin, and one of Russia's most dramatic piano pieces: Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition.
  • Also, Catskills on Film, Jewish Resistance Reconsidered, and The Dreyfus Affair: A Democratic Legacy

Monday, October 8, 2007

Sophie Milman - Jazz Canadian Russian Israeli

Sophie Milman in Jewish MagazineMy wife and I had National Public Radio on for background noise this weekend (though, why, with two kids, we think we need background noise I'll never know) when an interview with jazz singer Sophie Milman came on. Milman is an interviewer's dream. She's got the requisite amazing history (born in Russia, moved to Israel and then Canada, a (not quite) debut album, and a big buzz working for her. And she has that kind of deep warm buttery toast voice that had earlier generations of jazz fans falling in love with Sarah Vaughan, Rosemary Clooney, and Dinah Washington. My wife was blissing out to her singing in general, but snapped out of her reverie long enough to grab me away from the sink when Milman launched into a jazz arrangement of the Israeli Jewish standard Eli, Eli.

Eli, Eli was poem written by the poet Hannah Senesh in 1942 in Israel, before she volunteer to parachute into Yugoslovia to help Jews escape. She was executed by the Germans in Hungary in 1944. Eli Eli, with music by David Zehavi, is a powerhouse of a song and has become a classic Shabbat z'mirot.

"O Lord, my God, I pray that these things shall never end.
The sand and the sea,
the rush of the waters,
the crash of the heavens,
the prayer of man."

Milman's take on Eli, Eli may miss a bit of the fervor I've heard in other arrangements, but the slow measured pace picks up a wonderful sense of longing that more than makes up for it.

You can listen to Milman's recording of Eli, Eli at her myspace page and read more about her at her home page. Here album, "Make Someone Happy" is available through Amazon or your favorite music store. And check out this George Robinson Jewish Week article and interview with her.

"In Canada, I’m Jewish first, Israeli second. When people start on the Jews, that’s when I get very Jewish. Obviously I’m Israeli whenever I turn on the news. I’m Canadian when I’m in the United States. I am a collection of all these things..."

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Chassidic Klezmer Sukkot Parade

One of the best things about internet video is the opportunity for voyeurism education. I can't tell you how much I've learned about traditional Jewish life by following Orthodox and Chassidic blogs and watching their videos. For someone like myself who leans (in spirit at least) toward the Orthodox side of Conservative, it's pretty illuminating. Take Sukkot for example. I don't do Sukkot well. I know what a sukkah is, but have never had one of my own. I arranged for a lulav and etrog, but accidentally arranged a business trip through most of Sukkot and never picked them up and used them. And this year was the year I was going to do this right. Pretty lame. Hopefully I'll do better next year.

Anyway, watching videos like this one both remind me of the inadequacy of my ritual observance skills and encourages me to try harder next year. Here in my Christian farm town, I'll never see a Sukkot parade like this one. But on the internet, it's right around the corner.

Big Klezmer Jerusalem Sukot Parade with dances

This video was posted to YouTube by Yehuda Schnaps. I haven't had time to track down much about the video other that what Yehuda wrote:

"Big Klezmer band of Avraham Burstein with Hilik Frank in a great unique special klezmer music parade with origional Chasidc dancers(Avraham Kirshnboim and more...) and PHD Yehuda Schansps. Walking and playing from "Yemin Moshe" to the old city ,David tomb at Sukot 2007"

I did find an album by Burstein called "Rikudim Klezmer - Jewish Soul Music with Clarinet" available through the Judaica Web Store.
(by the way, if anyone wants a list of my favorite traditional Jewish blogs just email me or drop me a note in the comments area. I'd be happy to make some recommendations.)

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Jewish Cowboys Part 3: So Called's "You Are Never Alone"

"And frankly, there's nothing so unusual about being a Jewish Cowboy..."

Ok, so as far as I know, So Called (aka Josh Dolgin) a Montreal-based Jewish hip hop musician, has never roped a bull. But, in the song "You Are Never Alone" off of his latest album, Ghettoblaster, he draws on images of Jewish cowboys to great effect. In a manner that reminds me a lot of Mare Winningham's "Refuge Rock Sublime" (see my review), So Called uses images of cinema cowboys to connect to the emptiness of the open range to a more sublime heaven. Check it out.

"ride with the tumbleweed rolling free
at night I look to the stars that's when I heard a voice call to me
... you are never alone"

So Called - You Are Never Alone

(Related posts: Mare Winningham's "Refuge Rock Sublime", Jewish Cowboys Part 1: Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys &
Jewish Cowboys Part 2: Scott Gerber)

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Hava Nagila Around the World

Don't ask me why, but I was bored for a few minutes and punched 'Hava Nagila' into YouTube. I figured I'd get a laugh at all of the odd versions out there and I wasn't disappointed. Here are two noteworthy versions...

Rootwater - Hava Nagila

Indian Hava Nagila

Feinsmith Quartet: Modern Jewish Music

Another genre of Jewish music that I've had a hard time tracking is Jewish classical / art music. Despite there being a long tradition of Jewish composers and performers, I've had a hard time getting oriented to the scene. Part of it is not knowing the proper terminology, part of it is just not knowing which websites track the scene. But I think I'm getting there, and hope to showcase lots more as the days go by...

Here's a great example. The Feinsmith Quartet is "... modern music at its most melodious -- full of tension but with thrilling rhythm" (Kaija Pepper, The Dance Current) The quartet will be playing in San Francisco this weekend at the SF Jewish Community Center. You can get more information on the quartet and the show at their website and their myspace page. They have an album coming out any day now. Hopefully I'll get to announce it in my next Recent and Upcoming Albums list.

Feinsmith Quartet: NAME from Feinsmith's ELOHIM

More Shofar Madness

Sid Yiddish is back in action. I wrote about Sid's experimental shofar music video ("Suite For Furby On Shofar In D Minor)" back in July. While the Furby video was pretty unwatchable (bad audio recording + bad lighting = headache) it was pretty engaging conceptually. Sid just sent me an update, called "Beano". I enjoyed the effect that Sid was going for, the drone guitar vs. sharp shofar contrast, but wish the audio recording was better. The recording
doesn't pickup the individual guitars well and they come off a bit mulchy.
"This was one of the better and more funnier highlights from an August 1st Sid Yiddish (on shofar) performance at The Mutiny, an ugly, nasty dive bar in the Bucktown neighboorhood of Chicago. Sid Yiddish was backed by his performance art band $2 Cockroach, consisting of members Lew Brickhate (electric guitar) & Rat Niptik (bowed electric bass)."


If you happen to be in the Chicago area this weekend, Sid will be performing a 20-minute version of "Suite For Furby On Shofar In D Minor" at MusicCircus2007. The performance will be at Sunday, Oct 7, at 2:55 pm at the Chicago Cultural Center, see the MusicCircus website for more details. You can also check out Sid's myspace page.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

What they're listening to in Israel

I've had a nice exchange about Israeli music in the comments section of my Boaz Muada post. One of commentators, Eva Broman, just provided a great list of some of her favorite Israeli singers. Take it away, Eva...

Here is, with some delay, a few Israeli artists that I enjoy. Most of them come from a Sephardi/Mizrahi background, but their music ranges from Israeli pop/rock to more ethnic sounds.

Boaz Sharabi-a Yemenite pop/rock and ethnic singer with many wonderful songs. Here is a classic one, performed together with David Broza:

Boaz Sharabi & David Broza - Latet

Avner Gadassi, a Yemenite singer who made his debut in the 70's:

Boaz Mauda won "Kochav Nolad" with a version of his song "Menagen veshar".

Margalit Tzanani...the old school "malka" of Israeli female Mizrahi singers. She has got a unique, bluesy sound. Here she sings her big hit "Az ma"


Check out her "Chomot cheimar", again performed by Boaz Mauda.

"Hamelech" Zohar Argov in a classic performance. With "Haperach Begani" he won the Oriental Song Festival in 1982:

And his heir to the throne, Eyal Golan singing a somewhat "rockified" version of this song:

Thanks Eva. These are some great voices here. I particularly like Sharibi & Broza performance.

Ok. I'll admit it I totally goofed this post up. When I first got the comment that became this post, it was from "anonymous" and I thought it was from Liz of "My So-called Israeli Life", whom I'm also chatting with about Israeli music. Liz is an American-born Israeli living and blogging about a year of service in the Israeli military. Hence the "What they're listening to in Israel" title for the post. But then I caught Eva's signoff, realized I'd been a dunce and fixed everything. Everything, that is but the title. I have no idea where Eva lives but am very appreciative of the time she spent finding videos of her favorite Israeli singers. The title should have been something like "What Eva's listening to." So, sorry for the confusion and thanks again Eva.