Friday, November 30, 2007

Joshua Nelson & Kosher Gospel

Shabbat Shalom, everyone.

I love it when my preconceptions and biases get blown away. Check this out. Joshua Nelson grows up in an African American synagogue. I didn't even know there were African American synagogues. He draws on the history of African American gospel music to compose his own versions of Jewish liturgical music and has played at Jewish events all over the world. This is wild, beautiful stuff.

I really wanted to post Nelson (and his Kosher Gospel band's) version of Adon Olam, but I'm not allowed to. You can go hear it at YouTube. Go check out Nelson's web site for a lot more information.

Kosher Gospel 1 (L'cha Dodi)

The thing about Nelson's music that is really making me think about Jewish music is that I get really grumpy when I hear Christian groups (particularly Messianic Jewish / Christian groups) using Jewish music for their own purposes. I'm primarily annoyed because I consider that appropriation to be either a) for the purpose of evangelism, can be Christian and still do Jewish stuff, or b) because somehow incorporating Jewish motifs makes Christians feel more authentic. If you want to be Christian, be Christian, but leave the Jewish stuff to Jews. (BIG EXCEPTION: A non-Jew of any type that plays or listens to Jewish music because they like the music is just fine, it's the religious uses that bug me).

Anyway, this kind of turns it around. What should I make of a Jewish musician appropriating a classic American Christian music into Jewish religions practice. Not that this hasn't happened before, mind you. It's still something that feels odd and makes me feel a bit like a hypocrite. Oh well, lots to think about.

Hat tip to ScotBloke for posting the video.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Yehuda Poliker

My friend Liz from the "My So-Called Israeli Life" blog pointed me to Yehuda Poliker, an Israeli singer-songwriter of Greek-Jewish decent. He's put out half a dozen or so albums and numerous collaborations. Great stuff. The track I'm particularly taken with is called "Sipur Zmanim Avaru" of his "Live at Caesaria" album. The video below, a collaboration with Israeli singer Arik Einstein is the title song from the Greek film "To Rembetiko" by Kostas Ferris.

Arik Einstein & Yehuda Poliker - Rebetiko (Shir hashayara )
Yehuda Poliker

This comment from the ShmorgelBorgel on the YouTube message board provides a bit more information about the video
"Yehuda Poliker,the bezouki player on this song,is an Israeli of Greek-Jewish heritage (his parents immigrated to Israel from Salonika after being deported to Poland & surviving the death camps).The Heb.lyrics of the song were by Eli Mohar, I believe, a great Israeli songwriter-it's a patriotic song about Jews coming to Israel-but one can't help wondering if it's a bit tongue in cheek too,a homage to the propaganda type songs of an earlier generation."

Thanks to Liz for pointing me to Poliker, Athens70 for posting the video, and ShmorgelBorgel for the comments.

The Shondes play T.C.'s Speakeasy

It's 1 am. I just got home. My ears are ringing. I have get up in 4 1/2 hours. And I'm grinning ear to ear. What a night.

My favorite Brooklynites, The Shondes, hit the North Coast tonight and I got to see them. They were fabulous. They hit the stage ducking, weaving, and slamming the audience like a boxer going for a first round knockout, each song full of dynamic changes, tempo changes, mood changes but held together by a fierce lyricism and a strong voice.

And that violin. Who knew that it was an essential punk instrument waiting to be discovered? One minute it provided a lush swirling bridge between rapid-fire guitar phrases, the next it sawed away in unison with the bass and drums to provide a create a wall of sound.

whew. I guess I liked it. I haven't spouted this much purple prose in while. But the Shondes deserve it. Their tour is heading west, so check their dates and go see them. Tell 'em I sent you.

Here are a couple grainy camera phone pictures I snapped.

One of the best parts of the evening was getting a chance to meet and talk to the members of the band. I'd emailed back and forth with them a couple of times, but this was my first face to face meeting. What a nice group of folks. I had a great chat / interview with Temim. We talked Israeli politics (she wants the Palestinian people to have more say over their own future and wants the American Jewish community to engage in real discussions over what policies we should encourage Israel to follow), Jewish music (she thinks the 'Jewish Hipster' scene opened up a lot of space for bands like the Shondes to find a following) and being a Jewish band (she thinks the bands Jewish identity is very important but doesn't want to be pigeon-holed. The Shondes songs and interests are broadly political, deeply personal, and equally pre-occupied with Jewish and queer issues.) (I'm a terrible note taker. Temim, if I goofed this up, please email and correct me.)

Oh and one last thing. I have their new album, the Red Sea, and you don't;) But you can fix that on January 8th when it's officially released. Keep checking their website for details.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

New Jewda Maccabi Video

Jewda Maccabi, a Chassid rapper from Miami, got a lot of buzz a year or two ago over his "Iron Like a Lion", a hip-hop remake of Bob Marley's "Iron, Lion, Zion." It's been over a year since we've heard from Jewda, a year where he made aliyah and has been working on his album and his new video. Here it is...

Jewda - Israelites - Jewish Music Video Jew Da Maccabi Rap

By the way, I exchanged some email with Jewda and he said his album will have 13 tracks and be out soon.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Eight Nights, Eight Lights: the lastest from Billy Ray Sheet

Thanksgiving is done and it's time to pull out the menorah and start prepping for Channukah. I'm hoping to have a number off the Channukah music posts. To kick them off, here's Billy Ray Sheet's brand new "Eight Nights, Eight Lights."

If you liked this one, I've posted two other Billy Ray Sheet videos: "Fun in my Sukkah, with Elvis" and Manischewitzville.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving & Jewish Music

One of the fun things about writing this blog is that I get emails from all sorts of interesting people. I had an great exchange recently with a music teacher who was looking for ideas for a Thanksgiving program for a Jewish day school. It was a great question. Every year there are active discussions about how or whether American Jews should participate in Thanksgiving celebrations. (See Life of Rubin's recent post for an example of this ambivalence). Personally, I just hosted a big Thanksgiving dinner that started with a heartfelt 'Shehecheyanu' that a large portion of my family, including a contingent of Christians, was sitting around my table.

Back to the far as I'm aware (and my awareness is notoriously limited) there isn't any specific Jewish customs or music for Thanksgiving. I came up with two possible ideas for the day school program; Sukkot and Israeli kibbutz music.

Sukkot seems an appropriate connection for two reasons. First it's a Jewish harvest festival and has songs that are thematically similar to Thanksgiving, and second, I've read at least one historian who connects the Pilgrims conception/motivation for Thanksgiving with the verses in the Torah that enjoin the Hebrews to celebrate Sukkot. (You can read more about this at One Sukkot song that might be used is Vesamachta Bechagecha, a Biblical text that commands our rejoicing during the Sukkot festival (see this link for the Hebrew words, English translation an mdi and mp3 recordings -

The other idea is Israeli pioneer / kibbutznik songs. There are a number with harvest, or at least pioneer spirit, themes. There's a famous, and very kid friendly one called Zum Gali Gali. You can read the lyrics here: and hear a midi file here: and get a score here: and a see youth choir sing it here: There's a wonderful recording of it on the first OyBaby album, too. (

I meant to post this two months ago, but forgot. It's too late to help out my correspondent with her Thanksgiving program (which I hope went well) but I'd be interested to hear what other folks think. What do you all think?

Recent and Upcoming Albums - Nov 2007 - Part II

As soon as I posted yesterday's "Recent and Upcoming Albums", I realized I missed a couple. I had accidentally made two different lists. Sigh.

This list is compiled from announcements on a variety of Jewish Music mailing lists, blogs, online retailer catalogs, and emails from the artists. Thanks to all of them. If I've missed your recording, sorry. Please drop me an email and I'll make sure it gets in the next list. For more 2007 album releases see the September, June part 1, June part 2, and April lists.

Brian Bender & Little Shop of Horas releases "Eyn Velt", available through Bender's website.

CD Jacket for 'Eyn Velt'
"Original and traditional Jewish melodies blended with Latin, Caribbean, African and Middle Eastern rhythms. With special guests: Alicia Svigals (The Klezmatics, Mikveh) on fiddle, Frank London (The Klezmatics, Hasidic New Wave) on trumpet, Stuart Brotman (Brave Old World) on bass, Charles Neville (The Neville Brothers) on saxophone, Jose Gonzalez (Bando Criollo) on guitar and cuatro, Grant Smith (Klezmer Conservatory Band) on drums, and others."

The Lithuanian Empire releases "The Lithuanian Empire", available through CD Baby.

CD Jacket for 'The Lithuanian Empire'
"In the heart of creating a spiritual fusion of sound, The Lithuanians have combined forces to put fresh spins on tunes while still maintaining their traditional klezmer mother tongue: pickled herring, bagels & lox, and kugel meet Led Zeppelin, margaritas, and Nils Landgren to make beautiful harmonies on the streets of Harlem--make that Vilnius. What began as a casual jam session at a KlezKanada in the summer of 2005, The Lithuanian Empire has evolved into a contagiously energetic and innovative band....What all members share is a deep love of klezmer, and the creativity and drive to take this traditional music in new directions."

Craig 'N Co. Music Club releases "From Jerusalem-Beyond Words".

CD Jacket for 'From Jerusalem - Beyond Words'
"The Craig 'N Co. Music Club is very proud to present the poetry of David Eller set to the music of some of Israel's most beautiful voices on the CD 'From Jerusalem-Beyond Words'. David was an Israeli soldier, killed in the course of duty in 1969, whose many writings were discovered after his death. Includes pieces performed by Noa Shemer and Zohar Sharon. Click Here to Sample 'Life' (mp3)
by Zohar Sharon

8th Day releases "Brooklyn" available through CD Baby.

CD Jacket for 'Brooklyn'
"New blend of Chassidic rock, blues and klezmer. The latest from the hottest sound in Jewish Music. From the shtetl to modern day "Brooklyn", this is a journey you will not soon forget."
I haven't heard 'Brooklyn' yet, but I'm a big fan of 8th Day's previous album 'Tracht Gut.' These guys are great.

London Girls Choir releases "Pulling Strings" available through Sameach.

CD Jacket for 'Pulling Strings'
"Once again Dena Cohen brings us some beautiful, original compositions, thought- provoking, stirring lyrics, sung with her trademark multi-layered harmonies. The music arrangements are exquisite and the range of style is unbelievably diverse - this is one album you will want to hear over and over again! The long awaited sequel to Silver Lining is finally here! This CD is sung by the renowned London Girls Choir together with Treble Kef. 9 of the 11 songs were written and composed by Dena Cohen with one song taken from Piamenta, and another from Hilel Goldblum. "

Aryeh Kunstler releases "From the Depths" available through Sameach.

CD Jacket for 'From the Depths'
"Aryeh Kunstler is an up and coming name in the Jewish rock scene. Having played alongside bands such as Blue Fringe, Heedoosh, and Piamenta, Aryeh has developed a name for himself for his catchy songs and his abilities on the guitar. Now, with the help of legendary producer Eli Yona, Aryeh has put together a his debut album entitled "From the Depths." And the title is true to the music, as it has come clearly from the depths of his emotions and ispirations. Featuring some guest vocalists such as Dani Kunstler of V'havienu fame and Lenny Soloman from Shlock Rock, and with an array of differently styled and arranged songs ranging from pop to country to hard rock, "From the Depths" looks to bring a refreshing new sound to the alternative Jewish music scene. Jewish Music Review."

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Recent and Upcoming Albums - Nov 2007

This list is compiled from announcements on a variety of Jewish Music mailing lists, blogs, online retailer catalogs, and emails from the artists. Thanks to all of them. If I've missed your recording, sorry. Please drop me an email and I'll make sure it gets in the next list. For more 2007 album releases see the September, June part 1, June part 2, and April lists.

Budowitz releases "Budowitz Live", available through CD Baby.

CD Jacket for 'Budowitz Live'
"Budowitz is the groundbreaking traditional ensemble of klezmer music. Since its founding in 1995, Budowitz has also served as one of Europe’s main training grounds for traditional Jewish music, featuring over 20 musicians in its performances and recordings, including the late Jewish cultural icons, Cili Schwartz and Majer Bogdanski. Their third CD has just been released in collaboration with Swiss National Radio, and their award-winning previous CDs are featured on all of the international compilation CD’s of the best klezmer groups."
Michael Winograd releases "Bessarabian Hop"

CD Jacket for 'Bessarabian Hop'
"Those who know Michael Winograd from his favorite current project, "Infection," or even from his klezmer-jazz band, Khevre may not have noticed that he sounds so good as an innovator because he plays traditional klezmer so well. Now he's put together a CD of new music in traditional styles. Patrick Farrell - accordion, Daniel Blacksberg - trombone, Nick Cudahy - bass (text from Ari at the Klezmershack Blog)"
While I haven't heard Bessarabian Hop, Winograd's band Khevre is pretty fabulous. Khevre released their CD "Oyfn Sheydveg (at the crossroads)" via CDBaby, so if you're interested in Bessarabian Hop you should keep an eye on CDBaby or contact Winograd directly.

Alex Kontorovich releases "Deep Minor" via CD Baby

CD Jacket for 'Deep Minor'

"Alex Kontorovich may be familiar to klezmerphiles from KlezKanada and KlezKamp, he plays frequently with Frank London and is a member of the Klez Dispensers. But the Russian émigré is also an accomplished post-bop reedman. This is uncompromisingly radical stuff, with Brandon Seabrook providing some very Oriental-sounding banjo and Kontorovich moving easily between romantic modal playing, some fractured klezmer, and high-energy shrieking. He's an imaginative, thoughtful improviser and this is a highly intelligent, fiery album." -- George Robinson, Jewish Week

"Deep Minor expands the concept of Radical Jewish Culture into the 21st Century." -- Troy Collins, AllAboutJazz-NY"
The Joel Rubin Ensemble release "Midnight Prayer", available through CD Roots

CD Jacket for 'Midnight Prayer'

"Clarinetist Rubin has long been considered to be one of the leading performers of Jewish instrumental klezmer music in the world today, earning accolades from sources as diverse as klezmer giants Dave Tarras and Max Epstein, international clarinet soloist Richard Stoltzman, avant garde composer John Zorn, and Nobel Prize Laureate and poet Roald Hoffmann. The ensemble also features Hungarian cimbalom virtuoso Kálmán Balogh, Italian accordion wizard Claudio Jacomucci and rising klezmer star violinist David Chernyavsky, as well as Ferenc Kovács (trumpet), Csaba Novák (bass), Sándor Budai (second violin) and Pete Rushefsky (tsimbl).

Midnight Prayer brings together two diverse, yet partially overlapping repertoires: the instrumental music of the klezmorim -- the professional Jewish instrumentalists who graced every traditional Jewish wedding in Eastern Europe from at least the 16th century onwards -- and the mystical nigunim (religious melodies of spiritual elevation) of the hasidic movement. Recorded in four magical days at the Operetta House in Budapest, Hungary, Midnight Prayer creates its own sonic universe, full of depth, virtuosity, playfulness and introspection"
David Buchbinder releases "Odessa/Havana" via Tzadik - Radical Jewish Culture

CD Jacket for 'Odessa/Havana'

"Trumpeter, composer, long-time leader of the Flying Bulgar Klezmer Band and founder of the famed Ashkenaz festival of New Yiddish Culture teams with award winning pianist/composer Hilario Duran to explore the exciting nexus of Cuban/Klezmer fusion. Inspired by the Jewish mambo craze of the 1950’s, the music here moves from Bulgar to Bembé, Sher to Son Montuno, Hora to Habanero. A brilliant blend of two cultures, this is an exciting release by a band that will appeal to fans of latin, jazz and Jewish music alike."
Dan Kaufman releases "Force of Light" via Tzadik - Radical Jewish Culture

CD Jacket for 'Force of Light'

" Dan Kaufman, the mastermind of the popular and eclectic band Barbez tackles Radical Jewish Culture with a brilliant interpretation of the life and work of enigmatic Jewish poet Paul Celan. Born in Romania, Celan chose to write exclusively in German after losing his entire family to the Holocaust. Combining words to create new compounds packed with imagery and meaning in an attempt to almost remake the German language, his poetry is now recognized as some of the greatest writing of the 20th century. Kaufman responds to Celan with a sharp mind and a keen ear for harmony, lyricism and unusual sounds."
La Mar Enfortuna releases "Conviviencia" via Tzadik - Radical Jewish Culture

CD Jacket for 'Conviviencia'

"Featuring the velvety vocals of Jennifer Charles and the imaginative arrangements of Oren Bloedow, the cutting edge downtown band Elysian Fields is an original blend of pop, funk and rock. Their first Tzadik CD, La Mar Enfortuna is a sensuous and lyrical interpretation of traditional Sephardic melodies and is one of the best selling cds in the Tzadik catalog. This is the long awaited follow up and features Oren and Jennifer along with some of the best young players out of the downtown scene"
Hazzan Daniel Halfon releases "Kamti Lehallel (I Rise in Praise) - The Musical Tradition of the Spanish and Portuguese Jewish Communities of Amsterdam, London and New York" via Beth Hatefutsoth (The Nahum Goldmann Museum of the Jewish Diaspora)

CD Jacket for 'Kamti Lehallel'

"The Kamti Lehallel double-CD album introduces the musical tradition of the Spanish and Portuguese Jewish communities of Amsterdam, London and New York. It is accompanied by a 200-page booklet in English and Hebrew, which includes essays on the communities and their music and biographies of the composers and the performers. All prayer and song texts are presented along with translations and detailed explanations. The Hebrew texts were photographed from prayer books dating from the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries."
Tapuach B'dvash And Marina Yakubovich release "From Grey To Blue With Itzik Manger" via CD Baby

CD Jacket for 'From Grey To Blue'

"Israeli folk-group Tapuach b'Dvash (Apple in Honey) was created in 2002.It is comprised of musicians from Ukraine and Russia, that immigreted to Israel in different time: Pavel Levin (violin), Aleksey Egorov (contrabass-balalaika, tuba),Timur Saitov (guitar), Ira Goyfeld (clarinet) , Anatoly Geyko(the music leader, arrangement’s writer, accordion, ethnic wind and percussion instruments). Tapuach b'Dvash presents Jewish music from all parts of the world where Jewish culture has existed and mixes various musical influences. A specialty of the band is authentic sounds and using of interesting ethnic instruments, including kaval, nei, Russian spoons, and darbuka."
Dahlia Topolosky releases Kol Nearim" via CDBaby

CD Jacket for 'Kol Nearim'

"An active and soulful musical experience for children and parents where children learn the traditional Jewish melodies of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach while moving and dancing to their own unique rhythms. 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 sent me the CD and it's a joy. My littlest one likes to dance around to it and I dig the niggun-style guitar playing.

Ensemble Lucidarium releases "La Istoria de Purim: Musique et poésie des Juifs en Italie à la Renaissance" available through

CD Jacket for 'Istoria de Purim'

"Gloria Moretti : chant; Viva Biancaluna Biffi : chant, viola d'arco; Enrico Fink : chant, récitation; Avery Gosfield : flûte à bec, flûte et tambour; Marco Ferrari : flûte à bec, douçaine, chalemie, flûte double; Francis Biggi : viola da mano, viola da penna, cetra, colascione; Elisabetta Benfenati : guitare renaissance; Massimiliano Dragoni : dulcimelo, percussion; Federico Marincola : luth basse, chitarra battente"



"Anat KOLODNY, clarinette; Mi-Kyung KIM, violoncelle; and Ivani VENTURIERI, piano play the music of Max Bruch, Paul Joun, and Joachim Stutschewsky"
Sorry, not sure how to order this one. If you're French is decent, you may find ordering info on their website.

Chaim Dovid, Aaron Razel, and Shlomo Katz releases "K'Shoshana", Available through Sameach Music.

CD Jacket for 'K'Shoshana'

"With the release of his second album, K’Shoshana, MO is proving himself a force to be reckoned with in the Jewish Music industry. I’d plug this album for no other reason than to support a fellow blogger in his attempts to bring integrity and soul back into an industry that seems derailed by shmaltzy/ cheesy/ glitzy/ computer-processed/ homogenized/70’s Cop Show/disco/boy-band blandness.

But it helps that this happens to be a really good album, featuring two of my favorite people in the world, Aron Razel and Shlomo Katz (I’m not dissing Chaim Dovid; I’ve never had the privilege to play with him). Razel’s arrangements of 10 of Reb Shlomo Carlebach’s previously unreleased songs are clean and pleasing to the ears, and although Razel’s usual ingenuity is somewhat subdued to avoid overshadowing Carlebach’s material, it is still eminently present. Also present is the spirit of the late Reb Shlomo, A”H, whose legacy has been passed on to these three great performers." PsychoToddler
Yood releases "Passin' Over", Available through CD Baby.

CD Jacket for 'Passin' Over'

"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."
Yitzy Spinner releases "You and I", Available through Sameach.

CD Jacket for 'You and I'

"His professional singing career began when he became the Miami Boys Choir's youngest member when he was only 8 years old. He was immediately elevated to the status of soloist and remained there until he left the choir 5 years later. In total, he has appeared on over 15 albums in collaborations with other performers. He has performed live in concert with many of Jewish music's most requested artists and has had the privilege of performing all over the United States, Canada, and Israel, as well as in Belgium, Holland, and England."
You can check out a sampler from "You and I" courtesy of the Sameach Music Podcast.

The Red Hot Chachkas releases "Spice It Up", Available through their website.

CD Jacket for 'Spice It Up'

"This is just a fun, traditional American klezmer album to listen to. ...From the ground up with the varied and solid percussion of Michael Arrow and Breck Diebel on bass, the band just shines. Listen to this and realize that the Red Hot Chachkas are burning up the airwaves. Time to listen in." KlezmerShack
The Zamir Chorale of Boston releases "Psalmsensation: a muticultural concert experience", Available through CD Baby.

CD Jacket for 'Psalmsensation'

"Zamir and guest vocalists and instrumentalists have created an unparalleled journey through the sounds and rhythms of the Book of Psalms that captures the spirit and energy of our June 2006 program. Enjoy the diversity of these extraordinary settings from Israel, France, the U.S., Morocco, Syria, Turkey, Italy, and Brazil, and featuring a medley from African-American gospel traditions."
Lucette van den Berg releases "Friling", Available through her website.

CD Jacket for 'Frilling'

"Van den Berg has an extraordinary, warm and expressive voice and she is passionate about Yiddish music. Lucette van den Berg was educated as a singer at Zwolle Conservatory. After she graduated she was taught by Cora Canne Meyer and Kevin Smith. At Weimar, Germany, she took masterclasses in Yiddish song with Adrienne Cooper and Michael Alpert (Brave Old World). It was there that she met the well-known Yiddish author and composer Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman."
Voices of The Bible releases "The Bible Voice", Available through CD Baby.

CD Jacket for 'The Bible Voice'

"14 songs tell biblical stories you know and love, breathing life into their characters through the voices of respected American and Israeli musical artists. Sung in English and Hebrew, these songs celebrate the shared roots of Judaism and Christianity."
Shevet Achim Family Ensemble releases "Jewish Family Ensemble-Neshama Yeteira", Available through CD Baby.

CD Jacket for 'Jewish Family Ensemble-Neshama Yeteira'

"Ancient and timeless, these beloved Sabbath melodies are magnificently presented by the Kohn siblings of Israel on flute, violin, clarinet and piano, creating a spirited and stirring experience; 75 minutes of superbly arranged and performed Jewish music."

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Idan Raichel, Matisyahu & Y-Love Live

Sigh. 1000+ screaming fans at a sold out Jewish hip-hop show. Sounds like I missed quite the party. Idan Raichel backed by DJ Handler played last night and were joined on stage by Matisyahu and Y-Love. Of course that stage was MMFH (many miles from here) in New York, but YouTube to the rescue. The concert was hosted by Shemspeed, DJ Handler's new Jewish Music web site, PR agency, and sister project to Handler's Modular Moods record company.

"Idan Raichel and dj handler are all set to perform at Irving Plaza when Shemspeed's good friends Matisyahu and Y-Love let us know they are coming through. We suggest that all of them do a song together. Everyone is psyched and the second they hit the stage it is like a bomb of excitement went off with the sold out thousand+ crowd! Here is what went down!"
By the way, I should drop a note about the upcoming Sephardic Music Festival. It's in New York during Channukah and will feature "Pshutei Ha'am (ex Shotie Hanevua), Smadar, Ayelet Rose Gottlieb, Hadag Nachash, Y-Love, Soulico, Consuelo Luz, Piamenta and countless others will be performing in venues ranging from BB Kings to Spanish Portugusse Synagaogue and from Joe's Pub to Webster Hall."

Hat Tip to Y-Love who dropped me a note about the concert and video. Thanks!

Piamenta: Rock 'n Roll Rabbis

These things converge. Last Thursday Life of Rubin posted about the upcoming Piamenta album. I had heard of Piamenta, but didn't really have a sense of who they were. Now, I run across this video and get the idea. As I've said before, the classic rock sound isn't my thing, but these guys do it well. You can get more info from their website (including their discography) and their MySpace page.

According to this B'nai Brith Canada article, the 'Rock 'n Roll Rabbi's' documentary was developed by Toronto filmmaker Ilan Saragosti and "follow[s] seven subjects as they negotiate between the somewhat conflicting worlds of Torah and rock ‘n’ roll." I'm not sure if the documentary is complete, but it looks like a cool project.

Rock 'n' Roll Rabbis demo

Monday, November 19, 2007

Coolooloosh is coming

I got an email this weekend from the Israeli funk /hip hop band Cooloolosh, "a Jerusalemite word for celebration and joy,". They'll be hitting the US in early January for a tour and to record their new album. Fun sound. I particularly dig their track "Fight Rebel Sun." Check 'em out.

Coolooloosh Promo Movie

You can see more Coolooloosh videos at YouTube, and read reviews and check their concert schedule on their MySpace page.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

CAJE Idol: Mark Samowitz & L'dor V'dor

I just ran across this video of Mark Samowitz's winning performance of L'Dor V'dor (Generation to Generation) at this year's CAJE conference (Coalition on for the Advancement of Jewish Education 'CAJE Idol" competition. The CAJE conference sounds like it was a interesting event.
(From an early press release)
"Over 1500 participants are anticipated at this yearly gathering, including world-class teachers, authors and personalities. At the event, educators from across America – as well as 75 participants from overseas, who include a group of 25 Israelis – will have the chance to attend master classes and network in an informal setting. This year's convention's theme is Engaging 21st Century Jewish Learners."
According to the press release, One of the topics they talked about was the high cost of Jewish education. "With tuition costs in urban centers topping $20,000 per kid per year, Jewish day school is an option that many Jewish parents simply cannot avail themselves of." I hear that. My wife and I debated (and still debate) about sending our little ones to the local Hebrew Day School. Money isn't the only factor in the decision, but it's one of the big one. We're still paying off our own student loans, taking on the additional debt burden of two little ones in a private school isn't possible.

Anyway, congrats to Mark. Good job.

Mark Samowitz is a Jewish Star

Hat Tip to Shulerrobbin for posting the video and other CAJE Idol videos.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Zeek and Guilt and Pleasure talk Jewish music this month. Sort of.

This month two Jewish magazines, Zeek, and Guilt and Pleasure, both have features on Jewish music. Sort of.

If I understand the Guilt and Pleasure shtick right, they got Jewish writers to write about music. Clever idea, but it didn't work for me. Most of the articles were short, rather pointless, little personal histories or factoids.

Ahem. Almost like a Teruah Jewish Music blog post.

I just expected better from Guilt and Pleasure. I've really enjoyed their previous issues. They put up their articles on line.

Some were more interesting, including:

Zeek magazine, which I don't have a subscription to, has a feature article this month titled "The Sanctuary of Melody" by Eliezer Sobel. Again, I was a bit disappointed. The author was earnest about his subject, but I just wasn't that interested in his physical and spiritual travelogue.

The problem is that I know what I'm looking for and don't find much of it. I'm looking for smart, lively, essays that either teach me something about Jewish music or use the Jewish music as lens to examine something of interest. There's some good stuff out there. Summit's "The Lord's Song in a Strange Land" comes to mind, as do George Robinson's reviews. Not that I would measure up, but there are a couple of longer essay's I'm hoping to write soon. It's easy to be a critic, we'll see if I do any better.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Jewish Ragtime - Rami Bar-Niv plays the Shmateh-Rag

Rami Bar-Niv is an Israeli pianist who either lives or spends a lot of time in upstate New York. I'll have to see if I can catch a performance the next time I'm in the area. I'm a big fan of traditional jazz and this is a nice piece. I'm curious whether it's technically rag-time, though. I remember getting into a long (only partly remembered discussion) with a great trad jazz pianist (and older brother of one of my best college friends) about how Rag Time is a pretty strict genre and that a lot of pieces that sounded rag actually (technically) weren't. There were a couple of passages in Shmateh-Rag that sounded lovely but didn't sound very Rag. And I'm not just referring to the Jewish bits.

Anyway, it's a lovely piece. Check it out.

Rami Bar-Niv: Shmateh-Rag

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Upcoming North Coast Shows: The Shondes and The Idan Raichel Project

The ShondesYou know it's fall in the North Coast (aka Michigan) when the bars take down the "Welcome Nascar Fans" banners and put up the "Welcome Hunters" banners. It's just one of the ways I know that Channukah is on it's way. It's a little isolating being a Conservative Jew up here on the Coast. But not too bad, my local synagogue is good and I hang out at the Chabad house pretty regularly. There's a local klezmer band that's cool but doesn't seem to gig much. Everyone once in a while, I drive wife and wigglers into the Detroit suburbs for our fix of kosher restaurant meals and Judaica shops. And, a once or twice a year, I get the change to catch a Jewish band playing in Ann Arbor, that lighthouse college town culture.

Right now I've two upcoming shows to get excited about, though realistically I'm probably only going to get to one of them. The first show is The Shondes, (Yiddish for 'a shame, a disgrace) a Brooklyn punk band that I've written about them a couple of times and am looking forward to finally see live (and, of course, to nab their new album). They'll be playing in Ann Arbor on Nov 28 at She-bang @ TC's Speakeasy on 207 W Michigan Ave at 8pm. It's an 18+ with a $5-$10 cover.

If you're not a North Coaster, their tour schedule is on their MySpace page. If you want to know more about them, check out their their website or posts: The Shondes and the 2007 Heeb 100.

The second concert, which I'll probably not get to, is the Idan Raichel Project. Idan Raichel is a "an Israeli keyboardist, composer, producer...fascinated by the music of Israels growing population of Ethiopian Jews, and many songs feature members of Israels Ethiopian community, Arab musicians, traditional Yemenite vocalists, a toaster and percussionist from Suriname and a South African singer, among others." He also features prominently on a great mix CD my buddy Liz (from Lizraeli Blog) sent me. According to his MySpace page, he'll be playing on November 6th at Live at PJs.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Levitikus First Live Show

I love it when bands send me discs, though it takes me way too long to get the review written. Levitikus, a new Jewish rock band in the mold of Blue Fringe and 8th Day, sent me their disc a couple of months ago. I noted it in my 'upcoming releases' posts, but still haven't really written a review. Not sure why. Possibly, and I mean this constructively, they sound like a lot of new bands. I like their sound (though I don't think it's quite as ground breaking as they do.) The guys can handle their instruments (though the vocals tend to go a big flat). I like their compositions (but they're a bit mono-dimensional). All in all, the album was cool but never made it into heavy rotation. I do think, though, that there's a good core there that could turn into something really interesting given a little time. I was delighted to see that they've finally gotten out and played live. And at no less a venue than the venerable Knitting Factory. Great job, guys.

If you like the video, you can get more info about them at MySpace and nab their album at CD Baby.

Levitikus - Mah Rabu - Live at The Knitting Factory

"Levitikus sees itself as much more than just a band rocking away. Through the direction of Avi Fried and Moshe Gottlieb, Levitikus has decided to break through the fences and form a Jewish-American rock band that bases its music on classic and modern rock while still maintaining a Jewish identity. With a less subtle and a more open attitude about issues in today's Jewish community, Levitikus sings
about topics of relevance that most of us can relate to in one way or another."

Hat tip to shmelive for posting the videos.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Orquesta Atzor at Rosh Hashana Urbano

Back in early September I wrote about Rosh Hashana Urbano, an Argentinian Jewish music event. Now, a couple of months later, the videos are starting to pop up on YouTube. The first ones I've seen are of the group Orquesta Atzor. But it turns out I missed some others already out there including one of the Guibordim rocking out and a couple of Duo Gefilte Fish goofing off. I'll try to post some more of these later. But for now...Orquesta Atzor


Thursday, November 8, 2007

Jewish Cowboys Part 4: Harold Stern, Manischewitz Cowboy

I had no idea, when starting this blog, that I would end up obsessed with Jewish Cowboys. Seriously. Jewish Cowboys part 4?

But they just keep coming. I recently ran across a post on the "Our Lady of Perpetual Obsolescence Vinyl Rescue Mission and Orphanage" blog about
"a promotional 45 rpm record produced by the Manischewitz company features Mr. Stern speaking about his life as a Jewish Cowboy, sharing personal information about himself (he’s single ladies!), and thanking the Manischewitz for providing all the fixins that enable his family to observe the holidays in ranch country. To break up these personal vignettes, singer/accordionist Avram Grobard steps in and performs a couple of short selections."
The folks at the Vinyl Rescue Mission have graciously placed the 9 minute recording on their website. Check it out.

(Related posts: Mare Winningham's "Refuge Rock Sublime", Jewish Cowboys Part 1: Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys, Jewish Cowboys Part 2: Scott Gerber, Jewish Cowboys Part 3: So Called's "You Are Never Alone")

Stacy Phillips & Paul Howard -Klezmer Medley

One of the good folks on the Klezmeshack Jewish Music mailing list contributed a link to this video a couple of days ago. I got excited because I don't hear a lot of guitar in Jewish music (other than in the Chassidic pop groups). I used to play guitar a bit. While I haven't picked it up in years, ever since staring this blog I've been looking ideas about how I could play Jewish music on the guitar. This is one example.

Stacy Philips is "Dobro player, a fiddler, and the author of thirty books about these instruments." I became aware of his playing from his work on David Chevan and Warren Bryd's "This is the Afro-Semitic Experience" CD. Paul Howard is a "Connecticut-born guitarist, singer and songwriter" that plays with Stacy Philips and with the American roots band, Last Fair Deal. From the other Phillips and Howard videos available, it looks like this is their one Jewish recording.

Stacy Phillips & Paul Howard -Klezmer Medley
"Stacy Phillips & Paul Howard in Washington state in 2001. The tunes are Shalom Aleikhem, Khupah Tanz and Andy Statman's Slivovitz"

Name PsychoToddler's new band

PsychoToddler, aka Moshie Skier of the Moshie Skier Band, is starting a new musical side project. And he's looking for help naming it. Here's his description ....
"We've been doing acoustic performances. We do a couple of my original songs, a few Chassidic standards, some Carelbach, the occasional jazz standard, and most recently, with the addition of our talented clarinet player, some Klezmer."
If you have a good idea go leave PT a comment on his blog. My vote was "Lemon-Cheeky (Limonchiki)." The name comes from a recording by the Russian tsimbl player, Dobranotch that Dan from Learning Tsimbl linked to yesterday.

Here's one of their videos.

Hannukah by Satellite: XM Radio Hannukah

So that dreaded season is starting. I ran to the local Meijers last night. (Meijers is a North Coast thing. Sort like a 24 hour Walmart. It's the only place I know where I could get a 6-pack and a chain saw at 2 in the morning. Not that I was shopping for a 6-pack and a...oh never mind). And the Christmas candy was out. And the Christmas music was playing. It's not even Thanksgiving folks. C'mon.

Anyway, in addition to all of the Christmas programming that we'll be buried under, starting December 4th a little bit of Hannukah will take to the air waves. XM Radio channel 108 will be spinning

"MORE... Special Exclusive Shows about Jewish Culture and Hanukkah....
MORE Big Stars from the past....
An IMPROVED lineup of music and entertainment...
MORE of the items you asked for last year....
It all starts December 4th with the Lighting of the National Menorah."

Pretty cool. Too bad I don't have XM. If you do, you can learn more about it at the XM radio website or the Radio Hannukah Myspace page.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

More Tsimbl: The Sweet Pain of Pete Rushefsky

Album cover for 'Tsimbl un Fidl: Klezmer Music for Hammered Dulcimer & Violin'My post about Dan Carkner's new "Learning Tsymbaly" blog got me thinking about the tsimbl. While I'm familiar with its sound and general description, I don't know much of any depth about it. So Google to the rescue. Here's a description of tsimbl in klezmer excerpted from a longer article by Pete Rushefsky titled "Jewish Strings - An Introduction to the Klezmer Tsimbl."

"The tsimbl is played like a xylophone but employs strings instead of wood or metal blocks. The player strikes the strings with mallets often padded with cotton or leather. As with a piano, each note struck on the instrument resonates a course of four or five strings that have been placed closely together and tuned to the same pitch. The multiple strings provide the tsimbl with a rich and often haunting sonority. Of course, the downside to this construction is the large number of strings to keep in tune-- most tsimbls have over twenty courses and more than one hundred strings which must be checked and adjusted prior to performance.

Tsimbls evolved from a medieval German instrument called the hackbrett (literally translating to "chopping board"). The first record of a Jewish player of the instrument comes from Lemberg (now Lviv, Ukraine) where Abus Cymbalista was approved by the musicianís guild to play for Catholic banquets in 1629. Migrating Jewish musicians were henceforth central to the spread of the tsimbl through Eastern Eurpoe and the Balkans over the next three centuries."
And here's a video of Rushefsky and violinist Elie Rosenblatt playing "Romanian Fantazi" from their album "Tsimbl un Fidl: Klezmer Music for Hammered Dulcimer & Violin", which is available through CD Baby. Rushefsky has also recorded the album "Oyf di vegelekh / On the Paths: Yiddish Songs with Tsimbl" with Yiddish vocalist Rebecca Kaplan. It was released on Yiddishland Records, and you can hear sound clips of it on the Amazon website and read a review of it at Klezmershack.

Tsimbl und Fidl Romanian Fantazi

I love reading the comments people write for YouTube videos (and blog posts), here's a wonderful one for Romanian Fantazi. This says it all.

shtreiml: Some of the most authentic and heart-wrenching krechtzes I have ever heard. Ah sweet pain!

Tsimbl: A new blog for an old instrument

Picture of a Tsimbl"Ouff.. I actually made kind of a maniacal impulse purchase today, I'm almost ashamed to tell you what it is. I bought a Tsymbaly (laptop hammered dulcimer) :( But to be fair, it has been my lifelong dream for about 5 years to own one, but then again I never really thought about it. But suddenly today I saw one for about 1/3 the price it would cost to have one built out west where they still build them. Then again it's another one of those things that would sound annoying to hear someone learning to play it.. But on the other hand, it's about the 3rd most "klezmer" instrument after the violin and clarinet. If I could ever get good enough to play that, though."

So starts the first post of Dan Carkner's new blog "Learning Tsymbaly." Dan's off to a great start and has posted lots of links to tsimbl (cimbalom) history, current players and makers, and recordings. He's also talked about his learning process, including how he's strung and tuned his tsimbl and his take on the role of the tsimbl in various klezmer forms. I'm looking forward to learning more about the tsimbl from Dan and wish him the best for his playing and his blog.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Aneni - sung in the Habani style by the East West Ensemble

Whew. No blogging for me this weekend. I've been working on a research funding proposal and then had to scoot to Virginia for a meeting with a different potential funder. Sigh. I'm bushed. But I'm back.

Here's an interesting video I ran across last week from Tel Aviv's East West Ensemble (see their Myspace page for more info). The song is Aneni and was recorded on their album "Kabbalah Music". According to the video's description, the words are from the book of the "Diwan," from a poem by Rabbi Shalom Shabazi (17th Century) and the music from is from Yemen, sung in the Habani style. It's a lovely melody.

I'll admit I know very little about Yemenite Jewery and had never heard of the Habani (Chabani) Jews. I couldn't find much information about them either. Here's a short, unsupported, description I found on the blog of Robert Lindsay, an "Independent Left Journalist"
"In the late 1980's, a Jewish community, the Chabani Jews, was discovered in the mountains on the disputed border of Yemen and Saudi Arabia. Although they were actually living in Saudi Arabia ... they were not citizens.

In contrast to the stereotype of the Jew as "rootless cosmopolitan", these Jews were living the life of the noble savage. They went barefoot in the desert and the men all carried long guns on their backs at all times to defend themselves in this dangerous, tribal region."
The journal "Musica Judaica" published an article in 2000 titled "Yemenite Women's Songs at the Habani Jews' Wedding Celebrations" by Yael Shai. Unfortunately, it's behind a typical 'subscribers only' barrier. (When will journals give that up. It hampers scholarship and does a dis-service to their authors and makes them precious little $)

Anyway, here it is. Let me know what you think. If you like it, you can catch more East West Ensemble videos on YouTube.

Kabbalah Music - Aneni

Friday, November 2, 2007

Rebbe Nachman's Lecho Dodi Niggun

Shabbat Shalom everyone.

Rebbe Nachman's Lecho Dodi Niggun

"The Kisufim Trio and Rav Lazer Brody sing this beautiful melody that highlights the Friday night (Kabbalat Shabbat) prayers of the Breslever Chassidim."

Video posted by rabbilazer aka Rav Lazer Brody

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Say Anything - Alive With The Glory Of Love

Christian religious symbology invades and pervades everything in America. And this isn't a bad thing. It's just point of fact. I can't tell you how many times I've seen a work of art or listened to a piece of music that fills me with it's beauty and at the same time leaves me hollow because of its Christian core.

And each time I would wonder where the Jewish equivalent was.

I think I just watched one ... Say Anything's video for "Alive with the Glory of Love." While it immediately recalls U2's uber-passionate and uber-Christian "Pride (In the Name of Love)", it rejects U2's anthem declarations for an emo anguish and memory. Instead of Bono's crescendo chorus of "One man in the name of love", Max Bemis repeats "Treblinka, alive with the glory of love." But, like Bono draws strength from the martyrdom of his heroes, Bemis draws strength from the power of small individuals to love, remember, and stay faithful to each other. And I drew a little strength just from listening. Thanks Max.

Say Anything - Alive With The Glory Of Love (Official Vid)

It's funny how I found this video. I wrote a short piece on Jewish emo music last week. Today I wrote about Max Bemis (of Say Anything) being selected to be in the Heeb 100. 10 minutes after making that second post, Mordy Shinefeld left a comment on the emo post suggesting I check out Say Anything. So thanks Mordy. This track is fabulous. I'm going to have to grab a copy of the album ASAP.

Blue Fringe & Y-LOVE sing "Eicha"

Here's one of my favorite Jewish rock bands and one of my favorite Jewish rappers on stage together. The result, much musical goodness.

Blue Fringe & Y-LOVE "Eicha" @ Shempseed Global Launch Party

"Dov Rosenblatt of Blue Fringe, dj handler & Y-LOVE perform "Eicha" coming out as a single on itunes and Shemspeed in two months at the Shempseed Global Launch Party in NY!"

hat tip to Life of Rubin for the link and to guyemanuelshovanis for posting the video.

The 2007 'Heeb 100'

Temim Fruchter of The Shondes Ok. This is it. Apology time. Last week, when talking about 'Jewish Emo' I noted that I wasn't much of a fan of Heeb magazine and was a bit critical of their music coverage. Less than a week later, though, I'm back to say they just did something interesting enough for me to consider re-instating my long departed subscription.

Presenting: The Heeb 100.
"They’re young, smart and innovative... and oh yeah, they also happen to be Jewish. No, we’re not talking about the staff at Heeb Magazine; we’re talking about the second installment of the Heeb Hundred, a roundup of 100 people you need to know about. They are bloggers and newspaper publishers, comic artists and novelists, chefs and fashion designers, and while they’ve already got stellar resumes, we believe that the best is yet to come from each of them."
Now, Heeb's list is still very 'hipster' focused, but the music section makes for a very interesting read. I immediately recognized Temim Fruchter of The Shondes, but didn't recognize any of the other names which include, Max Bemis of the rock band "Say Anything", hip hop producer / musician Squeek E. Clean, DJ James Fucking Freedman, prodigy classical composer Jay Greenberg, celebrity DJ Adam Goldstein, aka DJ AM, British "electro-folk" musician Becky Jacobs, music producer J.R. Rotem, avante-garde rock guitarist Marnie Stern, and British singer Varity Susman.

This is a pretty interesting snap shot of innovative Jewish musicians on the rise. Interesting both because of the resumes of the folks profiled, and because, other than Temim Fruchter, I'm not likely to ever write about them. How come? Because, as far as I know, none of them (other than Tenim) connect their Judaism and their music. (There are hints in the Heeb profiles that Squeek E. Clean and Max Bennis might. I'll check it out.) And, of course, that's what frustrated me about Heeb in the first place. Lots of Jews. No Judaism.

But, it's a great snapshot of Jewish cool and I'm glad they compiled it.