Saturday, December 29, 2007

They Tried to Kill Us, We Survived, Let's Eat

This is a great year to be a music fan. Here I am, cozy in my warm house in on the cold North Coast, and thanks to YouTube I get to see shows in Brooklyn, San Francisco or Tel Aviv. Of course, I only get to seem the in 7 minute increments.

But how else would I get to see moments like this one... The Leevees and Good for the Jews, playing GftJ's "They Tried to Kill Us, We Survived, Let's Eat" at The Highline Ballroom 'Putting the Ha! Back in Hanukkah' show on December 23rd, 2007. This is about the funniest thing I've heard all year. An instant classic. My wife is going to make me break out my guitar and learn it so we can play it for our family at Passover this year. After you listen to it, email a link to this post to your friends, family, synagogue choir director, and all members of the media. This one needs to get added to the Great American Jewish Songbook.

Update: I wasn't kidding. The link to this post is:

This one is worth sharing.

They Tried to Kill Us, We Survived, Let's Eat

Hat Tip to Matt28 for posting the video.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Shalom Aleichem

Shabbat Shalom everyone...

To kick off Shabbat, here are two lovely singer/songwriter versions of Shalom Aleichem. I'm not sure who is the performer on the first (I'll drop an email the poster of the video, YouTube user, TheBombX, and ask). According to TheBombX the first is Shmuly Lazaroff. The second is Pandora Morcas, posted by "videomaker archivist and performer of classic and original English poetry Jim Clark of London England" aka VidLad.

Shalom Aleichem

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Ju-Metal: David Lazzar plays Lubavitch Hasidic Heavy Metal

I'm not much of a heavy metal fan (punk's more my thing) so I usually send interesting bits of Jewish heavy metal over to Keith at Metal Jew. But I thought I'd keep this one for myself, mostly because I enjoyed the documentary footage that's mixed between the music video footage.

I first heard David Lazzar on the fabulous SomethingJewish Show on London's Resonance 104.4fm (which isn't podcasted anymore. grrr. though you can still listen to it online.) I didn't know what to make of it then, though I've since realized that Lazzar's pretty serious about metal, has a solid band, and three albums to his credit.


By the way, Keith at Metal Jew has blogged about Lazzar a bunch of times. You can find his posts here.

Hat tip to ahoova for posting the video to YouTube.

Jewish Jam Session: Jon Madof & Friends at the Southpaw

Here's another great I party I missed....On December 24th (aka my wife's annual 'work the midnight shift at the hospital' night) New York guitarist / composer Jon Madof (of Rashanim) led an improve session "with members of Rashanim, Edom, Pharaoh's Daughter, Pink Noise, Hasidic New Wave, Cyro Baptista, Caveman and Jessica Lurie"

Sigh. Someday I need to get down to NYC for one of these shows.

Jon Madof's Circuit Breaker @ Southpaw 12/24/07 Jam

Hat tip to ASilver8 for posting the video.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Traditional Chassidic Melodies: The Negin Brothers

Here's a lovely Chassidic tune played by London's "The Negin Brothers" at a recent farbrengen (Lubavitch Chassidic gathering)...

Yossi & Nosson Negin Brothers Jewish Music

According to the Negin Brothers website, "We enjoy playing all Jewish music, especially traditional, Chasidic, and Lubavitcher tunes. Whether it is being expressed through the genres of acoustic-folk, electronic, ambient or classical, we always aim to capture the spirit contained in the melodies."

The Negin Brothers have two recordings, and lots of free mp3's, available. Check them out...

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Chinese Food On Christmas

Brandon Harris Walker's snappy little ditty has been making the rounds over the last couple of weeks. I've held out, waiting for the X day itself. And here we are. So stuffed on take-out from the local 'China King', Teruah presents...

Chinese Food On Christmas

The song's pretty funny, though I could do without the "outrageous scenarios" in the video. Not because I can't handle satire but because the scenarios were cliché and poorly executed. Fake beards and stopping a car to pick up a coin? C'mon, Walker. Get original. Go watch a Hip Hop Hoodios video. Those guys can do satire and mean it.

Evidently I'm not the only one who wasn't keen on the video. Here's Walker's response to some negative comments on YouTube:
"A number of people have expressed their discontent with the way Jews are portrayed in some of the scenes in this video. To these people I say, the music video for 'Chinese Food On Christmas' is a satire. It employs outrageous scenarios, such as a car full of Jews slamming on the brakes to pick up a coin, to show just how silly and ridiculous our stereotypes can be. Jews are one of the most charitable cultural groups in the world, and anyone who takes any time to look into these stereotypes will realize that they are simply untrue."

Monday, December 24, 2007

Abayudaya Jews of Uganda: Afropop Worldwide Interviews Rabbi & Ethnogragrapher Jeffrey Summit

I just ran across an interesting interview with Jeffery Summit about his work researching the Abayudaya Jews of Uganda. (I've mentioned Summit before. He's the author of one of my favorite Jewish music books "The Lord's Song in a Strange Land: Music and Identity in Contemporary Jewish Worship").

Here's the intro to the interview:
"In 1999, photo-journalist Richard Sobol heard a graduate student’s field recording of Jewish songs performed by Africans in Uganda. Sobol thought he knew Uganda pretty well, but Ugandan Jews? This was a surprise. Sobol soon returned, and the recordings he made on his own first visit later persuaded Jeffrey Summit—a rabbi and professor of ethnomusicology and Judaic studies at Tufts University—to make the first of three research trips to Uganda as well.

Sobol and Summit have done yeoman’s work in revealing this remarkable community to the world, and they have produced two excellent resources, which you can purchase by following these links: the coffee table book and CD, Abayudaya : The Jews of Uganda, (Abbeville Press Publishers), and the Grammy Award-nominated CD, Abayudaya: Music from the Jewish People of Uganda (Smithsonian Folkways Recordings)."
The full interview is available on the AfroPop Worldwide website.

It's a well conducted interview. The interviewer, Banning Eyre, and Summit start with an overview of the different groups on the African continent that are either Jewish or in some way come from Jewish lineage. It's a fascinating read to provides a lot of context for their later discussion of the Abayudaya religious and musical experience.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Sim Shalom x2

Shabbat Shalom, everyone...

Continuing my Friday tradition of Shabbat liturgical music, here's the Moscow Male Jewish Cappella and the Australian punk band Joyful Noise Nochi Krohn Band each performing Sim Shalom.

Moscow Male Jewish Cappella - Sim Shalom

Nochi Krohn Band - Sim Shalom, Reads Lane Concert

update: sigh. The first version of this post had the Australian punk band Joyful Noise. After I posted it I found out that Joyful Noise is a Messianic Jewish group (aka Christian). rats. phooey on them. (See Jews for Judaism site for more info on Messianic Jews.)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

"How come you're watching a Rabbi play electric guitar?"

Here's Yehuda Glantz on the Eli Yazpan show. I don't speak Hebrew well enough follow the interview, but seeing Glantz break into La Bamba and seeing his cameo on the TV show "Friends" is priceless. So is the duet of "Cuando El Rey Nimrod" he sings with Yazpan. I won't spoil the punch line to the "How come you're watching a Rabbi play electric guitar" question, though. You'll have to watch and see.

Yehuda Glantz in Eli Yazpan show

According ot his bio, Glantz is "is a true Renaissance man. Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, he later immigrated to Israel in 1979 where he currently lives with his family. As early as 5 years old, his talent in music began to blossom. During these years he acquired deep and wide knowledge of music through a number of instruments. He has mastered 14 different traditional and ethnic South American instruments like charango, siku, pincuyo, guitar, accordion, keyboard, percussion, etc. He also writes, composes, and produces all his own music in his private studio in Jerusalem. Yehuda Glantz captures the hearts and souls of people around the world with the unique ground - breaking music and through electrifying and colorful performances on stage."

Check out Glantz' MySpace page for more info and lots of his music. Great stuff.

Update: I forgot to thank YouTube user Yair Peled for posting the video. According to his bio, Yair "has been an editor/animation director at Israel National News TV since 2002. Yair is also an illustrator and editor of video clips for religious musicians in Israel. Yair is presently have a new production company to be called "YAM Production" that doing video productions of jewish culture (TV/NET/CELL). Yair also work on is first music album produced by 'The Jerusalem Music Network'." Sounds like an interesting fellow. Peled's YouTube page has other videos of Glantz, a Moshav video, and an animation video.

"The New Klezmorim" and "The Golden Dreydl: A Klezmer Nutcracker for Chanukah" on Sound & Spirit"

Ellen Kushner's radio program "Sound and Spirit" had a couple of Jewish themed shows recently.

The first was titled "The New Klezmorim" and "follows Klezmer from its earliest days of cross-fertilization with Balkan Gypsy dance music, to America and its meeting with African-American Jazz, and on into the 21st century as new Klez bands hit fusion with a techno bang. We'll also use Klezmer's journey to explore what it means to be a Jew in a changing world."

The second was titled "The Golden Dreydl: A Klezmer Nutcracker for Chanukah" and presents "an award-winning family entertainment featuring the music of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, as interpreted by Shirim Klezmer Orchestra, with original story and narration by Ellen Kushner. Together, they have created a brand-new retelling of an old tale: Sara is a little girl with a problem: she hates the annual family Chanukah party! But when a mysterious party guest gives her the gift of a golden dreydl, Sara is catapulted into a magical world of demons and fools, sorcerers and sages."

I used to live in Boston and got to see Shirim play pretty regularly. I never got to see them do the Golden Dreydl, but I've got a copy of their album. It's wonderful, funny disc. I highly recommend it as away to confuse and amuse your Christian coworkers at the annual Christmas party. Step 1. Commandeer the stereo. Step 2. Slip in the disc. Step 3. Watch merriment ensue. I've done this a bunch of times to great effect.

Anyway, for those who haven't listened to it before,
"Sound & Spirit is a weekly series of hour-long radio programs exploring the human spirit through music and ideas. ...Sound & Spirit weaves history, myth, and spiritual traditions together with music to take listeners on a journey around the world and through the ages. With subjects ranging from pilgrimage to family relationships, Shakers to Buddhists, and births to funerals, there is always something new to explore. "As long as there are human topics, there will be topics for our shows," says Ellen Kushner. "People from every culture and every generation have always marked their life experiences with rituals, stories and music."
You get the idea. I honestly haven't listened in a long time, but will make a point of checking out these shows. My problem is that my local NPR station doesn't play it and, while they do put the shows on line, they don't podcast them. That means I can only listen while sitting in front of my computer, which doesn't work well for me. Anything with people talking is too distracting for work time. Oh well. I'll figure something out.

Hat tip to Ari at Klezmershack for posting a link to Sound and Spirit.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Freilachmakers Klezmer String Band

Like I said yesterday, I got a chance to listen to Radio Free Klezmer last week. RFK is free internet radio channel broadcast over the Live365 network along with a variety of other Jewish music channels including the B'nai B'rith Radio, WJEW, Nusach, and Nusach2. RFK is my personal favorite because of it's orientation toward "cranky, squawky, jazzy, goodness." (I like how I said it yesterday, so I'm quoting myself.)

One track currently in rotation on RFK that got me excited is the Freilachmakers Klezmer String Band's "Shtil di Nacht." The Freilachmakers are an "[u]pbeat Jewish music from the Ashkenazic and Sephardic traditions, with Brazilian, gypsy and Celtic influences." Lovely and a bit mournful, Shtil di Nacht highlights the Freilachmakers Celtic string influences and mixes them with a deep male voice singing in Yiddish. It's a strange mix, but one that comes off completely natural and unaffected. No eclectic world music collage here. Just good music.

If you tune into RFK and listen for a while I'm sure it will come around, or you can check out the Freilachmakers album ordering page and hear sound clips of Shtil and a dozen or so other tunes.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The resume of a songleader

Just after I signed up for the Hava Nashira mailing list, a list member accidentally sent the cover letter of his resume to the list. I'm very glad he did, because it provides a wonderful snapshot into the making of a song leader. Here's the cover letter, with the author's name and contact info removed. He is job hunting, so if the cover letter looks interesting let me know and I'll help you get in touch.
"My name is anonymous and I'm a second year at UCLA. I currently songlead for the Kesher (reform) community at UCLA Hillel. Please find attached my resume.

Growing up with the Bureau of Jewish Education in Orange County, Camp SWIG and Camp Newman, Temple Beth David in Westminster, and UCLA Hillel, have been exposed to many different ways of practicing Judaism. My first love in Judaism was music; at a Bureau retreat in 4th grade I discovered the power of the Jewish song session as I lost myself in Debbie Friedman melodies. I learned to songlead at Camp SWIG in Saratoga with Cantor Wally Schachet-Briskin, Steve Krause and others. In high school, I have held songleading positions at a number of temples in Orange County as well as special events such as Shabbat Alive, a big community event through OC JCC and the Bureau.

I was the founding musician/songleader/tefilah leader for Surf City Synagogue in Huntington Beach, which is now associated with the Conservative movement. I worked as a staff songleader at Camp Newman where I led daily tfillah and songsessions as well as camp-wide events on Shabbat.

Since going to college, I have limited my songleading to on campus programming, but am now looking to expand beyond Westwood. Temple anonymous would be a great next step for me. I visited Israel last winter with Birthright and plan to study abroad there in the near future.
This letter was reprinted with permission of the author. Thanks!

Conservative and Orthodox Songleaders (or, why my safe little definition of songleader is shot)

I mentioned back in July how I had been surprised by my ignorance of the Jewish song leader community. By contrast, I was quite aware of my ignorance of the Orthodox and Chassid communities. While I don't claim that I've developed any expertise over the traditional communities music, I think I've got my head around some of the major themes and musicians. I haven't made similar progress with the song leader community. For example, back in the July post I made the mistake of implying that the song leader is community is exclusively a Reform Jewish phenomena. It isn't. And I'm finally starting to get a bit smarter about why I was wrong.

What happened is that I finally got myself signed up for the Hava Nashira mailing list. Hava Nashira is a "resource for Jewish songleaders, songwriters, performers, music educators and all those involved in the transmission of Jewish heritage, religion and culture through music." I've only been signed up for a couple of days and it's already making a big difference in my understanding of the community. Part of that difference came from an email conversation I had with Adrian Durlester, the Hava Nashira website organizer.

Example of Jack getting educated:
Jack: "I've used the terms Song Leader community, 'contemporary Jewish music community,' and Reform community as synonyms. That's probably incorrect, but I don't yet know why it's incorrect."

Adrian: "Why Reform/songleader/conmtemporary Jewish liturgical music isn't an automatic association:

1. Sam Glaser, the Baal Shem Tones, Shlomo Carlebach (z"l), Neshoma Carlebach (orthodox)
2. Craig Taubman, Mark Bloom, The Brothers Zim, Safam, Cindy Paley, Kenny Ellis, Rahel (Conservative)
Now, I could make both those lists substantially longer, but no time at the moment..."
Adrian's list is a bit mind-blowing for me. Here's why. I had understood songleaders to be have developed from Reform community participatory service. So what about Conservative song leaders? Ok. I forgot about Camp Ramah, the Conservative movement summer camp (which I sadly didn't attend.) I could see songleaders playing a role there. But Craig Taubman's wonderful "Friday Night Live"? That's the better part of a whole Friday night service. And he's coming from and leading Conservative services? And Orthodox song leaders. The Orthodox community (I thought) was very strict about nusach (traditional modes of chanting). I'm familiar with Shlomo and Neshoma Carlebach, but how does they play into this?

So my safe little definition is shot. And I don't have a better one yet. But I'm working on it and will report on my progress. I'm hoping the folks from Hava Nashira will get a chuckle over my befuddlement and set me straight.

Related posts: Guitar in Synagogue?; Music, Setting, and Grass Clippings, Hava Nashira & Hot Shabbat - Reform / 'Contemporary Jewish Music' resources

Kruzenshtern & Parohod: Avant-Rock Klezmer

Last week I listened to Radio Free Klezmer for the first time in a couple of months and was delighted by the new playlist. Lots of cranky, squawky, jazzy, goodness. There were a couple of groups that stood out, but today I'll focus on Kruzenshtern & Parohod. K&P is an progressive rock band with strong a klezmer connection that was founded in 2002 in Tel Aviv by bass player Igor Krutogolov. They remind me a lot of the music Kletka Red put out on the "Hijacking" album, one of my all time favorites.

The K&P website playfully describes their music as "Karate Box Jazz" and says
"If you want to experience the music of “K&P” better you should have:

1. 2 nails, one of them must be rusty (but it depends on the taste of course).
2. Elegant jacket, size 24 with a lace collar.
3. Telescope Zenith (year of production - 1964 or earlier).
4. Brown boots with accordion platform decorated with green flowers.
5. 2.5 meters of cordage.
6. A bar of soap and a hairbrush. Brush should be placed in the right pocket of the jacket. Cut the bar to small pieces and replace it with the insoles of the boots.
7. Photo of Ivan Fedorovich Kruzenshtern (advisable with his family).
8. Grey trunk with code lock. (Code: 5421834)
9. Suede gloves with a snake.
10. Replace the picture in your passport with a picture of your grandma, a picture of your favorite dog or cat you can hide in your hat. About the hat. It is not obligatory to have it. Although everyone who owns a brain should have one!
11. But actually, you will need only a sense of humor."
I'm not sure all that is required, but it can't hurt. I had to make do with the sense of humor and the bar of soap.

Kruzenshtern & Parohod "Dangler's Song" Live

Great stuff. They have a couple of album out on Auris Media Records. You can get more info and hear more music on their website & myspace page.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Staam sings V'Shamru

Here's another pre-Kabbalat Shabbat treat. A lovely mixed acapella performance of V'Shamru from Staamika Hannukah, Staam's annual Chanukah party. Staam is a Washington University based acapella group that's been around for over a decade. And they've released cd's and will play your event. Good fun.

According to their website, "We chose the name "Staam" in 1997. Hebrew slang for "just because," Staam has become our motto. We sing for the love of it, for fun, for friendship, and mostly, just because..."

V'Shamru at Staamika 07

Hat tip to Simps500 for posting the video.

Yigdal on the Kinnor Lyre

Shabbat Shalom, everyone...

I've gotten into the habit lately of showcasing liturgical music on Friday. Just help us all get into the Shabbat spirit. Today I found an interesting rendition of the piyyut, (liturgical poem), Yigdal, which is based on Maimonides 13 articles of faith and often is used to close the Friday night Kabbalat Shabbat service. Yigdal has always been a personal favorite of mine (me and most Jews, I know) partly because of the text, partly because of the lovely melody and partly because I associate it with special occasions. The synagogue I attended growing up typically closed Friday services with Adon Olam, so Yigdal was a rare treat.

This performance is pretty interesting. The musician, who goes by "Klezfiddle1" regularly posts videos of himself playing on Kinnor Lyre and other instruments to YouTube. According to him...
"The Kinnor Lyre was the true "Harp of David",& was played by the Levites in the Temple of Jerusalem...after almost 2000 years of silence, following the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70 AD,the Kinnor can be now heard once my spare room, Salford, Lancashire!!"
Kinnor Lyre on a Bar Kokhba coin, 134-135 CEIf I understand this properly, the Kinnor Lyre was only recently recreated based on illustrations of it found on early coins. It can now be purchased for a reasonable price from early music stores, such as Lark in the Morning. Despite the lyre's reported pedigree, it doesn't seem like anyone else is that interested it. Anyone care to comment? Also, Klezfiddle1 is a fan of John Wheeler's "Music of the Bible Revealed," which I not very charitably posted about a while back. This makes Klezfiddle's claims seem a bit sketchy to me.

All of that aside, though, it's a nice performance of a lovely melody on a interesting instrument. Thanks Klezfiddle.


Update: Klezfiddle (aka Michael Levy) let me know that he updated his video. So I did too. He's also working on an album, you can keep track of his progress on his JubalsLyre MySpace page.
"This is a re-mix of an earlier version of this lovely hymn which I have previously uploaded - this version uses more interesting harmony...I shall be attempting to record it next week, during my (hopefully!) last studio recording session for my album."

Thursday, December 13, 2007

This is Kosher Club!

WFMU's "Beware of the Blog" loves to dig up musical treasures that probably should have stayed buried. This week they share four tracks from the Rhino Records "This Is Kosher Club!" record;
  • Gefilte Joe and the Fish - Fairfax Avenue
  • Oy George - Be True to Your Shul
  • Georgie Girl - Yes I Really Want to Hurt You
  • The Screaming Faloshes - Rasta Jew
Here's how WFMU describes Kosher Club....
"This is Kosher Club, an EP of novelty Jewish songs that Rhino Records put out near the end of their indie-novelty label silliness in 1984. ... We have it, and while it's, in my opinion, not the best of Rhino's novelty output ... it's still a good laugh and it's some solid, well-done music. Something of note is that "Be True to Your Shul" is actually a remake of a version heard on 1978's The Rhino Royale. It's not any better than the original, so if you don't have that platter, don't bother looking for it, even though it did come pressed on red, white and blue vinyl! Also know that Gefilte Joe and the Fish had songs on various other Rhino novelty discs, and that they were fronted by Rhino's real-life co-founder, Richard Foos. They briefly changed their name to the Yiddish People during the disco craze and bastardized "Macho Man" into "Matzoh Man"-- genius!"
Hat Tip to Daniel for emailing me about this one. Thanks Daniel!

Chanukah - More Ocho Kandelikas

Chanukah's over, but I just can't let it go yet....

Right after I posted about the Sephardic song Ocho Kandelikas, my favorite Connecticut Jewish jazz combo, the Afro-Semitic Experience posted their version. I couldn't pass it up, so here you go...

The Afro-Semitic Experience live

In addition, the most recent Nextbook podcast did a feature on Ocho Kandelikas. I haven't had a chance to listen to it, but you can catch it here. Nope. You can listen to the podcast here.

Chanukah Day 8: Stanley Adams and Sid Wayne - "Chanukah Carols"

Whew. The recent midwest ice storm knocked out my home internet connection for the last two days. I couldn't work on my blog, my wife couldn't check the weather/school closings lists, my elder wiggler couldn't play her new Jumpstart World: Kindergarten computer game, and my little wiggler couldn't monopolize Mommy and Poppy while elder wiggler was playing Jumpstart World. We were all in a fine state. Tempers flared. But, we're connected again and all should be well.

One thing that Poppy (yours truly) did to while away the unconnected time was listen to JMG's rerelease of the classic Chanukah parody album "Chanukah Carols." Written by comic actor Stanely Adams and songwriter Sid Wayne, Carols is a slice of late 1950's Jewish culture and assimilation anxiety. Adams and Wayne sing and tell stories about Chanukah using a mishmash of yiddish quips and Christmas icons. It was pretty funny then and it's pretty funny now, though, then and now, it has a slighly bitter, self-mocking edge. Christmas may be silly, the album seems to say, but aren't we silly for not celebrating it too? It's frustrating that 50 years later, listening to the album reminds me that this anxiety hasn't lessened. I just had to explain to my neighbors and elder wigglers elementary school teachers (whom I'm very fond of) that Chanukah shouldn't be part of the school's "Christmas Around the World" program because Chanukah isn't how Jews celebrate Christmas. (It's how we celebrate Chanukah) This seemed to be a stunner for some of them. Sigh.

Anyway, this is a great funny album that the Jewish Music Group brought back into print. Thanks folks.

You can hear clips from the album and buy a copy through the JMG website, CD Baby, and Amazon, or your favorite music store.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Channukah Day 7: Aren't They Cute?

The great thing (well, one great thing) about Channukah being eight days long, is that by day seven YouTube is beginning to flood with kids Channukah concert videos. And so maybe they're not the next Miami Boys Choir, but these long rows of well-scrubbed yiddishkinder can't help but make their parents proud. Truth to tell, I'm looking forward to when my little scholars are old enough to take their turn on stage demonstrating their mastery of "Oh Channukah" or "Maoz T'zur."

And so without further ado, here they are...2007 Kids Channukah Concerts! Channukah Sameach, kids! Bravo.

Temple Isaiah Hannukah 12/9/07

Hannukah Concert 2007

For the record, my little scholars aren't in either of these videos. I don't have any affiliation with either of the two schools, or even know where they are. Hat tip to YouTube members jimwinnett and dharrishoffma for posting the videos.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Channukah Day 6: Lipa Schmeltzer & "Oy Channukah"

So if yesterday's video was pretty forgettable, today's video of Lipa (Schmeltzer) performing the classic "Oy, Channukah" has burned itself into my retinas and my eardrums. It has the high camp of a Bollywood production, the prissy funkiness of Blaxploitation film soundtrack, and the strangest male vocalist dance moves I've seen since catching Michael Stipe of R.E.M. wiggling in concert. And I think I love it. I typically don't enjoy the earnest anachronisms of lounge act Chassidic 'shiny shoe' music. But this video is so over the top that I'm hooked. I laughed through two work meetings after seeing it on my computer at lunch time (probably not the desired effect) and have been back to watch it about a dozen times since then. Sameach put the video up on YouTube to promote the new Lipa Experience DVD. Whew. I may have to snag a copy.

Oy, Channukah. Couldn't have said it better.


Channukah Day 5: Yerachmiel, Optimystical & "Days of Light"

In my Channukah Day 3 post, I mentioned that a lot of folks have written Channukah songs but that most are earnest and forgettable. "Days Of Light" is a great example that's been making the rounds lately. (I saw it posted on Life of Rubin and the Jewish Music Blog last week.) Yerachmiel does a fine job here. The musicianship and vocals are straightforward but engaging. The lyrics catch all of the main Channukah themes. And, to my ears at least, does nothing with any of them. This song is a good listen, but by the time next Channukah rolls around it will long forgotten, just like the vast bulk of Channukah songs.

But since, "Days of Light" is new for this year, and since Yerachmiel and Optimistical do play well, it's worth the listen. Even if you just listen once.

Days of Light

Friday, December 7, 2007

Channukah Day 4: Ocho Kandelikas

Ok, I was re-reading yesterday's post last night and realized I'd left Ocho Kandelikas off of my list of popular Channukah songs. Ocho Kndelikas is the quintessential Sephardic Channukah song and has become increasingly popular in the US. My favorite recording of it is Flory Jagoda's, off of Craig N' Co's "Celebrate Hanukkah" recording (click for song sample), but there have been a wave of other interesting recordings lately.

Here's a video of jazz singer Kenny Ellis giving it a swing treatment:

Kenny Ellis Ocho Kandelikas

And here's the Hip Hop Hoodios giving it an LA Hip Hop treatment:

Hip Hop Hoodios Ocho Kandelikas

You can also check out performances by the Israeli Sepharidic group Daddo & The Ladino Voice, the indie pop band The Leevees, The Maxwell Street Klezmer Band, and a cute kid.

Ok, ignorant in public time again. After posting this I got a nice email from Jewish music performer Carol Boyd Leon pointing out that, despite how it might sound, that Ocho Kandelikas isn't a traditional (e.g. old) song. It's actually a Flory Jagoda composition. So the Jagoda 'version' that I love is the original version. You can hear an interview with Jagoda about her music and Ocho Kandelikas at NextBook.

I also goofed up about Kenny Ellis. I should have noted that Ellis not a professional Jazz singer, but a professional cantor been the cantor at Temple Beth Haverim in Agoura Hills, CA for the past ten years as well as the M.C. for the L.A. Jewish Festival for over ten years and he has been the M.C. for the national CAJE (Conference for Alternatives in Jewish Education) conferences since 1992. You can hear an interview with him at the Klezmer Podcast.

Hat tip to Tusembe2 and Sketchcomedy2 for posting the videos.

Related Posts: "Channukah Day 3: Peter Yarrow's controversial "Don't Let the Lights Go Out," "Chanukah Day 2: Sam Glaser performs "I Remember Judah Macabee," & Eight Nights, Eight Lights: the latest from Billy Ray Sheet

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Channukah Day 3: Peter Yarrow's controversial "Don't Let the Lights Go Out"

Once you get past "Sevivon, Sov Sov Sov," "I have a little dreidel" and "Maoz Tzur", there aren't a lot of great Channukah songs. All sorts of folks have stepped up to fill the void, usually with earnest but forgettable results. One song, Peter Yarrow's "Don't Let the Lights Go Out," became an immediate, if a bit controversial, hit. First performed "as part of the 1982 Peter, Paul and Mary Hanukkah/ Christmas concert at Carnegie Hall with the N.Y. Choral Society," the song ask us to
"Light one candle for the Maccabee children
With thanks that their light didn’t die
Light one candle for the pain they endured
When their right to exist was denied
Light one candle for the terrible sacrifice
Justice and freedom demand
But light one candle for the wisdom to know
When the peacemaker’s time is at hand"
On the positive side, the lyrics connect one of the central images Channukah (the menorah) with one of the central themes of the holiday (freedom) in a moving way. The song reminds us that while the event of Channukah happened along time ago, the situation of Channukah (loss of freedom) happens daily and that observance of Channukah ritual in the home should be matched with action to encourage freedom in the world. This as as elegant a Tikun Olam statement as I've heard in a pop song.

On the negative side, (and I've heard this in more places than the "Yourish blog" post but I'm having trouble finding other references at the moment) the song uses a Jewish holiday solely as the anchor for secular social action. In other words, where are the Jews in the song? Where is the Judaism? As a writer, I've claimed the song has a connection to Tikun Olam, but the song doesn't make that commitment. I've claimed that the song says that Channukah ritual should be matched with action. The song really just stays to do social action and can be read as preferring that over observance of ritual.

It's one of those perplexing questions...does the song bring a strong Jewish belief (Tikun Olam) to the secular / Christian United States or is it just appropriating Jewish images to support a secular political movement (the social justice movement). Personally, I love the song and am willing to make assumptions in its favor. What do you think?

CAJE 32 - Peter Yarrow - Don't Let the Lights Go Out

By the way, this performance is the third video I've posted from the annual CAJE (Coalition on for the Advancement of Jewish Education) conference. It must have been quite a party.

Related Posts: "Chanukah Day 2: Sam Glaser performs "I Remember Judah Macabee," CAJE Idol: Mark Samowitz & L'dor V'dor & Eight Nights, Eight Lights: the latest from Billy Ray Sheet

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Chanukah Day 2: Sam Glaser performs "I Remember Judah Macabee"

As I noted in last months post, the annual CAJE (Coalition on for the Advancement of Jewish Education) conference seems like quite a party. Here's Sam Glaser at the 2007 CAJE performing his "I Remember Judah Maccabee."

Sam Glaser @ CAJE 32

By the way, I had a great "middle age moment" because of this video. After hearing it the first time, I dragged my lovely and clever wife in to give it a listen. She's a big Beatles fan and cracked up at the first tinkling of the plastic ivorys. My elder wiggler immediately piped up with the obvious question..."Momma, what's so funny?" The middle age moment, though, isn't explaining pop song parodies to a 5 year old. That's just the daily joy of parental indoctrination. The middle age moment was realizing that some of my co-workers are young enough that they might not recognize that "I Remember Judah Maccabee" uses the melody from The Beatles "Let It Be." Now, I'm sure that all Teruah readers are brilliant, attractive, culturally literate, religious scholars and know all about Chanukah and about The Beatles and that I'm not getting old yet. If anyone knows anything to the contrary, they can kindly keep it to themselves.

Related Posts: CAJE Idol: Mark Samowitz & L'dor V'dor & Eight Nights, Eight Lights: the latest from Billy Ray Sheet

Hat tip to Shulerrobin for posting the Sam Glaser video.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

JDub and Taglit-birthright Israel Sponsor World Wide Channukah Celebration

Channukah Sameach, everyone! Happy Channukah!

JDub Records and Taglit-birthright Israel are throwing a Channukah bash "Go 8" in a city near you. At least, as long as you're no where near me. Us North Coaster's are a bit far from hip global civilization to merit a JDub party. Oh well. Maybe next year.

I'm always excited to see the bands that don't normally advertise their Jewishness sign up for Channukah gigs. In addition to the usual JDub crew, including Balkan Beat Box (Go 8 - Los Angees), Golem (Go 8 - Seattle), Soulico (Go 8 - New York), and The LeeVees (Go 8- Washington DC), the lineup will include the idie fav's The Tractenberg Family Slideshow Players (Go 8 - Seattle) and drum & bass'er Mocean Worker (Go 8 - Boston).

Worldwide Hanukkah Celebration

"JDub Records and Taglit-birthright israel are excited to announce the launch of the first-ever multi-city Hanukkah concert event series – The 8. All taking place on December 8, 2007, The Eight celebrates the Festival of Lights with parties in New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Seattle, San Francisco and Washington DC (as well as Tel Aviv, Mumbai, Moscow, and Sydney) that will feature music from up-and-coming artists handpicked by JDub, multimedia performances, and a unique menorah lighting ceremony at each event.

*Music, dredyls, donuts, friends, drinks, and dancing, plus special guests and surprises*"
By the way, the video is the The Tractenberg Family Slideshow Players. And yes, that's what they usually sound like. I wish I was going to be in Seattle this year.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Saleh Al Kuwaiti

A treasure trove of Jewish-Iraqui music was posted to YouTube recently.

show Saleh Al Kuwaiti iraqi song in israel סאלח אל כוויתי

Here are links to some additional videos:

Here's a short bio of Saleh Al Kuwaiti, from Haaretz
"Brothers Salah and Daoud al Kuwaiti were born in Kuwait to a family of Iraqi origin. When Salah was 10 years old and his brother was eight, they received a violin and an oud from their uncle, who had returned from a business trip to India, and began studying music. Their talent was soon discovered, and they quickly became the prodigies of Kuwaiti music. Salah began to compose, Daoud excelled in playing, and the two began to perform at events hosted by Kuwaiti high society. The first song that they wrote and performed there, "I Swear I Loved Your Beauty," is still played today on radio stations in the Persian Gulf.

"The lightning success brought the family back to Iraq, where the music market was much larger," says Shlomo al Kuwaiti. "At first the brothers returned to Basra, where they performed and recorded with great success, and later they went on to Baghdad, the major musical capital of the period, and there they became real stars. In essence, as a composer, my father founded modern Iraqi music. After years of a frozen tradition, he introduced Western elements into it, and developed the new music on the basis of the traditional makamas (a traditional form of Arabic poetry). The songs he wrote were performed by the greatest Iraqi singers, including Salima Murad and Sultana Yusuf, and were played all over the Arab world and the Persian Gulf

His glorious career was cut short by the brothers' decision to immigrate to Israel during the major wave of aliyah (immigration) in the early 1950s. From the moment they left Iraq, attitudes toward them changed, as they did toward the Jews altogether. "The process of erasing them from Iraqi history was gradual," says Shlomo al Kuwaiti. "During the first years, local artists, Muslims, began to appropriate some of their songs. Slowly but surely, their names disappeared from the radio programs, although the songs themselves were still played. The process came to a climax after Saddam Hussein came to power. In 1972 he established a committee in the broadcasting authority, and one of its orders was to erase the names of the Al Kuwaiti brothers from every official publication and from the curricula in the academy of music. From then on, the songs that they wrote were labeled 'of folk origin.' Incidentally, the director of the broadcasting authority during that period was Mohammed al Sahaf, who was the Iraqi minister of information during the period of the second American invasion of Iraq, and is remembered for his grotesque television appearances."

The Kuwaiti brothers were not treated properly in Israel, either. After undergoing a difficult absorption process, they performed on the Voice of Israel radio broadcasts in Arabic, but felt they were being forcefully pushed into a marginal ghetto of Oriental music, which the establishment treated with hostility. "They had a weekly program on the Voice of Israel in Arabic, the broadcast of a live performance that was very popular both among native Iraqis in Israel and in the neighboring countries," says Shlomo al Kuwaiti, "but they lived with an unpleasant sense of humiliation. In Iraq they had left behind a fortune, and were at home in the king's palace, and here they were treated with suspicion and arrogance."

See Haaretz "From the king's palace to a 'ghetto' of Oriental music" for the full biography.

hat tip to Eva Broman, for posting the link on the Jewish Music mailing list, and to motifun07 for posting the video to YouTube, and to the Point of No Return blog, for pointing me to the Haaretz article.

Guitar in Synagogue?

I had an interesting moment yesterday picking up my elder wiggler from Hebrew school at my North Coast Conservative Jewish synagogue. I had gotten there a bit before class let out to snag a last minute Hannukah present from the gift shop. (The religious/identity competition has already started. My elder wiggler, age-Kindergarten, noted some of her class mates wear little crosses. So I'm getting her a little Mogen David necklace. Sigh. I'll tell you all about our adventures with Christmas music in the schools later...)

Anyway, so there I was, in the synagogue during class time when I wandered past the main sanctuary and heard guitar playing. Insert gasps and shock here. (If you didn't have the shocked reaction, hang on. I'll explain in a minute). I knew the Hebrew school had a music teacher, but she had a class room downstairs. So what gives? I stuck my head inside the door and saw a young college-age fellow up on the bimah leading a group of what looked like middle-school kids in song. I forget which song it was, but it was a pretty standard para-liturgical piece like Shalom Rav.

Pretty standard, in my experience, in the Reform community. In fact, "song leader with guitar" is almost the definition of Reform participatory services. Typically, Conservative synagogue's follow the traditional Jewish practice of not allowing instrumental music in the synagogue (at least, not on in the sanctuary during services). As far as I'm aware, mine does. So, I was pretty surprised hearing it coming from the Bimah.

Since I didn't know what the purpose of the gathering was, and didn't have time to find out, I'm not going to comment on whether it was appropriate or not. I was just surprised. Next week I'll try to grab the school principle and see what the story is. Not that I'm going to jump up and down regardless of what her answer is, I'm just curious where the synagogue is going.

By the way, the conflict between Reform and Conservative service styles has been well documented, including the following passage from Jeffrey Summit's "The Lord's Song in a Strange Land." In this passage, Summit documents an attempt by student leaders at Tufts to plan a combined Conservative / Reform service and why the students different relationships with halacha and their own musical / litrugical identity made that attempt much more difficult that either group had expected.

"The planning committee did not have an easy job; these two services differ considerably. The Conservative service, often called "the traditional service," uses nusach and has almost no English. Most of the tunes were learned in the youth movement. Davening is led by the shaliach tsibbur, who stands in front of the group. The majority of the Conservative students hold the traditional position that instrumental music is halakhically forbidden in Sabbath services. For the Reform students, the guitar and the role of the enthusiastic song leader have become emblematic of Reform worship in high school and college. Most view the guitar as essential to meaningful, participatory, prayer. While there is a sstudent leader and a song leader in the Reform service, the leadership role in this group moves person by person around the circle, as all worshipers take turns reading a section of the service. While many of the prayers and the structure of worship in both services are basically the same, it was clear to the planning committee that they were attempting to meld two services with essentially different styles."