Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Remember The Cantor: Samuel Linkovsky's posthumous recording

I heard through one of my email grapevines about an interesting cantorial recording. I'm not quite ready to do my next 'new releases' post, so I thought I'd give it it's own space. Here's what I heard...

"My friend and teacher, Rabbi/Cantor Samuel Linkovsky z'l, passed away at a considerably young age. To commemorate the first Yurtzait, Samuel's final CD recording entitled 'Sh'ma Yisrael' has been released by his family.

The beauty of Samuel's voice lay not just in his beautiful coloratura, but also in his ability to project the meaning of liturgy through his entire being. It is impossible to remain indifferent, when listening to his singing.

This highly professional and uniquely arranged recording includes selections from different genres: Classical Chazzanut with a modern flavor, Israeli Chassidic Festival melodies, and an original arrangement of a long forgotten Yiddish song."

The recording seems to be a family project. You can order the disc and read more about Linkovsky at the website RememberTheCantor.com. In the meantime, here are some samples to listen to.


Shema Yisrael


Tatzin Yiddalach

Monday, January 28, 2008

Apple laptop video showcases Israeli Singer Yael Naim

Israeli pop singer Yael Naim got a big break recently when Apple decided to use her song 'New Soul' in the commercial for their new laptop. According to her bio Naim grew up in Ramat Hacharon near Tel Aviv and "blessed with an unsettlingly pure voice and an incredible agility at composition, the Israeli singer with her jet-black hair fumbled a long time before succeeding with this collection of ballads that meander through folk and pop, with an elegiac frugality and multi-coloured fantasy" (I'm addicted to biography puffery. It's such a demented form of poetry.)

Anyway, here's the Apple commercial and Naim's video. (And no, I don't own a Mac. And yes, I do think I would be cooler if I did. Even though I wouldn't. Be cooler, that is.)

Macbook Air Ad

yael naim new soul clip

Hat tip to YouTube user totoutardnet for posting the New Soul video, YouTube user michaelstockamore for posting the Macbook ad, and to Yacov Chodosh for tipping me off to this in the first place by emailing the Hava Nashira mailing list. Thanks folks.

Chad-Love: Ghettocaust and the meaning of hip-hop

Chad Love Ghettocaust Here's a great story. Chad Love, white Jewish rapper participates on the pilot episode of VH1's '(White) Rapper Show' and ends up challenging the host, MC Serch, to a hip-hop battle. I haven't been able to verify any of this, but You can read Chad Love's account of it in his MySpace blog. Love has an album out on Evol Records (available through CD Baby) and has been looking for support in putting a video together for his track, Ghettocaust.

"Ghettocaust” is an original Hip Hop song written by Chad Love. It reminds us of the atrocities that the Jewish people endured during the Holocaust in Nazi Germany, asks us to never forget what happened there, and warns that if we allow it, could happen again. Chad Love, one of the first Jewish Political Rappers, uses the guttural style and feel of Hip Hop to convey the deepest feelings about that horrific time in the history of civilization. In this, the beginning of the 21st Century, it is all too easy to forget what happened over 60 years ago in Europe."

As far as I can tell, this is all old news. Love's album came out in 2003, his participation on the White Rapper pilot was in 2005, and the Ghettocaust track came out in 2006. I sent him an email to see what he's been up to lately. I'll let you know what I hear. In the meantime, check out the Ghettocaust track on the Ghettocaust MySpace page. I'm a fan.

Also, something to think about. Chad Love, in his White Rapper appearance, made the statement that Hip Hop stands for "His Israeli People, His Oppressed People" and later defended that statement in an interview by saying " Most people don't know what hip-hop stand for. While I believe it hasn't really been made public, Hip-hop stands for His Israeli People, His Oppressed People. In fact, the Jewish and the African communities have always been working together in this industry. It was the Jewish community that helped to finance hip-hop in the first place and it was the Jewish community that finance the original hip-hop acts," he said."

While I've never heard that before, I found another reference to the phase that suggests that he might be right. Though there seems to be disagreement about whether the term "Israeli" is supposed to refer to Jews or to 'Black Israelites'. Interesting.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Klezmer, with violin and handgun

Update. I'm completely an idiot. That's not a handgun on the cover it's a violin neck aimed directly at the camera. sigh. That makes much more sense. Ignorant in public. Yep, that's me.

Ok, so I'll admit I'm a sucker for album covers. I've bought numerous albums just for the covers (most of which were only worth the covers, ah well). Here's one that I will be definitely buy for the cover, though the music is just fine too.

Klezmer Karma album cover

The artist is Roby Lakatos, the album is "Klezmer Karma." The handgun? Don't ask me. Here's the AvantiClassical record label description of the album...
"Roby Lakatos and Ensemble proudly present their new recording for avanticlassic and avantijazz. This luxurious new project is a fusion of the hugely popular Lakatos Gypsy style with a Yiddish and Klezmer repertoire.

With support from the world-renowned Yiddish singer Myriam Fuks, the Italian accordionist Aldo Granato and the celebrated Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra, this luxury SACD production will delight both fans of Roby and of Yiddish Klezmer music.

A unique homage to some of the most inspiring tunes of western musical history with a very modern feel and with arrangements containing elements of Tango, Funk, Jazz and Waltz. This is an extremely refreshing and original musical journey."

Still don't get the handgun. Did Yiddish Gangster become the new look? Should I go rent a copy of "Once Upon A Time in America?" Anyway, here's a YouTube video of Lakatos violining up it Gangster Style on the Yiddish classic "Romania, Romania".

Hat tip to AvantiClassical for posting the video.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Y-Love with Afro Semitic Experience - MLK Tribute

Hot off YouTube, Jewish jazz from Connecticut, the Afro-Semitic Experience, meets hip-hop from New York, Y-love, in a Martin Luther King Day tribute.
Y-Love with Afro Semitic Experience - MLK Tribute

hat tip to YouTube user guyemanuelshovanis for posting the video and to David Chevan of the Afro-Semitic Experience for emailing the Klezmershack mailing list to let us all know. thanks

Gimpel the Fool accordian duo

After posting about the opera La Juive (The Jewess), I went looking for videos of other Jewish operas. The first that I looked for was David Schiff's "Gimpel the Fool". While I didn't find the video I was looking for, I did find this gem. It's a Japanese duo calling themselves the "Jabara Sisters" playing a composition by Hankus Netsky, of the Klezmer Conservatory Band, also called "Gimpel the Fool." According to the video notes, the Netsky piece was written for a radio drama presentation of Issac Bashevis Singer's story. According to the Klezmer Conservancy Band's website, their version of Gimpel is available on their album "Dancing In The Aisles." I haven't been able to track down the radio program yet, but I'll keep looking.

Gimpel The Fool

Hat tip to the Jabara Sisters for posting the video.

Clarinet Secrets - book and podcast, includes Klezmer

whew, it's been a long weekend. Sorry for the lack of posts. My wife and I took the wigglers to visit a cousin out of state and I made and kept one of my infrequent "no-laptop-on-vacation" promises. But I'm back and my fingers are itching for some blogging, so....

Clarinet Secrets Book JacketMost of my posts and resources links are directed more at music fans than at musicians. The book and podcast Clarinet Secrets, though, has a delightfully 'wanna-be' feeling that makes it worth sharing. (You know what I mean, "You can play clarinet", "You can make your own bite valve hydration system", "You can make parsley soda"*) While Clarinet Secrets podcast has lots of serious content, it also has episodes titled "Learn how to install your own neck-strap ring for under 1 dollar," Imitating Nature," and "The Chin Exercise." I played clarinet a bit when I was a kid. No one ever taught me "The Chin Exercise." I feel cheated.

The Clarinet Secrets podcast
is hosted by "
clarinet pedagogue Michele Gingras from Miami University (OH)" to accompany / promote her book recently published by Scarecrow Press. My giggles over chin exercises not withstanding, Gingras' book is subtitled "52 Performance Strategies for the Advanced Clarinetists" and is pretty serious. This isn't another Mel Bay Clarinet Primer.

The podcast and book have sections on Klezmer, including presentation
repertoire, techniques, and ornamentation. I'm looking forward to listening to them.

* For lots more delightful "You can do its", visit www.instructables.com If you think I've got too much time on my hands, I ain't got nothing on the folks who write for Instructables. They actually build that stuff.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Jewess - a Jewish opera

On one of my whims, I punched "random musical term + Jewish" into google tonight. Just to see, you know. Tonight's term was Jewish Opera. I've gotten educated enough to know that something would pop up. There had to be.

The first thing that popped up is a JewishTheater.com article by Philip Kennicott about an opera called "La Juive The Jewess" in which "audiences watched an old Jewish man -- called the "Shylock of opera" and inevitably referred to as "vengeful" or "implacable" -- send his adopted daughter to her death in a vat of boiling oil. The character of Rachel, in Fromental Halevy's opera "La Juive," was being punished for the crime of marrying a Christian." The article goes on to explore some of the history of the opera and discuss the recent Neil Shicoff production.

Ah, melodrama set to music, opera how we love thee. But this is a wonderful production and Shicoff has a marvelous voice. If I understand correctly, this video is from a Deutsche Grammophon DVD that's available from your local music store, Amazon or favorite one line vendor.

Halevy - La Juive - Neil Shicoff

Klezmer Shofar

I love the shofar. (The name of this blog, Teruah, comes from one of the shofar notes played on the high holidays.) And I love hearing it pop up in unlikely places. While getting pressed into service in a klezmer piece isn't as odd as showing in a duet with a Furby, I was still surpised and taken by this piece. According to the video notes, Metropolitan Klezmer trumpeter Pam Fleming was "trying out her latest horn, a kudu (antelope) shofar!"

Metropolitan Klezmer: Pam Fleming's kudu shofar solo

Hat tip to YouTube user 'evesicular' for posting the video.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Japanese Klezmer, Roma, freeform band

I love this kind of thing. Start with some good squawky guitar, then break into something that sounds like a freilach crashing downhill into a junkyard. The musicianship isn't quite top notch, but who cares. It's a glorious mess.

I haven't been able to figure out an English translation for the name of the band (Babelfish translates the video title as "Is that that?") but I'll keep trying. Here's the video description...
"A very rare band from Japan playing Klezmer (Jewish) and Gypsy (Roma) music. The band formed in 1999. Not using any electrical instruments at all, the band's sound reminds one of nostalgic circus music and old jass bands. With all the different backgrounds of the musicians from Ding-Dong(A Japanese advertising Marching Band), Jazz, Rock, Pop, New Orleans, Latin, Musette, Irish, to Classical, and their free style performance, the band is able to create a distinctive world of their own. They are active on the streets, event spaces, and clubs in and around Osaka. They played together and opened for bands like: "Fanfare Ciocarlia"・a Rumanian Gypsy brass band, "Think of One" from Belgium, and "Willem Breuker Kollektief" from Holland, and more"


Hat tip to Tazy1969 for posting the video.

Chosen Voices and The Virtual Cantor

Book Jacket for Chosen Voices: The Story of the American CantorateI started reading Mark Slobin's "Chosen Voices: The Story of the American Cantorate" this past weekend. Here's part of the book jacket blurb:
The job of the hazzan–-much more than the traditional "messenger to God"–-is deeply embedded in cultural, social, and religious symbolism, negotiated between the congregation and its chosen voices. Drawing on archival sources, interviews with cantors, and photographs, Slobin traces the development of the American cantorate from the nebulous beginnings of the hazzan as a recognizable figure through the heyday of the superstar sacred singer in the early twentieth century to a diverse portrait of today's cantorate, which now includes women as well as men.
I haven't made it past Slobin's introduction so I don't have anything all that interesting to share yet. There was one bit in the intro that I really resonated with, though. In a section called "A Note to Ethonomusicologists" Slobin explained, a bit apologetically, that he had conducted 'in-group' ethnomusicology (meaning that he was a member of the group, Jews, that he was studying). He didn't apologize for doing this since he wasn't a cantor and knew little about cantors at the start of the project. He just noted that "1) the author expresses insider sensibilities and addresses the groups concerns as well as those of scholarship, and 2) non-Jews take less interest in the work as they tend to think of Jewish matters as being special-interest of esoteric. The two factors are interdependent, since despite ones best intentions the insider author tends to either take things for granted or overexplain." (emphasis mine).

I love that statement because it highlights one of my principal challenges blogging about Jewish music. I'm not particularly concerned with scholarship, but I recognize and embrace the fact that some of my readers will know a lot less (or nothing) about Judaism than I do and that some will know an awful lot more. I'm constantly walking the line between taking things for granted and over-explaining. It's nice to hear that I'm not alone in worrying about this.

Any way, I'll report it as I read the book and pass along some good bits and /or my reactions.

Virtual Cantor logoOn a related note, I wanted to share a new resource I found called "The Virtual Cantor", a site dedicated to "promote the proliferation of Nusach and to make a Nusach readily accessible to those who have a desire to learn and a desire to deepen their Judaism." (Nusach is the style & melodies of Jewish prayer services.) The site has downloadable .mp3 files of Shabbat services and home prayers, High Holiday, and festival services, the Purim Haggadot reading, as well as life cycle events such as weddings and funerals. If you, like me, are either rusty or just learning, this is a great source for self study.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The history of frum popular Jewish music and other misc.

I've got a ton of things to blog about tonight, but after painting my living room twice (don't ask) I'm beat. Instead of trying to be clever and interesting, I'll get by with pointing to recent cleverness and interestingness out there in weboland.

First, Chaim at Life of Rubin wrote an interesting piece on the recent history of frum popular music. (By frum, I'm mostly referring to Chassidim & Modern Orthodox.) It generated a lot of comments and a great followup piece by YK of 'YK's Jewish Music Form' speculating on the impact of Chassidim in general and Chabad in particular on frum popular music.

The Forward applauds as Conservative "Synagogues become rock concerts" and laments the death (or at least dearth) of Jewish parody music.

Haaretz writes about the rock concert thing also.

JVibe Music AwardsYou can go vote in JVibe's third annual JVibe Music Awards competition. I'm always interested in who makes the cut in competitions like this one. This year has lots of interesting choices and lots of missed opportunities, go check it out.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Romeo & Juliet + The Exorcist = a new Dybbuk opera

A new production of the Dybbuk will raise curtains in Montreal in two weeks. Composed by Ofer Ben-Amots, it features Yahli Toren and the QAT Ensemble. Toren is "one of the foremost singers/performers from Tel Aviv and is known for her cross over between folklore and art music". The QAT Ensemble is a Montreal-based chamber music quartet. If you follow their links to their MySpace pages, you can hear some lovely recordings including the finale to the Dybbuk on the QAT page. Ben Amots is an Israeli composer currently on the faculty of Colorodo College. According to his bio, "Ofer Ben-Amots’ works have been repeatedly recognized for their emotional and highly personal expression. The interweaving of folk elements with contemporary textures, along with his unique imaginative orchestration, creates the haunting dynamic tension that permeates and defines Mr. Ben-Amots’ musical language"

Here's Ben-Amots 'Nigun of The Seven Circles' and 'Red Curtain Dance' from the Dybbuk Suite.

Nigun of The Seven Circles

'Red Curtain Dance'

Here's the official promo description:
"Based on the classic Jewish play by S. Ansky, this new 3-Act opera features renowned international artists, and combines music, drama, dance, realtime video projections, and more. The world premiere of this production will be held in Montreal at the Segal Centre for Performing Arts. The Dybbuk has been often described as Romeo & Juliet meets The Exorcist. Indeed, the play’s subtitle, Between Two Worlds, indicates the duality, which is both the center and source of the haunting drama of life vs. death, demonic vs. angelic, the natural vs. the unnatural, the ancient customs vs. modernity. Channan and Leah are betrothed to each other by their fathers even before their birth. But the two are denied their fate when Leah’s father breaks the marriage contract and offers his daughter to a richer man. Chanan attempts through mysticism and magic to regain Leah, but weakened from prolonged prayer and fasting, he dies and enters the spirit world.

In this chamber opera, Ofer Ben-Amots characterizes the separate realms of the two central characters by having Leah carry the vocal role - singing, reciting, and acting - while the role of the other main character, Channan, is performed wordlessly entirely on the clarinet. In Hebrew and English."
The Dybbuk will be performed on January 24th and 26th 2008 at the Segal Centre for Performing Arts in Montreal and will then tour to Germany, the Czech Republic, and the US. To bad it won't be performed anywhere near here, I'd love to see it.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Adon Olam

It's Friday. Shabbat Shalom everyone...

This week I'm featuring a couple of nice performances of Adon Olam, one of the closing prayers of the Friday night service. I would love to features Shabbat videos that are unaccompanied and less stagey, but I've had a hard time finding them. But I'll keep looking. Both videos this week are Israeli. The first is from 1977 and features popular vocalist Uzi Hitman. The second is Yehuda Glantz and the Israel Symphony Orchestra Latin. Of course, I previously posted the best Adon Olam video ever, the inimitable Moshe Skier Band's spoof of Saturday Night Live "ich hob veiter a bissel shtickel cowbell!"

עוזי חיטמן ועודד בן -חור / "אדון עולם" 1977

Yehuda Glantz on the Charango

If you liked the Yehuda Glatz video, check out my previous post "How come you're watching a rabbi play electric guitar?"

Thanks to Youtube users Zweef1980 for posting the Yehuda Glantz video and Texparasit for the Uzi Hitman video.

"Hava Nagila" hit's British Charts (Really)

This is one of those truth is stranger than fiction moments.

The story goes like this ... Lauren Rose, a young British pop singer, thought it would be fun to record Hava Nagila as a present to grandfather. Her record company hears the track and goes crazy. They release the track in time for the Christmas holiday season and England goes crazy. End result...Jewish simcha standard gets voted number 1 Christmas song in England for 2007 (and most requested song in Israel.) Really.

Here it is, in all it's pippity poppity glory...

Hava Nagila (Baby Let's dance)

I saw the video a couple of weeks ago when it first came out, but got reminded of it yesterday when someone posted it to one of the Jewish music mailing lists I'm on. It's easy for music fans to get snooty about this kind of silliness (I'm feeling a bit snooty myself), but it's interesting that England took to it so well. Everyone loves Hava Nagila.

Also, one commenter on the mailing list made an interesting point that I'd missed. Lauren Rose is singing to an all (or mostly) girl audience who are rather conservatively dressed. While Rose is Jewish, I can't imagine that she is sufficiently observant follows traditional Tznuit rules which include the Kol Isha bans on women singing to non-spouse men and personal modesty rules. And not that I personally care. It's just an interesting and unexpected resonance to Judaism. (UPDATE: My wife watched the video and said it looked like a Bat Mitzvah dance party.)

Anyway, you can read more about the song in this Haaretz article, and in this review by Motorbar. And Rose's record company would be quite delighted if you bought the song from iTunes.

And if you had fun with this, there's lots more Hava Nagila silliness to see on YouTube. I posted a couple of my favorites a while back. Check them out.

Hat tip to Lisa Baydush, one third of Shir Synergy, for emailing the mailing list and reminding me about the video. And thanks to my anonymous commentator for pointing my incorrectly using the term Niddah when I meant Tzniut. All fixed.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Jewish Theatre Music & The Forgotten Fish Memorial Orchestra

Logo for Jewish Theatre.Com Over and over I keep finding myself suckered by myths and easy stories about 'Jewish Music.' Take Jewish Theatre music, for example. The story goes that it was developed in pre-war Eastern Europe, migrated to the US with the influx of Jewish immigrants, and helped launch Broadway, Tin Pan Alley, and the Hollywood movie industry. Great story, but it implies that Jewish theatre is safely historicized. No more. Gone. By bye.


It may not be in a golden age at the moment, but there is a thriving Jewish theater scene, with theatres and troupes all over the world (check out Firelach, for example). It makes me laugh, because I love the theater and at one point even thought hard about becoming a playwright (I've had two plays produced, but that was a long long time ago). Did I know about any of this. Nope. Noppity.

Anyway, my new Jewish musical theatre anchor point is Jewish Theatre.Com. The site is well organized, professional, with news and resources for fans and professionals. I think I'll be hanging out there a lot.

Here's one example the Forgotten Fish Memorial Orchestra. Now, this isn't necessarily the best example, because the Fish don't primarily describe themselves as "Jewish." They don't seem to like labels of any kind, but one reviewer helped out by describing the Fish as a "weird mechanical circus music built on folkloristic and oriental sounds." I'll go with that. But I love this video and thought it was worth sharing.

Fun der Khuppe - Forgotten Fish Memory Orchestra

The Flying Fish have a number of audio recordings available on their website. According to the video notes "this tune, 'Fun der Khuppe' (a tune for a Jewish wedding) is one of the tracks on the new Fish CD 'If I Had a Hi Fi'. This is a OneShot Albuquerque film from a performance called Wallflowers."

hat tip to HarryPatch for posting the video to YouTube.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Arnie Davidson & Project Ben David

A couple of days ago I go turned on to Project Ben David, a new album of songs composed by Arnie Davidson and arranged/produced by Beth Schafer. PBD is "10 prayer based melodies will hook you and quickly get under your skin and into your soul. These songs will soon become the new 'standards' for this generation." PDB is an album out of the Contemporary Jewish Music scene, which means almost by definition I'm not too keen on it. (Some of you might remember my non-complimentary review of Beth Schafer's album a while back. I've still got bruises from the drubbing I got in my comments section over that one.) But I figure I'd go give it a listen.

I wish I could say I liked it, but I mostly didn't. Like most of the music I associate with CJM, it seems to derive largely from Debbie Friedman's music which came out of the 1970's easy listening pop guitar world. On his personal website, Arnie Davidson lists "James Taylor, Steely Dan, Phil Collins, Randy Newman and a touch of Michael McDonald and Todd Rundgren" as his influences. While each of these musicians were talented and well loved, I personally find their music tepid, timid, and tedious. (Just my taste, folks.) That's mostly how I react to the tracks on PBD. Pretty, but musically and lyrically uninteresting. (again, just my taste).

But then I heard Davidson's "Esa Einai." Davidson voice has a strong, understated, sincerity. The lyrics are simple and sublime. The guitar playing lifts them and me up. I'm not sure why, but I believe this one lives up to the "new standard" claims. I'll remember it for a long time. I've listened to the full track about 5 times already (Davidson's made it freely available) and expect I'll listen to it 5 more times tonight and play it for my wife when she gets home.

Totally unexpected. Totally wonderful.

So, go listen to the song clips on the Project Ben David website. Maybe there one of the tracks I didn't like will hit you like Esa Einai hit me. I'm willing to believe one might.

(by the way, Esa Einai's full emptiness reminds me of some of the tracks I love on Mare Winingham's "Red Rock Redemer." Definitely check that out as well.)

Related Posts: 'Beth Schafer: Universal and Particular,' Music, Setting, and Grass Clipping,' Mare Winingham's Red Rock Sublime

Monday, January 7, 2008

PHP doesn't mean Purple Herring Project

But it should. Way better than Punt, Hike, Pass, or Potter, Harry Potter.

I got an email recently from a new Jewish rock band that goes by the name PHP. (PHP doesn't stand for anything in particular and the guys have great fun collecting possible versions from fans). They've got an excellent sound and have got me hooked. Much to my surprise. I'm not usually a fan of straight up rock, even of the looser, more jazzy Jam Band variety. But I've had the master of their new album "Hodu" on pretty constant rotation for the last couple of days. My wife and I spent yesterday painting our living room. Any album that would have the two of us bouncing along for hours despite paint fumes, paint spills, and repeated "Papa let ME paint PLEEEEZE" is one that I'll be keeping around.

There's a lovely funky spaciness to PHP's sound. Not only is it reminiscent of contemporary Jam bands like Phish and their 1970's progenitors The Moody Blues, there's a nice mixing of folk(ish) and reggae(ish) rhythms. My favorite bit is the hysterical bonus track tacked on to the end of track 10, Cabin Jam. My one complaint with Hodu, and this is what turns me off from Jam Bands in general, is that the song melodies and lyrics are much less interesting than the explorations they launch. There's a whole community of improve musicians and fans that think that's just fine, but I want to feel that a stripped down one guy-one guitar version would work and be memorable. I don't get that feeling of compositional solidity from a number of these songs.

Here's a recent video of PHP. I don't think it really captures the sound they achieve on their album, but it will give you a rough idea of where they're coming from...

PHP Jewish Jam Band!!

PHP's Hodu will be available soon through Sameach. You can catch some demo tracks and videos at PHP website. Definitely worth checking out.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Shpil Klezmer Shpil! New Yiddish music from Dona and from Amanda “Miryem-Khaye” Seigel

I've run a cross a couple of nice Yiddish performances recently. The first is Dona, a Russian "chamber Yiddish song ensemble (3-4 singers) with a classical instrumental accompaniment (violin, accordeon, clarinet, bass, piano, and guitars)" According to the bio for Dona in there Klezmershack band listing, "was founded in 2004 by Anatoly Pinsky [and] organizes international Festivals of Jewish Music in Moscow." Their website is http://dona-dona.ru/. This performance, according to the YouTube page, is "Shpil zhe mir a lidele" performed at Yiddish-Fest 2007 in Moscow with soloist - Alina Ivakh

"Dona" Yiddish Song Group

Amanda Miryem-Khaye SeigelThe second is Amanda “Miryem-Khaye” Seigel, a "Yiddishist and a Yiddish singer, songwriter and performer known for her humorous and heartfelt performances." Her website has a number of great mp3 tracks for you to check out, and they're well worth it. I particularly enjoyed her "Dos trinken-lid (”Drinking Song”)", but all the tracks were excellent. I don't think that Seigel has a solo recording out yet, but she's been featured on two compilation dics:

“Ikh hob a kleynem yingele” [Featured soloist] . Zingt! A celebration of Yiddish choral music. Jewish People’s Philharmonic Choir. Binyumen Schaechter, conductor. New York, 2006.

“Celebrating the lives and works of martyred Soviet Yiddish poets and writers: A 50th anniversary: Itsik Fefer, Shmuel Halkin, Dovid Hofshteyn, Moyshe Kulbak, Perets Markish”. Videorecording produced by Neal Gosman for Yerushe: Minnesota Association for the Promotion of Yiddish Culture and Language. St. Paul, MN, 2006.

You can find out more about Seigel through her web site.

hat tip to Alexyrozov for posting the Dona video

Friday, January 4, 2008

Oseh Shalom - Aryeh Kunstler and Marc Rossio

Shabbat Shalom everyone,

It's cold Friday here on the North Coast. It hit 1 degree Fahrenheit yesterday and was up to a balmy 17 degrees this morning. Continuing my weekly tradition, here are some Friday night service music to get us in the mood. The first video is a new one from Aryeh Kunstler off of his new album "From The Depths" (available from Jewish Jukebox.) The second is "Marvelous Toy" Marc Rossio and his daughter. I was originally going to find a second video with a little less 'performer' and a little more 'liturgical' feel. But Marc's daughter is pretty cute and reminds me of my girls. What's a papa to do?

Aryeh Kunstler - Live @ JMC

Marc Rossio sings "Oseh Shalom" with his daughter

hat tip to Aryeh for sending me his video and to RabbiJason for posting the Rossio video. (Rabbi Jason has a blog. Check it out.)

Mah Rabu: Myths and Facts: Musical Instruments on Shabbat

I'm pretty interested in the halacha (Jewish law) of Jewish music and have posted about it a couple of times (see related posts, below). One important element of music halacha is the prohibition of music on Shabbat. Like many aspects of halacha, it can be a bit hard to pin down exactly where the prohibition comes from. BZ of the Ma Rabu blog wrote a long post today analyzing many of the key arguments in favor of the prohibition. He doesn't have a specific agenda behind his analysis other than to clarify discussion and get past a generic 'halacha says'. Since he covers a lot of separate arguments, it would tough for me sum it all up. If you're interested in such things, go read it. If your an expert it such things, go comment. He's looking to start a conversation and welcomes corrections and alternate interpretations.

related posts: 'Guitar in Synagogue?, 'Sefira and Jewish A Cappella Music Part 1'

Thursday, January 3, 2008

SoundRoots Playlist: Jewish Music Old and New

Another quick one...SoundRoots World Music & Global Culture recently put up a listen-on-line playlist of Jewish music. It's an interesting mix, leaning heavily towards contemporary klezmer with a little Yiddish folk music thrown in and Jewmongous' (aka Sean Altman's) goofy cover of the Ramones classic "I want to be sedated."

You can see the full play list on the SoundRoots page.

Good for the Jews: George Robinson interviews Rob Tannenbaum

Just a quick blip this morning. Blog in Dm posted a link to a Jewish Week interview with Rob Tannenbaum of the the comic Jewish pop band "Good for the Jews". It's a good interview. Here's my favorite bit..
"“As a college-educated Reform Jew, I understand that some people may feel I’m not entitled to speak on some subjects,” Tannenbaum says. “The Jewish people are not monolithic and I’ve had dialogues with people after our shows who have misgivings about the material.”
Fagin, who is also the lead singer, guitarist and songwriter for the Rosenbergs, a highly acclaimed power pop band, agrees, saying that you cannot please everybody. But he notes, “We’re rabbi-endorsed. We had a board member of a Jewish organization who complained about our material and his rabbi told him that he loves us because ‘if you can’t laugh at your own plight, what have you got? It’s healing.”"
If you haven't already, go check out my post about their song "They tried to kill us, we survived, lets eat." It's the funniest thing I've heard all year. I've been exchanging some email with Rob about the song. He sent me the lyrics and will hopefully send me the chords soon.


Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Thoroughly Modern Mille: Julie Andrews sings Mazel Tov

I was going through my to do list and realized I'd never gotten around to posting this little gem. It's Julie Andrews singing in Yiddish in a very odd Jewish wedding scene in the 1967 film "Thoroughly Modern Millie". I haven't seen the film though my understanding is that this is about the only Jewish bit in it. Here's a plot summary from the Internet Movie Database:
"Millie Dillmount, a fearless young lady fresh from Salina, Kansas, determined to experience Life, sets out to see the world in the rip-roaring Twenties. With high spirits and wearing one of those new high hemlines, she arrives in New York to test the "modern" ideas she had been reading about back in Kansas: "I've taken the girl out of Kansas. Now I have to take Kansas out of the girl!"
Somehow that involves Jewish weddings. Go figure.


Hat tip to YouTube user Shalommaniaforall for posting the video and to Susanne Schwimmer for posting it to the Jewish Music mailing list back in July. Thanks.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Lighting the inner menorah: the mystical music of Rabbi Sigal Brier

'Music is the pulse of Jewish spirituality – song charts the biorhythms of the Jewish soul.' - England's Chief Rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks (from the Jewish Music Institute)

I received an email today from a relative who recently had very positive Jewish experience (musical and spiritual) with Rabbi Sigal Brier.
"While at Kripalu [Yoga Center] Dec. 24 and and 25, [we] participated in a kind of Cabbalistic sing-a-long led by Rabbi Sigal. We really enjoyed chanting with this very personable, interesting woman (and about 40 other people in the group). This was a very unique musical experience for me. It was so repetitious that I actually felt the Hebrew words flow (so different from my usual tortuous pronunciations!) and as the melody changed, got faster or quieter, the nuances of the words changed, too."
I've never had an experience like this. I daven in a minyan a couple of times a week and sometimes have good prayer days when I feel a real connection and sometimes I don't. I know that my experience is common and that a lot of Jews actively seek more 'spirituality.' I only put it in quotes because I really don't know what the word means. What is a mystical experience? What does it mean to seek a imminent relationship with God? That's beyond my ability to really understand.

But Judaism has always had seekers, some following traditional paths such as the Chassidim or neo-chassidic (e.g. Jewish Renewal). Some follow more exotic paths. But all of these paths seem to have musical accompaniment. The practice of niggun, or wordless melody, for example, is central to Chassidic practice and it's derivatives. DovBear Pinson, a Chassidic scholar, describes the niggun's connection to spirituality in this way...
"A wordless tune--as is much of Jewish mystical song, particularly Chassidic--is the way two individuals can communicate on a soulular transcendent level. Any breakdown in the verbal communicated mode can be repaired by creating a conduit that transcends words. When a person feels alienated from his Source, or for that manner, from his fellow man, a wordless tune which exists on a realm that defies distinctions, separations, and disharmony, is the most fitting remedy, causing a unity of souls."
This understanding of creating a conduit seems to capture what Rabbi Sigal tries to achieve with her chanting groups. According to her website, Rabbi Sigal is a Reconstructionist rabbi with a focus on what she calls Integrated Judaism "the integration of Jewish wisdom, traditions, and practices, with other holistic wisdom and practices. The foundational idea is the awareness of oneness, wholeness, and unity." While I've never heard the term "Integrated Judaism" (I think it's a bit of a Rabbi Sigal trademark), I've seen concepts like this floated around before under the rubric of 'JewBu,' or Jewish Buddhist. One of the best Conservative rabbi's I've had was a bit of JewBu. He'd studied Buddhism for a while before entering seminary and becoming a Rabbi. While he left any specific Buddhist practices behind, his religious sensibility was an interesting mix. He could balance a sense of awe in the sublime with an earthy sense of daily life in a way I don't see in many other Conservative rabbi's. My wife misses his sermons terribly.

I was interested to see that Rabbi Sigal is, to a degree, neo-Chassidic and explicitly references and teaches Kabbalah, the Jewish mystical tradition, as well as Yoga and Eastern "holistic wisdom and practices." The Kabbalah connection is something I expect more from the Jewish Renewal community than the Reconstructionist community, but Rabbi Sigal is clearly setting her own pace. Listening to the recording samples she offers on her website (she has a number of CDs for sale) I hear more Eastern and Middle-eastern music than niggun melodies, but I understand the connection.

I don't have any personal experience with Rabbi Sigal, and am always a bit worried when folks feel the need to supplement Judaism in the way she does, but did want to pass along the my relative's recommendation. If you're in the seeking a spiritual or mystical connection, then the musical traditions of the Chassidic and neo-Chassidic approaches may have value. If you want a less traditional, more yoga flavored version, then Rabbi Sigal may have something to offer.

Related posts: Temple "Coming Home"