Thursday, May 15, 2008

Jewish music and disaffected Jews

I had an interesting discussion with one of my cousins at my brothers wedding this past weekend. We were catching up a bit and ended up chatting about this blog and Jewish music. He's a typical American disaffected, non-observant, cultural Jew and found the idea of a Jewish music blog a bit perplexing. Christian music, he thought he understood. Or, at least, he'd had it marketed to him through Grammy awards, holiday specials, and much more public marketing campaigns. He'd never thought about Jewish music as a genre or category. And I understand where he's coming from. I didn't either until I really started listening to it and for it.

While we were talking he raised on question that has had me pondering for days now. He noted that he, not being part of any particular Jewish community, didn't have any exposure to Jewish music and unlike everything else in this society, didn't have it marketed to him. And there are lots of reasons to do the marketing. To the music lover, there are so many great bands playing live and recording all the time that I can't track them all. To the disaffected Jew looking for a community, music can provide an easy connection between people not based on being frum or even observant (though that can come later if desired).

So how can we fix that? Lots of cities have Jewish music festivals. Even more have small Jewish musical groups or host visiting groups. Do we really do a bad job of publicizing them? Where is our Grammy? Where is our XM or Sirius satellite radio shows? Why does every list of 'religious music' radio shows on the internet consist almost entirely of Christian music.

It's a bit frustrating. That's all. I didn't have my iPod with me when I talked to my cousin, but if I did I'll bet I could have gotten him hooked on at least one or two recordings. So how do we make it easy for people like my cousin to get exposed? Any ideas?


Klezmer Podcast said...

This is a big problem for the Jewish music industry. MySpace doesn't even have a category that fits Jewish music. We have to use genres like "Roots," "Folk," and the dreaded "Other." It's difficult to attract an audience when you can't even search for something "Jewish" related. And since Jewish music is not part of the mass-media juggernaut, devotees still must make the extra effort to seek out music that appeals to them. Plus, there are so many sub-genres of Jewish music that it's hard to even tell someone where to begin. Just thought I would help jumpstart the discussion.

Anonymous said...

every week i try and solve this problem by hosting a jewish music radio show! i wish i had more exposure. its true, there are so many great bands out there! by the way, i love your blog!

Jack said...

you sure do, Ben. And Keith both plays music and hosts his Klezmer Podcast. And I've got this blog. So I guess that's part of the answer.

I just wonder about this from my cousins vantage point. How can we help get things in front of him unasked for, at least once in a while, so that he has the opportunity to have his imagination sparked. Whether he takes the bait or not is his business, but right now we haven't reached him.

PsychoToddler said...

My band is listed on Myspace as "regional Mexican."

I used to think that was pretty funny, until I realized that lots of promotion sites get their info directly from Myspace.

So now our Summerfest gig is listed under "regional Mexican".

Oh well, que sera, sera

Jack said...

Que sera indeed. There isn't anything you can do about that? MySpace doesn't let you do your own genre tagging? That's pretty nuts.