Tuesday, July 1, 2008

a fast top 10

I got a nice email the other day from someone who doesn't "know the first thing about Jewish music ... [but] and every Jewish song I've heard sounded beautiful, so I was hoping you'd let me know what to get & where to start etc?"

So, here's a fast top 10 I put together. The goal of the list was to give a broad overview of traditional styles, focusing on some personal favorites & contemporary recordings. The list was not meant to be comprehensive and short-changes lots of wonderful bands & recordings. What do you all think? What's your top 10? What would you recommend?
First, you might listen to this last.fm radio station


The user is a friend of mine and has great taste. You'll hear lots of great Jewish music.

Jewish music encompasses a number of different genre's, so I'll tell you a bit about the most important ones as I do my top 10 list, ok?

Klezmer - Eastern European Ashkenazi Jewish music (e.g. from Russia, Poland, Germany). This is secular folk dancing music. Klezmerim were traveling musicians who played at parties and weddings. It can be very moody and dark as well.

1. I haven't listened to it yet, but the new Rough Guide to the Klezmer Revival has a nice sampling of contemporary Klezmer.

2. The band Budowitz, from x is one of my favorite contemporary klezmer groups. Their album "Mother Tongue" is marvelous.
band website: http://www.budowitz.com/Budowitz/Home.html

3. One of my favorite albums of all time, Andy Statman and Dave Grisman's "Song of our Fathers" is a lovely contemporary album mixing klezmer and Jewish Hassidic songs
4. Another one of my personal favorites, Davka's Judith mixes klezmer with chamber music and gives it a wild middle eastern lilt.

5. While not klezmer, Wolf Krakowski does an amazing job mixing Yiddish folk music with American roots music. This one has been in heavy rotation lately. http://www.tzadik.com/index.php?catalog=7166

A second major strain of Jewish music comes from the Sephardic Jews, whose culture was established in the 1400's in Spain and was then dispersed around the Mediterranean. The song Ocho Kalendekas that [my correspondant] sent the link to is a contemporary American Sephardic song written by Flory Jagoda, a Sephardic Jew from Yugoslavia.

6. Flory Jagoda. Jagoda is a top notch singer and musican in the Sephardic style. The rhythms of her music has a definite Balkan feel.

7. Janet & Jak Esim Ensemble. The Esim's are from Turkey and play in a wonderful lyrical style. You can hear samples at
http://www.oz-ist.com/artist.asp?id=13 and see their recordings at

8. Pharoah's Daughter. Basya Shecter and her band play an amazing modern Sephardic music, strong in tradition buy dizzyingly psychedelic at times too. http://www.pharaohsdaughter.com/ My favorite album is Out of the Reeds http://www.tzadik.com/index.php?catalog=7187

The third major area of Jewish music is Misrachi, or Middle Eastern.

9. Ofra Haza is the queen of Misrachi music. She was an Israeli Jew of
Yemenite descent. Her album Homeland Songs is my personal favorite.
(more about her - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ofra_Haza) You can find
a lot of her albums on Amazon

10. David Broza is an Israeli pop singer who brings together elements of Ashkenazi, Separdic and Misrachi music. His album Massada 99 - Starting to Breath is one of my favorites.

And finally

11. Fiddler on the Roof. This is a classic American musical and is just as loved today as it was when it was first produced.

There are a lot of aspects of Jewish music I haven't mentioned, but hopefully these are a good start. If you find things you like, let me know and I can point you to more.

So what do you all think? What would your list look like?


TX972 said...

Hi Jack,

I personally put more weight on last.fm as a source of Jewish music, mainly because of their marvelous 'tag' (genre) system. Listeners 'tag' tracks, albums, and artists with a relevant (to them) descriptor. Other listeners are able to play a stream of music associated with a given 'tag'.

Tags which stream associated music for hours include 'klezmer', 'jewish', 'hebrew', 'israeli', and 'israel'. In addition, there are likely to be shorter streams for more esoteric tags, such as 'sephardic', 'cantorial', 'shabbos', 'middle east', 'jewish music', 'mizrachi', etc.

Whatever adjective you think of, someone has likely already applied it as a 'tag' label. Try it out! (I'm sure YOU have, Jack!)

Jack said...

I sure have. At the moment, I'm even got Lori Cahan-Simon guest djing via her last.fm user radio. How would you like to be guest DJ? If you're user radio is mostly Jewish music we could use it. If not you could pick one of the tags you mentioned. It would a be a blast to have August be "cantorial" month. Drop me an email and let me know.

Unknown said...

i really like going to
it has great jewish music

Jack said...

Ashley, Thanks for the pointer. I'll check it out.