Thursday, July 17, 2008

Heeb goes Jewish music bashing

As folks may know from my prior post "Diamond Days, or When Is a Jewish music fest not a Jewish music fest" I'm not so keen on Heeb magazine or the Diamond Days music fest. In my post I expressed my frustration with Heeb for sponsoring a fine, but completely non-Jewish music fest. While writing the blog post I exchanged email with Heeb editor and Diamond Days organizer Jay Diamond. Jay made it clear that he has great intentions for the fest, but that having it relate to anything Jewish wasn't one of them. Jewish magazine. Music fest with no Jewish music. Go figure.

I think that Heeb must be feeling a bit of heat about this. (The JewishSF also took them to task, as did Ari's KlezmerShack blog.) This week, though, in an interview in the San Francisco Bay Guardian Heeb magazine publisher Josh Neuman added more fuel to the fire. He said, and I quote,
"First of all, our goal isn't to showcase Jewish musicians (we couldn't care less if the musicians are “Jewish”) or "Jewish music" (a murky moniker that generally signifies some sort of backwards gaze at a mythical, "authentic" past). Like the magazine, the goal of the fest is to showcase emerging talent for an audience that identifies at some level as being Jewish."
Sigh. All of us who identify with being Jewish and do want to showcase Jewish musicians and Jewish music are looking backwards for mythical authenticity. Hmm. I like it. Maybe I should make a bumpersticker that says that. Any way, I'm a bit furious and my opinion of Heeb has dropped yet again. I posted a bit of a peeved reply to this comment on the SF Guardian website. You should too.

Here's what I said...
"Heeb repeatedly demonstrates that it is pretty clueless when it comes to Jewish culture outside of a narrow set of tired shticks. When Neuman comments that "Jewish music" is "a murky moniker that generally signifies some sort of backwards gaze at a mythical, "authentic" past)" he's demonstrating that he has no idea what's going on in the Jewish music scene. Jewish music has never been so forward looking as it is now, there are artists all over the country (and the world) exploring what Jewish music can become. Some of these artists draw on historic musical influences, some don't. Some draw heavily on contemporary music genres ranging including rock, hip-hop, jazz, country, chamber music and more. Some don't. Some are anchored in liturgical music and prayer, some are outspoken activists, many are great entertainers, no more, no less. The point is that they are, with no more lofty goal than making great music, creating a new American Jewish culture that is as vibrant as anything that has come before. But Heeb hasn't noticed and isn't interested. In Heeb's world being Jewish is nothing more than wearing a hip "tribe" t-shirt while laughing at your grandparents. Who's looking backwards?"
ok. off the soap box. stay tuned for some forward looking blog posts. I've got a ton lined up.

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