Sunday, July 13, 2008

Jewish Air Guitar

Michael 'Crobar' CrolandDigression number 1. I find Google a reassuring place. I always have this moment of self-doubt when I enter a new query and hit go. Am I ridiculous for asking this question? And then, 0.38 seconds later (precisely. Google is emphatic about it's timing) I find that an answer is out there. I may be inquisitive, a dilettante with the momentary interest, but somewhere out there is someone with a passion waiting to be admired. Even for "Jewish Air Guitar." Really.

Digression number 2. I will now admit, in public, a dark secret that I've kept to myself for years. I'd say that even my wife doesn't know, other than a) she claims she knows all my secrets and b) nothing I could tell her at this point would surprise her enough to disavow a). It's true. I used to air guitar myself. More accurately, I lip-synched. During high school (a long long time ago) I would take to the talent-show stage pretending to be Tom Lehrer, Weird Al Yankovic, or Dan Aykroyd (a la Elwood Blues of the Blues Brothers). And I was good. Really good.

The Struggle of a Jewish Air Guitarist. Which all brings me to today's post. Earlier this week, as I'm sure you've gathered by now, I punched the phrase "Jewish Air Guitar" into Google and was rewarded with links to the blog of Jewish Air Guitarist Michael "Crobar" Croland. Crobar has played at regional competitions affiliated with the U.S. Air Guitar Championships, been mentioned in the book "To Air is Human," was interviewed for the film Air Guitar Nation (though his clip wasn't included in the released film). And he's Jewish, has air guitared to Jewish music (Yidcore's cover of "Yerushalayim Shel Zahav") and has written some great posts in his own blog about the struggles of being a Jewish air guitarist.
Why is it such a struggle to be a Jewish air guitarist? My hero, To Air Is Human author Dan "Bjorn Turoque" Crane, is a Jewish air guitarist. 2006's Los Angeles air guitar champion is a Schwartz, so he's probably a member of the tribe. But have Crane or Schwartz ever had this identity struggle?

I thought about wearing a yarmulke and performing to Jewdriver's "Manischewitz" last night, but I doubt that would have gone over well with the crowd. When I paraded around like Santa Claus at an air guitar contest in May and paused before telling a Jewess that I was Jewish, clearly my Jewish and air guitarist identities were in conflict. I also felt conflicted when I heard the Holocaust-glorifying lyrics of the song picked for that competition's air-off. Why do I have to pick and choose between Jewish events and air guitar competitions? If I plan a big vacation in the not-too-distant future, should I visit Finland (the homeland of air guitar) or Israel (the homeland of the Jewish people)? And why was the Oyhoo Festival (aka the New York Jewish Music & Heritage Festival and Sidney Krum Conference) so adamant about not letting me ("one of the world's leading Jewish air guitarists") perform? These are tough questions that are perhaps best suited for rabbis.
In a personal correspondence, Michael reinforced that "Judaism plays a major role in my life. That might not be obvious when I'm air guitaring, but Judaism is always part of the picture somehow, at least in my mind." Personally, I'm thrilled to see it. As more and more musical groups are integrating their Jewish identity into their performance identity, it's only right that this attitude should make it's way to the air guitar community as well. So Oyhoo, consider this a protest vote. Crobar in 2009! Have a whole Jewish Air Guitar contest as part of the fest. Maybe I'll even dust of my air microphone and join in. Tom Lehrer's "Who's Next" anyone?

"So Israel's getting tense,
Wants one in self defense.
"The Lord's our shepherd," says the psalm,
But just in case, we better get a bomb!
Who's next?"

1 comment:

heebnvegan said...

This is great!

Anyone who's interested in learning more about air guitar should definitely read To Air Is Human (by Dan "Bjorn Turoque" Crane) and watch Air Guitar Nation. :-)