Friday, August 29, 2008

Seth Zimmerman rocks CAJE

Shabbat Shalom everyone.

This year's Conference on Alternatives in Jewish Education (CAJE) has come and gone. I know because the videos of the music performances are starting to hit YouTube. For those of you not hip to CAJE, it's a popular venue for showcasing new songleader (pop-folk liturgical) music and new songleaders looking to jump up from local songleading to a wider recognition.

So, with thanks to the CAJE gang and organizer Sam Glaser in particular, this weeks get in the Shabbat groove video is Seth Zimmerman rocking CAJE with Dan Nichols' "Esa Ena".

Seth Rocks CAJE Rising Star 2008

If this video wasn't enough, check out my previous posting of Sam Glaser's Adon Olam, Jeff Klepper's Shalom Rav, and Todd Herzog's "Tree of Life."

Hat tip to YouTube user ShulerRobin for posting the video.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Ortner-Roberts Duo & The Cotton Club Sher

I haven't written much about the link up between early Jazz and early 20th Century klezmer, mostly because it's been so heavily explored elsewhere. I ran into this video this morning, though, and thought it would be fun to go there for a moment. Partly because I love rich banging of the piano set against the warm, shrill clarinet (wonderful tone) and partly because, as an ex-Pittsburger, I love to highlight that unfairly neglected American city.

The video is the Ortner Roberts Duo playing "The Cotton Club Sher," a medley of Duke Ellington's "The Mooche" and "Rusische Sher" as recorded by the "I.J. Hochman’s Jewish orchestra." The video was shot at 3rd Street Gallery, Carnegie, PA, on August 16th 08. Here's the Duo's explanation...
“The Mooche” (1928) is one of the early masterpieces of Duke Ellington, composed during his residency at the famous Harlem nightspot The Cotton Club. The wailing descending melodic figure has a distinctly cantorial feel. The minor blues section begins as it did on the original recording featuring the Creole clarinet of Barney Bigard, but very easily transforms into a “Jewish blues”. Ellington’s introduction utilizes a very modern, dissonant chord sequence highlighting the tri-tone or “devil’s interval”. This serves as the transition point into one of the most diabolical sounding pieces in the entire klezmer repertoire: “ Rusische Sher” recorded in 1922 by I.J. Hochman’s Jewish orchestra. A sher, (translation: scissors) is a figure dance similar to the American square dance. The same “devil’s interval” creates the fiendish quality here in the first section of the piece."
Ortner-Roberts Duo/Cotton Club Sher

The Ortner Roberts Duo, A Trip To AmericaYou can get more info on the Ornter-Roberts Duo on their Myspace page. They also released an album recently called "A Trip to America". You can read a nice review of it and get purchase information over at Klezmershack.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Modular Moods releases C-Rayz Walz & the Kosha Dillz hip-hop collaboration "Freestyle vs Written"

C-Rayz Walz & the Kosha Dillz - Freestyle vs WrittenIt's been a good week. First, JDub released DeLeon's first Sephardic indie rock album, and now Modular Moods has released C-Rayz Walz & the Kosha Dillz hip-hop collaboration "Freestyle vs Written." You can the album and more info through iTunes, the album website, the album myspace page, Modular Moods and

Here's a video of one of the tracks.

C-RAYZ WALZ & KO$HA DILLZ - "OUTRO" (Freestyle vs Written) !

Here's a promo track "Listening to Freestyle vs. Written" for free download.

And finally, here's the album description (while it doesn't hyperventilate as much as your typical Chassidic Pop puff piece, it's darn close. Whew.)

"Indie hip-hop icon C-Rayz Walz teams up with fresh-faced, yeshiva-trained wordsmith Kosha Dillz for twelve tracks that mix freestyle and written rhymes, classic and new-school beats, and the frantic, fast-paced energy of a single, manic 24-hour recording session to produce, yes, "Freestyle Vs. Written," the first collaboration of its type. CMJ writes, ".. it's both a statement of cultural solidarity and creative open-mindedness."

It's an album that breaks borders and pushes boundaries. Songs like "I Love Jews" and "Ariel Sharon" are packed with classic hip rock samples and party moving sounds. Boasting collaborations with Murs, Matisyahu and MF Doom between them, and gracing the covers of magazines such as Entertainment Weekly and Source Magazine and spots on MTV, the two artists are ready to take the world by storm.

This soon-to-be-classic record was produced entirely by, 19-year-old Kentron Da Mastadon, who challenges the hip hop mold, armed with an MP of psychedelic rock riffs and jazz chops weaving the perfect backdrop for this Jerusalem Zionist-meets-Black Bronx ghetto aesthetic.

* 10% of all proceeds will be donated to Netivot Israel Louna Terror Victim Fund and to the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, an organization dedicated to strengthening relations between ethnic communities, headed by Russell Simmons and Rabbi Marc Schneier."

Hat tip to YouTube user TheBudderKing1 for posting the video and a slew of other Dillz videos.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Teruah interviews Daniel David Feinsmith (8 months late)

We'll get to interview in a second. First I have to come clean (and this is quite embarrassing). Last October I posted about the wonderful Jewish composer Daniel David Feinsmith, noting that I didn't know much about Jewish art music. Daniel sent me a note kindly offering an interview that would help me get oriented. I sent him some an email with some questions, got a lengthy response, which I never followed up and never published. Sigh. Daniel did the reasonable thing and published the interview to his own blog. The interview then got republished on Jewish

I was going to ask Daniel some follow on questions but it's a bit late for that. So here it is, republished on my own blog. sigh.
Jack Zaientz: When I read about or listen to people talk about Jewish music, the same images tend to repeat: the European klezmer, the superstar cantor, the contemporary songleader, the Yiddish Theater star, the Sephardic singer, the Chassidic rebbe, the family zemirot. Could you tell me about the Jewish art music tradition, where it comes from and why you think it hasn't achieved the same cultural status as the others? (Or has it, and I've just missed it?)

Daniel David Feinsmith: The Jewish Art Music tradition is as ancient as Judaism and music itself. In every generation where musicians have authentic spiritual feeling and love for the Creator, the purpose-made talents that God gives them allows for an expression of those feelings. For whatever reason, what is called “Jewish Music” nowadays is mostly music that doesn’t come from the heart, or from genuine spiritual experience, but more often, comes from copying forms of the past, such as Klezmer, etc. Who today can honestly claim to experience and feel the feelings and emotions of the klezmorim of eastern Europe? At the time of the building of what we have now as the klezmer forms, these works were new and fresh and spoke directly to the hearts of the Jews of the time. Do we have those times today? Yes, we can take joy in that music, but ultimately, they only speak to us at a certain level, because they don’t speak to the real experience of Jews today. The great cantorial soloists of the postwar experience, were also truly great Jewish musicians. They felt the profound emotions of Jewry, and their musics were deeply felt and filled with profound emotion. In this day, these kinds of profound feelings, the intense longing and spirituality accompanying the feelings of the prophets, are rarely heard. You can sometimes hear this longing, this combination of exaltation in divinity and sorrow at the human state in genuine niggunim as well, when sung by masters who can feel and project the emotional and spiritual states that the niggunim project. More often than not, what we have today are copycats in Jewish music. Empty forms devoid of real experience or real effort. Forms over time naturally become empty and devoid of real meaning, of genuine emotion.

The Jewish Art tradition can be compared to, for example the paintings of Marc Chagall, a unique and personal expression of the love of God and the Torah. It is unique in that it comes directly from the heart of spiritual practice, rather than coming from the ossification of tradition and traditional form. Therefore, it has always historically refreshed Jewish art, refreshed Jewish thinking, and enabled people, through the powerful force of music, to enter the feeling of the composer.

There are so many examples of Jewish art music, that I will confine myself to the near present in discussing them. The many works of John Zorn and Steve Reich are good examples. My own works as well as my father’s works are other examples coming from more the romantic ideal in music. These are works that deal with either themes or questions that arise from the study of the Tanakh or esoteric studies such as the Zohar or the Sefer Yetzirah.

It must be remembered that the flowering of music is what we can call art music. This music is not folk music, but it is a studied music that is equal part philosophy, spirituality and science, and is involved in the study of sound, the study of genuine emotion as projected through sound, the study of the creation of worlds through the power of sound. This is very different from a folk music, which evolves along different, usually communal lines.

Of course, many non-Jewish composers have concentrated on themes from the Tanakh, notably Stravinsky, and the many Christian composers….. But the very specific Jewish feelings associated with those themes makes the Jewish treatment perforce have a different voice.

JZ: Your biography says that "your family history boasts a multigenerational line of composers, musical performers and writers which has been traced in an unbroken line as far back as the 1600s." Did this multigenerational line participate in Jewish art music as well? How did Jewish art music relate to the other types of music in which they were involved?

DDF: Only back a few generations. Prior to that time, there were Hazzanim.

JZ: Your biography also says that you're a "modern experimental classical composer" When so much of art music, particularly experimental contemporary art music, is abstract, what do you personally feel is the significance of labeling some of it Jewish? Do you think that's consistent with other Jewish art music composers, or do you think that other composers might have very different ideas?

DDF: All music is abstract only to those that don’t understand the language of music. To a person who is not cultured in music, descriptive lyrics, or onamatapoeticism is necessary. But to a person who has awakened the inner ear, who can hear depth in sound, there is no abstraction in music, but just the opposite: A concreteness of feeling, emotion and a concreteness of the worlds created through the potency of the composers craft.

JZ: One of your current projects, the Feinsmith Quartet, has a concert coming up on January 19th in New York. What music will you be performing? Do you feel that this concert is representative of a community of musicians and composers, or that the Quartet is fairly unique?

DDF: We will be performing two works of mine, ELOKIM, a 45-minute work for the quartet, HAVAYAH, a duet for cello and bass, as well as a work by MIchael Manring and two works of Gyan Riley.

The quartet is unusual in that it is the most powerful assemblage of virtuosi playing Jewish art music today. We also play music that is not Jewish art music, for example, Michael and Gyan’s works are not Jewish in content. They are both spiritual men, so there is a genuine feeling of love that comes from their works and their performances, so it is important for me to recognize the universality of the spiritual experience and life.

That said, there is no equivalent ensemble anywhere. Every player is a well-known star in their own right, and I put the ensemble together expressly to be able to perform works that have spirituality as their main thrust. Most ensembles will play whatever is popular, or whatever can bring an audience. Our thrust is different. We want to project depth and ideals that have eternal value, not abstract and clever principles of passing meaning.

JZ: If one of my readers wanted to know more about Jewish art music scene, maybe to keep track of new recordings or to find shows in there area, could you point them to any resources? Maybe a magazine, web page, or mailing list?

DDF: Just keep your eye on google.
I was planning on asking a few follow up questions because it felt we were talking past each other a bit. Oh well. Here's The Feinsmith Quartet rehearsing Feinsmith's "Elokim / See".
Rehearsal San Francisco Two

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Sabbath in Paradise, a Documentary on Radical Jewish Music Culture

Sabbath In ParadiseAs I've mentioned a number of times, my favorite Jewish music publisher is John Zorn's Radical Jewish Culture label. I find some of their discs hard to connect with, but in general am amazed by the adventurous spirit and the high-quality musicianship with which they explore the outer limits of Jewish music. Over the years, I've run across some nice discussions of the genesis of the RJC project including Zorn's description, JF Graves "Unofficial John Zorn Homepage," and a great unpublished essay sent to me by a Teruah reader. Recently I said to myself, I'll bet someone has put together a good documentary film on Zorn and the Radical Jewish Culture scene, let's go find it...

And, of course, someone has.

The film is called Sabbath in Paradise. It was filmed in 1997 by Claudia Heuermann and includes interviews and musical performances by Zorn, Michael Alpert, Anthony Coleman, David Krakauer, Frank London, Roy Nathanson, Marc Ribot, and Andy Statman. According to one entertaining review by Peter Hollo, "...The film is structured around a tale about a Rebbe who is on his way somewhere and is taken in by some strangers who turn out to be Moses, King David, King Solomon etc... and he hears wonderful music and so on. .There are interviews (or spoken bits) with various relevant people: Anthony Coleman talks a lot, and there are some fascinating bits where he describes how his Selfhaters music comes out of more familiar Jewish contexts. Can't really describe it in words, but it was both amusing and informative... Marc Ribot talks in his slightly drug-fucked way about a lot of things...."

Sounds great. Got to get me one. You can nab a copy directly from Zorn's Tzadik Records website, Amazon, or your favorite local shop or library.

To tantalize you a bit further, here's a frustratingly brief clip from the documentary.

John Zorn composing for Masada

And if this isn't enough, and for Claudia Heuermann it sure wasn't, you can also track down a copy of of Heuermann's 2002 documentary "A Bookshelf on Top of the Sky: 12 Stories About John Zorn." According to the Tzadik catalog, 12 Stories "gives us a rare peek into the working methods of one of the most notorious and reclusive composers on the scene today. Filmed over a ten year period, this documentary includes live footage of Masada, Naked City, Cobra, as well as improvisations, his classical work and rare interviews. You can catch some clips from 12 Stories on YouTube, but definitely buy a copy from Tzadik if your interested in it.

Hat tip to YouTube user doublemain for posting the video.

Update: I just got the following email about Sabbath in Paradise... "Haven't seen it yet, but Bookshelf on top of the sky was really, really bad. I mean, really bad."

Grin. Tell us how you really feel. Take that under advisement folks.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Shacharit in the mountains with Noam

Shabbat shalom, everyone.

This week's Friday, get us in the mood for Shabbat, video is straight from the top of Holyhead Mountain in Wales. An intrepid Noam group took a three day hike, which included this lovely al fresco Shacharit service. In case you're not familiar with it, Noam is the "Zionist youth movement of assembly of Masorti Synagogues." The Masorti community is the Israel based equivalent of my Conservative movement. As I've mentioned before, my little wigglers just wound up three weeks at the local Camp Gan Israel and had a marvelous and rewarding time. It looks like this Noam gang is doing the same. This is important stuff. If you'd like to read a great story about why this is so important, check out Justin Goldstein's recent JewSchool post "Allow me to introduce you: the new generation Conservative youth."

Shacharit With Noam

Hat Tip to YouTube user nicklroy for posting the video and to Noam for making it possible.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

De Leon, 15th Century Spanish Indie Rock

JDub Records band De Leon has it's first album out. I've only given it a quick listen, but it's good stuff. Any band that lists Talking Heads as an influence definately gets my attention.

Here's their official puff..

"DeLeon's unique style infuses the deeply mysterious and entrancing cadences of Sephardic Jewish folk music from 15th Century Spain to 20th Century Israel with modern indie rock. The band is named after and inspired by both 12th Century Kabalistic philosopher (and some say founder) Moses DeLeon and front man Daniel Saks' great-grandfather Giorgio DeLeon. Their music, birthed in Spain before the Inquisition and raised in pre-WWII Italy, reached maturity in modern-day Brooklyn.

DeLeon is the outlet through which front man Daniel Saks reconciles his lengthy cultural journey with modern influences. By re-imagining these ancient melodies as contemporary pieces, DeLeon provides listeners with a unique chance to experience the rich musical history of Sephardic Judaism, traced back to the Iberian Peninsula—Spain, Portugal, Andorra and Gibraltar.

DeLeon's modern musical influences include Animal Collective and Talking Heads. Saks, along with band mates Kevin Snider, Justin Riddle, Amy Crawford and Andrew Oom, pioneered an innovative style that marries ancient Sephardic melodies sung in Ladino, Hebrew and English with the chaotic symphony of urban living."

Here's De Leon playing in my old stomping grounds of Cambridge, MA. If you dig the video, check out their MySpace page and go buy the album. Also, check out these other contemporary Sephardic groups, Sarah Aroeste, Divahn, Pharaoh's Daughter.

Yodukha Rayonai

Hat Tip to YouTube user KRP614 for posting the video.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Sarit Hadad - Israeli singer & Mountain Jew

Zeitgeist is a funny thing. Yesterday I posted about the music of the Mountain Jews from the Caucuses. I've had it on my to do list for months and finally got around to it (I'm very distractable). After I post it, I go and catch up on my mailing lists and there is an email from Eva, one of the Klezmershack gang, pointing to this great video on YouTube. The video..Sarit Hadad. Israeli Mountain Jew. The internet is just like that sometimes. Hadad is a popular Israeli performer with a slew of records to her credit and who represented Israel's the 2002 Eurovision contest. You can find out more about her, and buy her albums, through her website and Myspace page.

Sarit Hadad - Inta Omri

Update: The original video I posted got yanked from YouTube. The one up there is a perfectly fine replacement, though not the one recommended by Eva.

Hat tip to YouTube user djelina for posting the video.

Fiddler on the Roof. Free online. Watch it right now!

Fiddler on the Roof at Hulu.ComOk. There is way more to Jewish music than Fiddler on the Roof, but without a doubt it's a mainstay of American Jewish culture. And you can watch it right now, for free, online at My suggestion is do so. It's as good as you remember it.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Music of the Mountain Jews

This is another new one on me. Gorskiye Yevreyi. Mountain Jews. Juhuro. The Jews of the Caucus Mountains. According to Wikipedia, "their distant forefathers once lived in southwest Persia, the south-western part of present-day Iran. It was there that they adopted the Middle Persian language. The predecessors of the Mountain Jews settled in Caucasian Albania in the 5th–6th century and from that time on their history has been related to the mountains and the people of Azerbaijan and Dagestan." Wikipedia also notes that the Juhro suffered their own diaspora in the 1970's, with the majority of the population migrating to Israel, the US (Brooklyn), and Russia (Moscow).

Here are two videos highlighting their music. First, the requisite traditional piece. They have long musical tradition and I'm a sucker for this sort of thing. Then a contemporary piece. A bit bubblegum pop for my taste, but the singer Ayan is very popular and it's good to remember this is small but vibrant culture. No museum pieces here. In both it's interesting to hear the very evident Arabic influences.

Kavkazi Jewish Music.....Juhuro Kavkaz Gorskie Evrei Musika

Azerbaijan song / Ayan - Yag ey Yagish

Hat tip to YouTube users Kavkazipand and Kenanelekberov for the videos.

I'm a poshiter yid!

Ok. I'm an excitable guy. This great bumper-sticker came with Lipa's new album and I couldn't resist slapping it on. "Poshiter yid" is Yiddish for "simple Jew"and is both the title of Lipa's new's album and his response to Charedi critics who think his music is unfit for traditional Jews. BlogInDm has a great explanation...
"[Poshiter Yid] is a very subversive disc. The graphical elements in the packaging, marketing, and music all work together to set up the theme, Lipa the "Poshiter Yid", the simple Jew. The CD cover shows the simple Jew, Lipa, (who appears to have dropped his last name, although it is on the door of the hut pictured on the cover) learning Torah in front of his hovel.

In a very smart move, Lipa has included a bumper sticker and bookmark in the CD packaging. The bumper sticker reads “I’m A Poshiter Yid” in English and “’kh’ Bin A Poshuter Yid” in Yiddish, both in simple type. The bumper sticker is the perfect means to enable the "amkho" to show their displeasure to rabbinic leadership run amok in a non-confrontational way. It's hard to take issue with the sentiment expressed. Bet you'll see a lot of these around."

Innovating Nusach, or Not

As I've mentioned before, I'm on a lot of Jewish music related mailing lists. I generally don't consider myself particularly knowledgable relative to the folks on the lists (professional klezmer musicians, songleaders, cantors, and serious frum music fans) so I tend to lurk and learn. Every once in a while I pop up with a question or a comment. This week was comment time.

One of the mailing lists got into a bit of debate between a fellow who is seriously devoted to traditional nusach (traditional Jewish prayer melodies) and a fellow who is seriously devoted to contemporary, non-nusach, liturgical music. At one point I piped up with a comment which I thought I'd share because a) I haven't been ignorant in public in a while and b) because I got a few interesting corrections via email that will have me off doing research all week. I love it when that happens.

Anyway, here's me on innovating nusach.

I'm neither an expert in Nusach nor an active innovator, so this question may not be helpful. But there is one I've been asking myself as I've struggled to learn more about both communities (and the communities who do both).

Here's the question:

Under what circumstances does (or, what are the requirements for) a traditional approach of nusach to be considered vital by a specific Jewish community and what circumstances drives a Jewish community to specific kinds of innovation. A corollary question is how successful is any specific innovation at resolving those circumstances.

I would suggest that there were two historic circumstances that prompted the Reform community to seek for a liturgical method outside of traditional nusach. First was the desire to closer tie Jewish practice with the larger spiritual and civic life of the Reform communities host countries (e.g. initially Germany and France and now
America). Second was the desire to lower the skill (e.g. effort to learn) requirements to fully participate in leading and participating in group prayer. These desires have lead to the adoption of musical instruments during services and the adoption of melodies that draw heavily from the host countries musical culture (first German church hymns and the organ and now American folk-pop and the guitar).

Similarly, I would suggest two circumstances that have prompted the Traditional (Orthodox & Chassidic) community to seek to maintain a traditional liturgy. First was a desire to retain exclusivity from the host culture's spiritual life and second a desire to encourage a significant focus on learning and practice by it's members. This has
led to a demand to maintain traditional nusach and a skepticism of any approach that deviates significantly with that tradition.

I would also suggest a third historic circumstance which seems to be pushing in equal measures at the Reform and Traditional communities. This is the evolving desire by the lay members of both communities to more actively participate in communal prayer. This desire has led to the reduction of the role of the cantor in both communities and the increase in the popularity of both group songs and call and response song as part of services. This change is playing out a bit differently in each community though. The Reform community innovated a service style organized around a "songleader," a cantor proxy who specialized in the folk-pop method and could rapidly teach and lead new material. The Traditional community has begun to adopt a similar approach rooted in the melodies of Carlebach, though in a more limited form at very specific shuls.

For me, there are a whole set of productive questions that can be asked based on these circumstances and the responses they provoked. First, how well is the response working out? On the Traditional side, nusach is still a demanding skill to learn. How well is the current generation doing in learning it (and accepting the burden to learn
it?) On the Reform side, dropping the education required to learn nusach parallels dropping standards of Jewish education in general. How well is that working out? How much do the new Reform melodies and lyrics represent a Jewish perspective vs a generic American spirituality (a critique I've often heard)?

Second, what kind off innovations are allowable, or inevitable, based on these circumstances? I would suggest that both groups seem welcome to any innovation that doesn't violate the circumstances and desires that base their liturgical praxis. That implies a different space of possible innovation for each group, but doesn't specifically limit innovation in either. I don't see the traditional community adding
jazz anytime soon, but I also don't see the Reform community adding a new melody that is in the nusach mode.

Does this make sense to anyone? I would welcome any corrections or
expansions to this thought.

Here are a couple of the corrections / expansions I got back that will have me off doing research.

1. The Orthodox community does a lot less nusach than I had imagined. At the beginning of the 20th century the Young Israel movement started introducing niggunim into prayer services. It took a century to flower, but has been highly successful at dislodging nusach as the liturgical standard in Orthodox services.

2. Evidently there have been a couple of Orthodox foray's into jazz. In particular Moshe Oysher is reported to have incorporated scat into nusach. That's something I need hear!

3. Evidently there are some folks in the Reform community who are interested in nusach. This includes both incorporating more elements of traditional nusach into Reform prayer and composing new works that derived from nusach. I have no idea how common this is, but it was something I wasn't aware of and will have to explore.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Jewish Sephardic Pizmonim Song Project

Timing is everything. I've been thinking a lot about nusach this weekend after participating in a bit of a kurflufle on one of the mailing lists. I'll write about the disagreement later. Right now, I'm just going to pass along an interesting press release I just received.
"Did you ever go to Sephardic synagogue on a Shabbat (Saturday services) morning and wonder why the cantor picked the melodies and tunes that he did? These melodies and tunes are not chosen at random. Each week when the cantor appears at the pulpit, he has prepared which melodies he is going to use based on the maqam system.

This concept is not new to the Sephardic Jewish community; in fact, we had the system in place for about 200 years! Please allow me to briefly reintroduce the concept simply for those who are unfamiliar with it.

A 'maqam,' which in Arabic literally means 'place,' is a standard melody type and set of related tunes. The melodies used in a given maqam aims effectively to express the emotional state of the reader throughout the set liturgy (without changing the text).

There are hundreds of different maqamat, but in our tradition, we only use about 10 of them on a regular basis throughout the year. As a general rule, the same maqam will never be used two weeks in a row. Also, the schedule tries to rotate the maqamot in such a fashion that the 10 maqams are spread out almost equally in time as to avoid the redundancy of hearing the same maqam within a short period of time.

Which maqam will be used is based on either the story/theme of the Parashat Hashavua (weekly portion of the torah reading) or whether there is an upcoming holiday during the next week.

The 10 main maqamot used are: Rast, Mahour, Ajam, Nahwand, Bayat, Hoseni, Rahawi/Nawa, Saba, Sigah and Hijaz. Each of these maqamat have different melodies to them and have different reasons as to why they are used.

Here is a short description of some maqamot and when they are most often used:

Maqam Rast (which means 'head' or 'beginning') would be used for the beginnings of the new book of the Humash, therefore you will see that it is used at the parashat that begin the new Humash (unless there is a holiday that supercedes it). You will also notice that Maqam Rast is also used on May 3, the Shabbat immediately after Passover, because this marks the 'beginning' of the Omer period.

Maqam Ajam is used for happy occasions such as weddings and holidays. You will notice that Maqam Ajam is used on June 10th, the second day of the Shavuot holiday.

Maqam Hoseni, which means 'beautiful,' is used on weeks where the parashat describes the Mishkan, the receiving of the Torah (which is 'beautiful'). You will notice on the calendar that Maqam Hoseni is used on June 7th, the Shabbat prior to Shavuot ('Matan Torah').

Maqam Saba (which in Arabic means 'baby boy') is used when there is a berit in the parashat (either circumcision or the observance of mitzvot).

Maqam Hijaz (named after Saudi Arabia) is used on weeks with sad events in the parashat, such as a death or a major national tragedy. Maqam Hijaz is used on June 21st for Shabbat Shelah, this is because we are saddened over the tragedy of the spies in that week's parashat.

There is only a rotation of maqamat on Saturday morning Shaharit prayers, but not for the other prayers throughout the Shabbat. Every Friday night, the hazzan always performs in Maqam Nawah (or Nahwand), because this is the traditional maqam of the Kabbalat Shabbat services. Every Shabbat morning, the Mussaf prayers are conducted in the maqam of the following week's parashat in order to give you anticipation for next week's parashat. Every Shabbat Mincha, the cantor applies Maqam Rast (which means 'head' or 'beginning') to the prayers because you begin the new parashat in the Torah readings. Each Saturday night, Maqam Bayat is used because the pizmonim of Mossae Shabbat are conducted in that maqam and also because the mood of Bayat is a 'slumber' and ending the Shabbat is a 'slumber' occasion.

Starting this month, IMAGE Magazine's website will be introducing a new "Maqam of the Week" feature to the calendar in the back of each issue and to the community calendar on their website, For each Shabbat and holiday, we will list which maqam you can most likely expect at your local Sephardic synagogue.
Viewers can also listen to our Sephadic radio live every day. Broadcasting pizmonim and music from famous artists such as David Shiro, Yeheskel Braun and Menachem Mustachi.

Prior to this, IMAGE's calendar was primarily used by the women of our community to take note of the candle lighting times and the dates for upcoming bake sales. Now, the men have a good reason to look at the calendar as well! We are very proud of IMAGE's collaboration with the Sephardic Pizmonim Project to introduce the weekly maqam, and we encourage you look to at the calendar and take note of what the maqam will be each Shabbat before attending synagogue, so that you may be familiar with the melodies of the prayers."

For more info you can read about the Weekly Maqam at The Sephardic Pizmonim project and Wikipedia.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Michael Croland on Jewish Punks and Non-Jewish Jewish Punks

A while back I wrote about Michael Croland, Jewish Air Guitarist. It turns out that, like me, Michael has a thing for any intersection of Jews and punk music. And he's written a lot more than I have about it. His most recent piece "The Non-Jewish Side of My Jewish Punk Research" is a hoot, chronicling a wide range of non-Jewish punks with some association or affinity for Jews. Take Total Passover, "a Jewish-themed punk band that played in Iowa in the early 1990s" led by the Jewish Andy Levy. Michael quotes bassist Tom Meehan saying, "While I'm not Jewish, I did think the band was a good fit for me. . . . Even though I was born and confirmed Catholic, I proudly wore the Star of David around my neck. This really freaked my parents out!" And on it goes, including discussion of bands ranging from the Dead Kennedy's to the Mexico City based Polka Madre, a punk polka band that uses Hebraic lettering and Jewish star in their log.

If you're at all interested in Jewish punk, read the article and check out some of his other articles and blog posts.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Nava Tehila's Lecha Dodi

Shabbat shalom folks.

Here's my Friday, get in the groove, video. This week's is a version of Lecha Dodi composed and recorded by Nava Tehila (a Jewish renewal community in Jerusalem). I got tipped of to this lovely recording by the Velvateen Rabbi.

Kabbalat Shabbat at Nava Tehlia - Lecha Dodi

Here's an excerpt of what Velvateen Rabbi had this to say in her post ...
"Nava Tehila, the local Jewish Renewal minyan, meets once a month. This Shabbat I attended my second monthly service there. In many ways it was like the first one, only more intense, and correspondingly more wonderful.

The basic structure of the service was what I've come to expect there: pearls from psalms, chanted repeatedly (to original melodies); singing and dancing; space for exultation and space for meditation; and, after the peak which is Lecha Dodi, a short and simple ma'ariv (evening) service. Once again, the service was co-led by the trio of shlichei tzibbur. Alongside them, Father Zachariah in his brown and white habit played violin soulfully; a few talented hand-drummers drummed. But tonight our dominant metaphor was the journey, because this week we're in parashat Mas'ei in which we read about the Israelites' journeying. Reb Ruth invited us, at the beginning, to think in terms of the journey of the evening, and to choose a real journey in our own lives on which to reflect deeply during our davenen. Since I've been on a literal journey this summer (with emotional resonances galore), that was my lens for the night.

So before each psalm in kabbalat Shabbat, Reb Ruth related each psalm to our own internal journeys. Lechu n'ran'na l'Adonai ("let us sing in joy to Adonai"): about getting ready to go, together. Hod v'hadar l'fanav ("splendor and beauty are before God"): about preparing for the journey -- figuring out what baggage we're bringing with us, and which personal/spiritual gifts too. (And so on.) When we reached "Ana B'Koach," which many Hasidim (and Renewal folks) sing after the six psalms and before "Lecha Dodi" which welcomes the Shabbat bride, one of the instrumentalists picked up a digeridoo and its eerie hum accompanied us along with the drum.

This week our "Lecha Dodi" was a waltz, which I loved. (See YouTube video, above.) Soon the whole room was filled with whirling waltzers, who slowly morphed their dance into a three-beat circle dance. It was extraordinary. "
Like I said, this quote is just an excerpt, go read the whole thing. And yes. She did mention the violin being played by the Catholic Father Zachariah. What's that about? Well, there's a story there. And here's how it goes...
"People started inquiring about ways of listening to the music outside of our time together. Visitors from overseas brought those niggunim to their home communities and we started receiving emails requesting a CD.

In mid-December we felt a push to produce a CD that came from the Holy Blessed One.

“Nu” He said in our hearts, “ How long are you going to wait?”

We prayed on the matter.

“We can’t carry this project alone. We need a producer, a producer who is spiritually connected to our work, professional and fun to work with!”

Our prayers were answered that same day. That evening Reb Ruth received a phone call from Father Zechariah, a regular member of our group and a monk in the Beatitudes Order. The Beatitudes are a Catholic group whose monastery is located in Emmaus near Latrun. They emphasize the Jewish roots of Christianity by celebrating Shabbat. They pray Kabbalat Shabbat using Jewish tunes. They have participated in our prayers since the beginning of our community.

Father Zechariah was calling to tell Ruth that there is a demand for new Shabbat tunes in their international Order. He asked whether they could do something with our music.

You can imagine our joyful amazement!

Shortly thereafter we learned that Father Zechariah, who had been playing his fiddle in our services, used to be a performer of Irish music. He produced music, conducted choirs, and he had even put out a number of CDs. We received all that we asked for and more because, like the rest of us, Father Zechariah is doing this work for the sake of Heaven"
That's quite a story. I wish them the best of luck and look forward to the CD being completed. To follow their adventures, you can read their music project blog or check their website.

Jewda Maccabi & the Chosen Few - Ani Maamin

Last November I posted a video by Chassidic Hip-Hop musician Jewda Macabbi. At that point he was in the process making of making aliyah. Well, he's all settled and back with his crew, The Chosen Few featuring T.A.Z.

Ani Maamin

By the way, I've been having fun with Facebook this week. I found out about this video through Jewda's "Chosen Few" group. I also set up a group, Michigan Jewish Music, to track North Coast events. I'm currently figuring out how to get the event calender out of Facebook onto the blog. I'll keep you posted on how it goes.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Lipa booted of stage (and just when it was getting good)

So I was just listening to Lipa's "Wake Up" again and said I've got to get me some more of that. I'm hoping to pick up the disc soon, but for now I wandered over to YouTube to see what I might find. And here's a doozy. First, the tune is kick'n. I am officially a Lipa fan at this point. No reservations. The guy is fabulous.

But, controversy rears its ugly head. The performance, which appears to be at Camp MaNaVu, is interrupted mid-song by an angry rebbe Elchonon Schwartz. Lipa gets pushed of the stage and scolded. Crowd cheers for lipa. Microphone gets turned off. Concert over.

Camp MaNaVu Lipa Concert CW Break (part 1)

And here's part II with the rebbe getting angry at the crowd and the crowd,of frum Jews, not buying it. And then, the crisis is over and Lipa is back on stage? But the argument continues. Fascinating to watch.

Camp MaNaVu Lipa Concert CW Break (part 2)

UPDATE: Ok. I missed the joke. Evidently the whole thing is a put on, part of a camp 'color war.'
Sigh. Thanks to BlogInDm for straightening me out. He also points out that the riff that prompted the kerflufle in the video is lifted from the R&B musician Usher. Which I also should have recognized, but didn't. Oh well.

UPDATE 2: Chaim at LifeOfRubin explains the whole color war thing and puts it all in context.

Hat tip to Camp MaNaVu for posting the video.

Yeedle - not funky, but funkish?

Ok, so I just coined a new term. Funkish. Jewish + Funky - most of the funkiness.

Yesterday I posted the latest Chassidic pop video from Lipa, today I'm posting the latest from Yeedle. Like Lipa, listening to Yeedle is a bit of a surreal experience. Warm, upbeat, sincere (lots of sincere), a good bounce, and a complete recapitulation of a moment in time 30 years ago when uptown Saturday Night Fever disco and downtown James Brown funk were finding each other. Only not nearly as funky as James Brown, and missing the over-the-top falsetto glitter of disco. Almost but not quite funky. Funkish.

Funkish. But fun. And Yeedle does it well. I'm probably going to nab a copy of this one and Lipa's latest. They'll make great road music. What do you think?

Yeedle Lev Echad Demo HI

You can get the new Yeedle album from Eichlers and Mostly Music. PeretzMedia did the fun animation. Good job, folks.

Ok, I can't resist. Here's the official promo text for the album from Eichlers. Who writes this stuff? A bio of everyone involved and not a word about the music other than it's sure to be a hit. Wow. Yeedle actually wrote a couple of songs AND has talent and sophistication. Bleah.
Yeedle is approaching the finish line in assembling his fifth solo album. Years of meticulously selecting songs have resulted in a mix of brilliant melodies. He is featuring lively compositions from his father - the inimitable MBD; a masterpiece wedding song by Moshe Mona Rosenblum and MBD; a selection of soulful kumzitz tracks from R'Akiva Homnick & impressively, Yeedle co-wrote several songs with the renowned Eli Laufer.

This track was written by the remarkably talented Israeli artist - Aron Razel. MBD & Aron Razel join Yeedle with original vocals on this sure-to-be-a-hit song. The trio blend is phenomenal! The title of the album is Rikod Rikod. This song is off the charts!! Yeedle and Lipa wrote the lyrics and you will sure be “rikoding” to it real soon.

The dynamic arrangements were created by the masters in this arena: Moshe Laufer, Eli Laufer, Moshe Mona Rosenblum and Aron Razel. All choirs were conducted and recorded impeccably, in Israel by Moshe Mona Rosenblum. Mixing and post-production work has been keeping the maestro Eli Lishinsky real busy. The powerful forces collaborating on Yeedle's album attest to his talent and sophistication.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Lipa's "Wake Up" and safe surprises

Courtesy of the Jewish Music Insider blog (and BlogInDm) here's one from the Chassidic pop world. Lipa is a popular, and a bit controversial, entertainer with a new album out. Despite myself, I totally dig Lipa. I say despite myself because I find most Chassidic pop bands to have a bland, lounge act, kind of sound. Lipa is both smart enough to know the limits of his genre and has a good enough sense of humor to play with them (while respecting them). The change of rhythm at the bridge (about 1.14 into the video) and Mo Kiss' vamp at 2.48 made it for me. They both say (to me) clearly that Lipa could have launched into just about anything at those moments and made them work. The fact that he settled back into slightly modified versions of the original rhythm was just fine and reinforced that this is about safe surprises. If this was a John Zorn Radical Jewish Culture avante garde performance or audience, that safety would be a liability. Here, in a genre all about safety, the sense of (even safe) surprise and possibility makes it come alive.

Lipa Concert in Camp Romimu 2008- "Wake Up"

If you liked this video, check out my posts on his new album "A Poshiter Yid," "Oy Channukah," and Diet.
You can get info on his upcoming appearances and his new album through his website and Mostly Music.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Shondes to play Ypsilanti, the Red Sea Pedestrians to play Farmington

I've been delinquent in my coverage of local shows lately, but no more! No more I tell you. The North Coast (aka Michigan) is no barren wasteland. We may not be New York or San Francisco, but we there is no shortage of Jewish music happening locally. Here are two upcoming shows to check out. I plan on being at both. If you see me, say hi.

The Red Sea PedestriansAugust 15 - The Red Sea Pedestrians, at Rhythms in Riley Square in Farmington, Michigan.
The Peds are a 'neo-klezmer' folk band described as a "one-of-a-kind, full-blown, instrument-swapping fusion between tradition and the here-and-now." This is a free show on the Farmington a town square.

The ShondesSeptember 3 - The Shondes, at TC's Speakeasy in Ypsilanti, Michigan.
The Shondes are fabulous raucus and beautiful punk band out of Brooklyn, NY. I caught them at TC's last November. It was a great show. I was a fanboy and got them to autograph a band picture. I'm such a nerd.

See you there!

Music & Culture Part IV: Shimon Peres "Ray of Hope"

Shimon PeresOver the last couple of week I've come across a variety of Jewish musical perspectives on the Israeli / Palestinian conflict. (See my posts on Ari Ben Yam's "Oslo Train," Sheva's Salaam, and Herman and Brody's "Sweet Home Jerusalem"). Here's one more, and this one comes from an unexpected source...Shimon Peres, nobel prizewinner and president of Israel. The Associated Press reported last week that "There's a new songwriter in cyberspace: Israeli President Shimon Peres. And composers from countries including Iran are writing music for the lyrics to his song, 'Ray of Hope.'" Peres posted the lyrics (see below) to the website Songweavers, looking to see if any musicians would compose music for and record the song. He wasn't disappointed. When I checked this afternoon there were over 50 recordings up on the site. The musicians responses are pretty varied. To hear some representative examples, here are versions by Sharon Ben Shem, Mr. Llime, Omri Lahav, and Shirley Highton.

Peres is a prominent peace activist and his lyrics reflect it. Here's verse two...
And bless streams with love's sway
Provide my foe and friend a bloodless day
Invite boys and girls for peace to pray,
O ... Ye... Then send a ray of hope - for a new way
That's a lot closer to Sheva's "Peace will come upon us" than Ben Yam's "Face the guards in black attire with your teeth and fingernails." Like Sheva it speaks to a vision of music and the love of peace as unifying forces in a land with little unity. Invite the boys and girls. They need an invitation because there have been too few bloodless days lately.

Hat tip to the folks on the Klezmershack mailing list for letting me know about "Ray of Hope."

Friday, August 8, 2008

Rowna Sutin sings Esa Enai

Hi folks. Shabbat shalom. I'm not sure why but it's been a long week and I'm particularly looking forward to Shabbat.

To help get in the mood, here's Cantor Rowna Sutin singing composer Ben Steinberg's lovely Esa Enai. Rowna is a cantor and professional singer in the Pittsburgh PA area and has stockpiled a lovely collection of her performances on YouTube. She also thoughtfully provided the lyrics to what she was singing. If you're in the Pittsburgh area, you should know that she's available to sing at special events. Her contact info is on her YouTube page.
"sa enai el heharim, me'ayin yavoh ezri?"

"I will lift up my eyes to the mountains: what is the source of my help? My help will come from the Lord, Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot to slip; your guardian will not slumber. Behold, the keeper of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps.

The Eternal is your Keeper, the Lord is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will guard you from all evil, He will protect your being. The Lord will guard you, coming and going, from this time forth for ever."
Ben Steinberg is a Canadian composer with a large body of Jewish works. The Encyclopedia of Music in Canada has a nice Steinberg biography, and the Jewish Music Webcenter has a list of his work and information on his publishers

Esa Enai, Ben Steinberg

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Klezmer Style w/ Java Jews, Golem, the Atelier Klezmer and Yosef Kapelye

I'm having an ambivalent day. I'm leading four projects at work, three of which are in planning stages at the moment. sigh. Lots of work, lots of confusion, very little feeling of progress. Ah well. that's part of the game too.

I was going to show a Klezmer video today but, since it's an ambivalent Thursday, I couldn't decide which one. So you get four. Enjoy...

Java Jews

"The Java Jews, originators of the highly caffeinated klezmer music, play at Java Joes in Des Moines, Iowa"

Golem at FloydFest 7, 2008

"Golem is a unique sounding Klezmer band that rocked the Dreaming Creek main stage at FloydFest on Friday, July 25. One of the highlights of the festival."

"Lebdika Fraylach" Atelier Klezmer -- Stage Juillet 2008

"Lebdika Fraylach" par l'Atelier Klezmer (Camille, Julia et Wilfrid pour les solos) -- Stage Juillet 2008 organisé par le Trio KAVA-BAR Klezmer... 20 musiciens pour 2 jours de stage et Concert au Festival de Nizas (34).
Jascha Lieberman at Ariel Café, Krakow.

Yosef-Kapelye: Kandel's sher

Hat tips to YouTube users PaulMenzel, italiangranola, kavabar, and LebedevIvan for posting the videos.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Ari Ben-Yam's "Oslo Train" - More on music and culture

Ari Ben YamThere is room for every woman, man and child of Jewish blood
But the doors are barred and bolted, and the hatches welded shut"
(from Ari Ben-Yam's "Oslo Train")

Ok. This is my third in a series of posts about different Jewish musical voices in debate about how to resolve the Israeli / Palestinian issue. The song is "Oslo Train" by Israeli singer-songwriter Ari Ben Yam. Ben Yam is a Russian-born Israeli Jew who "writes and sings poignant songs in Hebrew and English dealing with the corruption and loss of values that plague Israel and the Jewish people." Oslo Train expresses a palpable fear of the Oslo peace process and the loss of self-determination that came with it. It's hard to miss the Holocaust references in the image of Jews on a train with welded doors. It's a visceral image of powerlessness.

Some will say it lost its airbrakes, or the engineer's gone mad,
But this train was right on schedule every run it ever had.

Far from Sheva's hopeful Salaam, Ben-Yam pointed asks his listeners what they will do to resist the "long black train." In doing so, "Oslo Train" draws on a long line of American folk protest songs and reminds me a lot Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie. That said, I can't honestly think of a song where either encouraged their listeners to "Face the guards in black attire with your teeth and fingernails." That's a level of active rebellion that is a bit violent for the mid-century American folkies, but absolutely part of the English and American folk tradition (to hear some examples grab a copy of the wonderful Chumbawamba recording "English Rebel Songs 1381-1984" which includes "Cutty Wren").

"Will you dare to wreck the engine, throw your body on the rails,
Face the guards in black attire with your teeth and fingernails?
Or perhaps you'll shrug your shoulders and just do the things you do,
Keep on livin' and believin' that the train won't come for YOU?"

You can find out more about Ben Yam through his MySpace page, and his interview with Ben Bresky on Israel National Radio's The Beat. His 2007 record Obstacle to Peace is available through CDBaby.

Ari Ben Yam - Oslo Train- Israeli protest song

Hat Tip to Israel National Radio for posting the video to YouTube.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Der Gasn Nign on the Tsibml

Here's a quick shout out to Dan Carkner of the Learning Tsymbaly blog. As his blog name suggests he's been hard at work learning to play the tsymbaly and recently posted a video of himself playing a fine version of Der Gasn Nign (the Street Tune), a klezmer standard.

Der Gasn Nign / "National Hora" -- klezmer tsimbl

Montreal's Radio Shalom

It's 10:00, the kid's and wife are sacked out and I'm relaxing to the rhythms of the Afro-Semitic Experience bumping through my computer speakers (sorry it's not more hi-fi guys) and enjoying the DJ introducing the tracks in Quebeqois French*. Listening to a stack of tracks from my favorite Jewish Jazz group from my home state of Connecticut is strangely heightened by the unexpected context. Not that I understand a word of the patter, but sometimes it's better that way, letting the DJs voice be a warm human music all it's own.

Les faces cachées de la musique juiveI'm listening to an archive recording of the program "Les faces cachées de la musique juive" on CRJS 1650 AM, Radio Shalom, Montreal Canada. Radio-Shalom describes itself as "Canada’s first multilingual Jewish radio station and will broadcast 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. Programming is broadcasted in English, French and Hebrew....the only station in North America which offers our listeners music from Israel, Yiddish, Ladino, Mizrahi, hassidic and klezmer as well as world music in a multitude of languages." While Radio-Shalom is certainly not the only Jewish radio station out there, it does have the widest range of programming I've seen. With shows ranging from "The Cantors' Corner" to Chassidic Heavy Metal Rocker David Lazzar's "Rockin' Rabbi Show" it's a pretty amazing lineup.

And they stream live and host an archive of past shows. What more could we ask for (besides instantaneous French-to-English translation)? For more information, see their schedule or the individual show pages for times and archive programs. For the record, not all shows are in French but don't let the ones that are slow you down. It's the music that matter's, right?

For a taste of the Radio Shalom goodness, here's

- The Afro-Semitic Experience on "Les faces cachées de la musique juive"

- The February 3rd Cantors Corner show

- Rockin' Rabbi David Lazzar's Van Halen tribute.

* ok. So I have to tell this story. My lovely and clever wife and I were up in Quebec last summer. I don't speak a word of French. My wife, though, is quite fluent in Spanish and does passable French and Italian. So we're sitting in a charming little bistro in Quebec's Old City. She's ordering and I'm half listening, half daydreaming. All of a sudden the waitress, way over estimating my wife's French, launches into a long explanation of some fine point of the menu and concluding with a complicated question. My wife, going from savy traveler to befuddled rube in one shot, looks at me and says (and I quote) "huh?" My quick witted response was (and I quote) "what?" The waitress looked at the two of us idiots and walked away with our order. By the time she hit the kitchen, we'd begun to recover enough to laugh about it. Sprechen sie Gringo anyone?

Monday, August 4, 2008

Salaam (Od Yavo Shalom Alienu) - More on music & culture

Last week I posted the video for "Sweet Home, Jerusalem" and talked about how it expresses a particular Jewish view of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Here's another musical voice in that debate. The song is Salaam (Od Yavo Shalom Alienu), performed and made into an Israeli hit a couple of years ago by the Israeli band Sheva. Sheva has been around since the late 1990's combining Jewish and Muslim musicians, Biblical lyrics, and a focus on promoting peace. I don't know Sheva's opinion about dividing Jerusalem, so I don't want to say they're on the opposite side of any debate with "Sweet Home, Jerusalem's" Menachem Herman and Rabbi Lazer Brody. Like "Sweet Home Jerusalem," though, "Salaam" wants to define a vision of the world and help bring that vision to life. Is it a better vision? Or even a complementary vision? I don't know, but seeing them up against each other helps remind me that life and politics in Israel is complicated and if there were any easy answers they'd have been found a long time again.

Here are the lyrics to Salaam, taken from Wikipedia

# English translation Transliteration Hebrew
1 Peace will come upon us Od yavo' shalom aleinu עוד יבוא שלום עלינו
2 Peace will come upon us Od yavo' shalom aleinu עוד יבוא שלום עלינו
3 Peace will come upon us Od yavo' shalom aleinu עוד יבוא שלום עלינו
4 and on everyone. Ve'al kulam (x2) ועל כולם

5 Salaam ('peace' in Arabic) Salaam (Salaam) סלאאם
6 On us and on all the world Aleinu ve'al kol ha olam עלינו ועל כל העולם
7 Salaam, Salaam Salaam, Salaam (x2)

Od Yavo Shalom

You can find out more about Sheva and check out their albums at their website and MySpace page.
Hat tip to YouTube user PedroTheMonk for posting (and constructing?) the video.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Sam Glaser's Adon Olam

Shabbat Shalom everyone. To help us get in the mood, here's Sam Glaser's Adon Olam. Sam's been hard at work lately. Right now he's working organizing the "CAJE Rising Star, a fun-filled American Idol type singing competition" that will take place at the Conference on Alternatives in Jewish Education in a couple of weeks. Another event I'd love to attend. There's usually a flurry of CAJE videos hitting the web a couple of weeks after the event, so I'll keep my eyes open and pass them along.

Sam Glaser - Highlights from the Road

Sweet Home Jerusalem, Music and the Culture Wars

Music has always been about identify. We sing about what we care about, adopting and adapting musical forms that identify us as part of a group. While I don't tend to explicitly focus on the specific agenda's of the music I write about, the fact that I'm even writing about specific music is an exercise in culture. What is being Jewish about?, listen to my answer.

I ran across a video this morning that was a fascinating exercise in cultural identity and political propaganda. In the video, Israeli guitarist Menachem Herman rock's his way through a cover of the American classic rock song Sweet Home, Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd retitled "Sweet Home, Jerusalem." The video is a cut & paste job filled with idyllic images of Jewish Jerusalem.

Like the original lyrics, the song lyrics, written by Rabbi Lazer Brody, are classic cultural chauvinism prompted by an external slur. The original song was Lynyrd Skynyrd's defensive response to folk-rock guitarist Neil Young's song Southern Man which painted the American South (of the time) as racist. Skynyrd's response

Well, I heard Mister Young sing about her
Well, I heard ole Neil put her down.
Well, I hope Neil Young will remember
a southern man don't need him around anyhow.

Herman and Brody's version appears a defensive response to recent political suggestions by the UN (and Barak Obama?) that Jerusalem be divided.

"Well I heard the UN talk about her
But a Jewish boy won't drink this brew
Uncle Sam please remember, that
Jerusalem won't be split in two!"

So why am I calling attention to this? Songs like this are both essential and dangerous. They're essential as rallying cries and cultural banners for any group under seige, as clearly the religious Zionists feel they are. Sweet Home, Jerusalem gives a way for members of the group to identify each other (hey, he's singing SHJ too!) and share their experience. Music has always made great rallying cries.

Songs like this are dangerous though, too. Lynyrd Skynard claims they wrote Sweet Home, Alabama because, while Neil Young's comments about a racist South may be partly true, the song was "Neil ... shooting all the ducks in order to kill one or two." (citation) The problem is that SHA saves all ducks and makes no apology for the racism. Sweet Home Jerusalem makes no apology for any of Israel's role in the current Israeli / Palestinian problem and offers no constructive response to the idea of Jerusalem's division (which is popular in Israel as well as the west) other than the anthem "Jerusalem won't be split in two."

Personally, I struggle with conflicting ideas and emotions about Israel and Jerusalem and am not at all condemning Herman and Brody for their feelings. (In fact, I'm pretty sympathetic.) But waving a musical banner like this has its risks. Mostly, I wanted to call attention to it as a interesting and topical case of Jewish music being used as weapon in a culture war. That's something I haven't written about much and should be more attentive to.

Sweet Home, Jerusalem

(By the way, I'm an honest guy so I'll fess up. I've don't like most classic rock, partially because of the chauvinisms that underly much of it and I've never liked Sweet Home, Alabama.)

Hat tip to Lazer Beams for posting the video (and writing the words) and BlogInDm for linking to it.