Monday, March 30, 2009

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The rise of the Video Jockey: Israeli VJ Kutiman remixes YouTube

The Shemspeed blog caught my attention the other day with the headline "Kutiman's Turns YouTube Into Funk Machine" about an Israeli DJ who's shaking up the internet. Their post seems to largely be a cut and paste from a longer Wired Magazine writeup. Here's the Shemspeed lead paragraph....
Every once in a while someone comes along and gives you new eyes: totally reinvents the way you (and others) see things. Ophir Kutiel, an Israeli computer DJ is one of these revolutionaries. His project, né reinvention of internet media, entitled Thru-You, is an album comprised solely of samples taken from Youtube clips, disparate amateur musicians’ musical ideas merged into a single track, unbeknownst to the musicians themselves. He has hijacked clips of songs, a teenager’s basement drumbeat, a 10-second harmonica solo, a freestyle in the park, and made them work together. The truly amazing part is how good it all sounds, as if these musicians sat down to record together.
As someone of the MTV generation, who saw the term VJ (Video Jockey) coined and then abandoned, this not only makes perfect sense but in hindsight seems inevitable. Contemporary DJs have amply demonstrated that tiny snippets of old audio recordings can be combined to create new music. With the flood of music hitting YouTube and other video hosting sites (like WeJew), there is a huge opportunity to remix music and video at the same time.

The lead video that every one's talking about is The Mother of All Funk Chords. While I dig it as much as any one, my favorite Kutiman video is a song called "Someday." Check it out...

Kutiman-Thru-you - 05 - Someday

It will be interesting to see how this approach survives and evolves in the face of all the copyright restrictions on reusing other folks creative works. DJ's have to be very careful about using out of copyright music or getting permission (and sometimes paying) for the snippets they use. Kutiman didn't get any permissions and so far hasn't gotten in trouble. But he also hasn't tried to make any money directly off the music videos he produced. His argument is that he's provided a high level of international exposure to (mostly) amateur musicians and has provide credit and links to those musicians. That's true, but he didn't give them a choice about participation. Which means, legally, he's vunerable.

For more on Kutiman, see the Shemspeed blog post, the Wired Magazine blog post, and Kutiman's Thru-You website.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Pey Dalid "Shabbos" at the Jewish Music Cafe

Shabbat shalom, folks

Here's my regular 'get in the shabbos groove' video. The group Pey Dalid performed this song last week at the Jewish Music Cafe. YouTube has a lot more of their videos.

Pey Dalid "Shabbos" at the Jewish Music Cafe

Here's a bit more about Pey Dalid...
"Pey Dalid performs a unique blend of musical styles, incorporating rock, reggae and many other popular genres with traditional Jewish sound and content. Their well-known and catchy melodies are sung both in Hebrew and English. The band's live shows are high-energy and intense, bringing audiences to their feet singing and dancing. Formed by three brothers, Mordechai (rhythm guitar/vocals), Shlomo (lead guitar/vocals), and Pesach Walker (drums/percussion/vocals), Pey Dalid has influenced and inspired thousands of people in its 8 years in the Jewish music field."

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Elisheva's Alter Rebbe Niggun

I love it when things grow organically. I post some new pop piano tracks from Moshe Benasher, and through the comments get introduced to a Jewish Chassid cellist. Elisheva's "a Jew, a musician and a student finding [her] balance" and is author of "Free Elisheva" blog. Here she is playing the Alter Rebbe's Niggun. Check it out..

The Alter Rebbe's Niggun - Cello

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Moshe Benasher - Schizophrenic Soul

He turned around and walked away...piano banging and singer dreaming out loud...who are you and what do you mean? .... no harmony, voices singing against each other, yes yes yes the carnival is flying in

I've got some new tracks to share today, Moshe Benasher's Schizophrenic Soul and American Lies. A toy piano and an unsettled voice creating small room echos, delicate pop songs chattering to themselves. Benasher's a Chassid from New York, but these tracks aren't much like the collection of Chassidic niggunim on his previous Soul Awake. While they draw on the melodic richness of the niggunim, these tracks are raw, off-kilter, and pure pop. Check 'em out.

Schizophrenic Soul & American Lies

Benasher's just getting rolling and doesn't have a website yet and hasn't started playing gigs yet. He'd love feedback though, so drop me an email or leave a comment if you like the tracks.

Update: Benasher dropped me a note this afternoon with some Chassidic (Tanya) sources for his song lyrics.
"American Lies

Likutei Sichos Chelek Lamed Vav Parshas Shmos
Iggeres Hakodesh (in Tanya) siman 25.

and ppl can read more about it right here

The person who truly believes in G‑d and His providence does not fear vulnerability; the word doesn't exist in his/her lexicon. One is never "vulnerable" to random acts of nature, nor is one ever the victim of another's evil (or illness). Everything which occurs to a person is predetermined -- "on Rosh Hashanah [their fates] are inscribed, and on the fast of Yom Kippur they are sealed." This doesn't in any way diminish the pain and grief which result from such tragic events. Indeed, Jewish law mandates mourning periods when we are required to express our hurt and pain. But it does elimte the most dreaded feeling of all: vulnerability.

Schizophrenic Soul

Tanya Likutei Amarim Perek Chof Ches (Chapter 28)

"But in fact there are two souls, each waging war against the other in the person’s mind
The mind is thus not only the battleground, but also the prize, the object of the battle between the two souls, for:
Each of them wishes and desires to rule and pervade the mind exclusively."
and can be read more at length over here

Likutei Sichos Chelek Lamed Vav Parshas Shmos
Iggeres Hakodesh (in Tanya) siman 25."

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Rabbi Abulafia's Boxed Set

Tonight KCRW radio, out of Santa Monica, CA, is rebroadcasting the wonderful 2005 documentary "Rabbi Abulafia's Boxed Set." If you missed it tonight, or back in 2005, you can listen online.

From the KCRW show notes....

"For more than two years in the 1950's, avant-garde ethno-musicologist Harry Smith recorded a Lower East Side Rabbi's cantorial music, folk songs and Yiddish story-telling. The Rabbi's eccentric grandson, 81 year-old Lionel Ziprin, is hoping to re-release a condensed version of this material. It's a holy mission for him. The program you are about to hear was produced for KCRW by Jon Kalish. It has been honored with this year's Gabriel Award recognizing programs that uplift the spirit, sponsored by the Catholic Academy for Communication Arts Professionals.

Lionel Ziprin passed away last week on New York’s Lower East Side. ....Today in his memory, we are rebroadcasting Jon Kalish’s award-winning documentary.

Here a great pair of videos on the subject.
Lionel Ziprin Part 1 - Harry Smith Recordings of Rabbi Abulafia - Jewish Liturgical Song

"Lionel Ziprin retells the story of the original recordings made by ethnomusicologist Harry Smith of the Jewish liturgical songs sung a capella by Rabbi Naftali Zvi Margolies Abulafia. Recordings made between 1953 and 1954. 18 Lp set. Filmed December 6, 1997 in New York City, the Lower East Side by Leyna d'Ancona."

Here's the second Lionel Ziprin video. And for a bonus, here's a great off-kilter video called "Songs for Schizoid Siblings" by Ziprin and Leyna d'Ancona.

Hat tip to Leyna d'Anconafor posting the videos and to David Griffin of Hebrew School for letting me know about them.

Shir Bliss Radio Plays Jewish Music that Doesn’t Suck.

Shir Bliss, the new radio show on Gainesville community radio station WGOT-LP 94.7 out of Florida,"plays Jewish music that doesn’t suck." I'm currently listening to their March 23 Hip Hop show, and Y-Love is kicking with New Disease and Matisyahu's Smash Lies just blew me away (again). Love it. The show's coming up every Monday night at 10pm. It doesn't look like you can stream the show live, but the guys are posting each show to the Shir Bliss blog. Download and be happy.

"Shir Bliss plays Jewish music that doesn’t suck. From happy hasidic jams to holy free jazz to cantorial death metal, we’ll give you the best in both new and old Jewish music. We’ll strive to be an outlet for new and innovative voices expressing their beliefs and heritage on their own terms. Shir Bliss plays music that lifts your soul and assaults your ears, or at the very least tries to convince you that klezmer music isn’t all that bad."

Here's the hip-hop show. Give it a listen.

Here's the hip-hop show playlist.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Binyomin Ginzberg's Purim Sameach

Unfortunately, timeliness is not always one of my virtues. Having my whole family sick for the last couple of weeks has meant that I missed a number of personal deadlines. One of which was writing about Binyomin Ginzberg's lovely album Purim Sameach. Before I get to the album, a quick note about Binyomin. This guy is one of the most interesting and engaging musicians in Jewish music today. He's a popular gigging simcha musician, playing the Orthodox and Chassidic parties across the northeast, and is a resident expert at the annual KlezKamp event teaching Chassidic music. Binyomin has a wonderful ear and encyclopedic knowledge for not only the traditional sounds of his standard repertoire and all it's contemporary variations (yeshivish, orthodox disco, shiny shoe) but for a wider repertoire of contemporary music (his Breslov Bar Band collaboration with the ever funky Yoshie Fructer of PITOM, being just one example.)

Purim Sameach reflects both Ginzberg's deep knowledge of tradition and an enthusiasm for exploration. On the surface it takes the form of an uptempo jazz standards album, polishing up one traditional Jewish Purim song after another. As such it makes a great business card for his gigging band, these guys are tight, joyful, and know the score(s). Hire 'em. Quick. Underneath, though, there's something else going on. Under the cheerful vocals and steady keys and clarinet, there's some happy mayhem churning. Rock guitar here, sharply syncopated jazz drums there, a fast keyboard break. Nothing so up front that it breaks the 'standards' mood, but expanding on the scope of what fits as a standard.

Ginzberg's Purim Sameach isn't a full-on Jewish jazz album in the mold of folks like Anthony Coleman or David Chevan. It's committed to the tradition and isn't out to deconstruct and improvise on the traditional repetoire in that way. It's clear, though, that given right opportunity (maybe the Breslov Bar Band?) Ginzberg could break-loose with some wonderful explorations. I really hope that happens. Soon. We need more folks willing to build deep chops in the tradition before getting experimental.

But in the mean time, Purim Sameach is a great album highlighting a musically under appreciated holiday and highlighting one of the best gigging Jewish musicians in America. Listen to the clips below, go order yourself a copy off of CD Baby, and, if in the need hire him for your gig. You'll be happy you did.

Clips from Purim Sameach

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Israeli defense firm Rafael sings "dinga dinga dee" to the country of India. Really.

Ok. In my last post I described Devendra Banhart's Shabop Shalom as the oddest song I'd heard in a while. I was so so wrong.

The Israeli defense industry firm Rafael recently released a video "to help build familiarity between India and Israel and Rafael." Saurabh Joshi's February 25th article for the South Asian Defense & Strategic Affairs website, StratPost, quotes Assy Josephy, the Director of Exhibitions for Rafael, as explainging that “[i]n Israel we have Jewish people from India, so we know about Bollywood and the song and dance numbers. Israelis are generally aware of Indian culture." Clearly, that awareness does not translate into an ability to produce it.

As Noah Shachtman of Wired's Danger Room blog notes, "Every element of the promotional film is just plain wrong. The sari-clad, "Indian" dancers look all too ashkenaz and zaftig. The unshaven, hawk-nosed, leather-clad leading man appears to be a refugee from You Don't Mess With the Zohan. Then of course, there's the implication that the Indian military is somehow like a helpless woman who "need(s) to feel safe and sheltered."

Judge for yourself...

[] Israeli Rafael's Indian promo

Now, for full disclosure, I should say that that I am a research scientist who mostly works for the defense industry (a little NASA too) and have seen and been a party to some good intentioned but questionably executed attempts at marketing. This is not an area my industry has any real feel for. In fact, Shachtman, and his intern Zelda Roland, recently lampooned my company and a few others for coming up with some "Most Awesomely Bad Military Acronyms." Sigh. Truth hurts.

Shabop Shalom

Ok, so here's the oddest song I've run into in a while. And that says a lot. The song is "Shabop Shalom," by Texas musician Devendra Banhart. According to Wikipedia.. Bahart is an "American/Venezuelan folk rock singer-songwriter and musician. Banhart's music has been classified as indie folk, psych folk, Naturalismo, and New Weird America; his lyrics are often surreal and naturalistic." So not Jewish, as far as I'm aware. But he picks up some Jewish themes and images in Shabop Shalom that are definitely worth a listen.

Devendra Banhart Shabop Shalom

For more info on Banhart, see his website, MySpace page, or Wikipedia page.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Punk Torah

Long time readers know of my fondness for punk music and the punk scene. Here's Patrick A, singer of CAN CAN, discussing Parshat Ki Tisa while listening to his album ALL HELL.

Punk Rock Torah: Parshat Ki Tisa

For more info on Patrick A and CAN CAN, see their MySpace page. Love it.

Hat tip to Y-Love for pointing this out.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Keep'in it Real at the Purimspiel

The best thing about Purim in internet-land is that we all get to share in the fun. For the next couple of weeks, YouTube and the like will be flooded with every kind of Purimspiel, party, and gragger-spinning shenanigans you can imagine. To kick off the real-time Purim giddiness, here's Miss Lori Scherling. She's kicking it old 'shul with a song about Megilliat Esther, Chapter 6.

Hey, Miss Scherling? Any songs for the other chapters?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

New Songs for Purim: Haman and Mamoud & She Said No

Purim is right around the corner, so here are a couple of songs to add to the mix.

Dovid remind us that we haven't run out of rasha's yet, Dovid Kerner sent me an email offering up his "Story of Haman and Mamoud" for our Purim enjoyment. Enjoy!

The Story of Haman and Mamoud

UPDATE: Dovid fessed up that "we shot a hokey video for it last year - just put it up on youtube/kernersongs." Grin. I'm a fan. Enjoy.

Next, here's MIRAJ's song about Vashti and Esther, "She Said No." MIRAJ composes and performs a capella music for Shabbat,Rosh Hodesh and other sacred times.

She Said No

Friday, March 6, 2009

The 'Purim Song' from 'For Your Consideration"

Here's another bit of Pre-Purim silliness. The video is clip from the Christopher Guest film, "For Your Consideration." Guest is one of my favorite directors, specializing in 'mocumentaries' including, A Mighty Wind, Best In Show, and Waiting for Guffman and co-writing the classic "This is Spinal Tap". The basic premise of "For Your Consideration," according to the Internet Movie Database, is that "Three actors learn that their respective performances in the film "Home for Purim," a drama set in the mid-1940s American South, are generating award-season buzz."

The Purim Song from 'For Your Consideration'

Hat tip to YouTube user Litmus101 for posting the video.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Shoshant Yaakov, International Style

As Jewish holidays go, Purim is a goof full of costumes, parties, ridiculous Purim Speils, and the dictum to drink until you cannot tell the difference between "cursed be Haman" and "blessed be Mordecai." So while Purim has it's share of serious, meaningful, music it's also got it's share of outright silliness. One of my current favorite silly bits is Israeli transvestite pop singer Dana International's dance version of Shoshanat Yaakov (The Rose of Jacob), the prayer said at the close of the reading of Megillat Esther. This video is one of those cases where the music so doesn't match the lyrics that it makes my brain hurt. But that's just part of the fun.

Dana International - Shoshanat Ya'akov (Music Video)

For a more traditional perspective on Shoshanat Yaakov including commentary, lyrics in Hebrew, English, and English transliteration, and a way more earnest version of the music, check out the Chabad website. For a few other lovely versions of the song, check out NeoHasid and an Invitation to Piyut.

For more info on Dana International, check out her website or Wikipedia page.

Binyomin GinzbergUPDATE: Ace Jewish musician Binyomin Ginzberg, of JewishMusician.Com, dropped me a note on Facebook saying "That's a great clip! This is a remake of a traditional Israeli melody for Shoshanat Yaakov. I recorded a version of this tune, arranged as a debka, on my Purim Sameach CD." First, I've got his Purim Sameach disc and it's great, you should all go give it a listen. I'm going to be reviewing it on Sunday. Second, this is another great example of me being ignorant in public. The fact that this melody for Shoshanant Yaakov is a familiar Israeli one explains a lot about why an Israeli pop singer would pick it up for a dance track. Didn't know that. Thanks Binyomin!

Here's a clip from Binyomin's Shoshanant Yaakov, arranged as a debka.

Debka / Hora Set

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Vashti's Revenge - Galeet Dardashti presents music from The Naming

Twitter's been bubbling. The blogosphere's been buzzing. Strange costumes and mask's are popping up in unlikely places. I've been invited to a dozen parties I'm too far away to attend. I declare it officially Purim.

If you're in the New York City area and want to kick off the Purim season in style, I recommend you check out Galeet Dardashti's show on Thursday, March 5 at Santos Party House in NYC. Dardashti, who specializes in Misrachi and Sephardic music, released the stellar Divahn album a few years back. This week she'll be debuting Vashti's Revenge and other music from her new album, The Naming. (Note: This is not the CD release party. The disc isn't out yet). Here's the official description of the album...
"The Queen of Sheba's shaven legs. A witch's bitter prophecy. The female superheroes who saved Moses. These stories make up The Naming, singer and composer Galeet Dardashti's exploration of the little-known lives of the Bible's phantom women."
I'd simply describe it as a passionate whirlwind. Enough said. Go to the show. For more information about, check out Dardashti's website or FaceBook page. Tickets to the show, you're going right?, can be had through TicketWeb.

Vashti's Revenge

Flyer for Vashti's Revenge concert

Chunky Chocolate Bars & Raisins and Almonds: Henry Sapoznik talks Yiddish Theater and Radio

Living on the North Coast (aka Michigan) has many perks. One of them is that between the University of Michigan and Michigan State we have a steady stream of exciting Jewish music related visitors. Yesterday Henry Sapoznik came to MSU to talk about Klezmer, Yiddish Radio and Theater, and give a Klezmer performance master class. I was only able to attend the Yiddish Radio and Theater lecture, but am so glad I did. Sapoznik is not only incredibly knowledgeable, but he is one of the people personally responsible for rescuing and chronicling a lot of Yiddish theatre and radio shows from being discarded or lost. He's also a fabulous story teller.

I don't think that last night's lecture was recorded, but here's a snippet of Sapoznik giving a similar lecture at last year's Paper Bridge Summer Arts Festival at the National Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, MA.

Hank Sapoznik on the Forward Hour

I had great intentions of taking notes through his lecture but a) got so caught up in his story telling that I forgot and b) realized that he's written a fabulous book on Klezmer and co-produced a 10 part radio show on Yiddish Theater. Reading and listening to those would be way better than my notes.

I do want to share one great story from the lecture. According to Sapoznik, one of the cellars that some unique Yiddish radio shows were rescued from belonged to the family that owned Chunky Chocolate Bars. It turned out that at the heyday of Yiddish radio, between the two world wars, the owner of Chunky Chocolate was a big supporter of Yiddish radio. He both advertised heavily on Yiddish programs and funded and recorded Yiddish theater to be performed on the air. Why? The answer (maybe) comes from the signature song of a Abraham Goldfaden opera that Sapoznik found on an aluminum master disc in his cellar. The theme song of this opera...Royzhinkes mit Mandlen (Raisins and Almonds). Sapoznik happily speculates that this man so loved Goldfaden and his song that he dedicated a candy company to producing chocolate bars that with ingredients drawn from an opera song, and then years later supporting revivals of opera the song came from. Royzhinkes mit Mandlen is a classic of the Yiddish theater and has been recorded so many times that it's often considered a folk song. In case you haven't heard it, here's a lovely presentation of it that includes the Yiddish and English lyrics.

Judy Albert singing Royzhinkes mit mandle

Hat tip to David Marc Klein of the Heartland Klezmorim for inviting me to the show, to the MSU Jewish Studies Program for hosting the lecture, and to YouTube user schnuffibossi for posting the Judy Albert video. Thanks folks.