Sunday, June 27, 2010

DeScribe and Remedy raising funds for "My Keffiyeh"

Folks, recently I pointed you all to the kickstarter page raising money for a documentary on Punk Jews (which I'm proud to say has reached it's $10,000 goal!). Today I want you to know about Jewish hip hop artists DeScribe and Remedy's fund raising for their "My Keffiyeh" project. Here's their pitch...

In text...
"Shemspeed’s Israeli Keffiyeh is steadily gaining attention in the world of fashion, and in the process, spreading awareness of Jewish pride, respect, and cross-cultural unity. DeScribe, one of Shemspeed’s hip hop and reggae stars, has joined with Remedy,Wu-Tang Clan affiliate, to take this project to the next level through their new single, “My Keffiyeh,” and its accompanying music video. This dynamic music video will bring the Israeli Keffiyeh project into the public arena, as it airs on MTV, Fuse, and other cable channels. Not only will “My Keffiyeh” raise awareness of the Shemspeed Keffiyah project, it will also create global awareness of Jewish cultural pride, and showcase the diversity that exists in our community. At this point, all the technical pieces are in place, but we need your support to help make the project happen! Take part in this historic event by making a pledge today."

and video...

"My Keffiyeh" Music Video Promo (DeScribe & Remedy) from Shemspeed TV on Vimeo.

Now that they've made their pitch and you've decided what you think, I'm going to say that I don't get it. While I'm very pro-Israel, I'm frustrated enough about the Israeli governments actions that this appropriation of an Arab (and particularly Palestinian) garment seems clearly political, jingoistic, and tacky. I'm particularly uncomfortable with DeScribe and Remedy's usage of it as an element of Jewish pride. We have plenty, ranging from the Torah itself to the Magen David to a good bagel. We have no need of this.

But make your own decision. Support it if you like, and by all means tell me why I'm wrong if you disagree.

Australian Jewish Music Ensemble's been a long long month here at Teruah central. Sorry I've been quiet. But it's not been for lack of great Jewish music to share. Let's get things rolling again with the Australian Jewish Music Ensemble. The AJME, led by Adam and Simon Starr, play a gentle but funky jazz based on Jewish themes. Here's their official blurb....
"Jewish music tells an incredible story of a journey; both into the soul of man and throughout the physical world. This journey has given birth to a remarkably diverse and beautiful tradition that encompasses all of the cultures that have hosted Jewish people. The AJME was formed around the idea that, in its breathtaking diversity, Jewish music can be revitalised through fusions with other genres of music, different compositional forms and the inclusion of improvisation, which is the lifeblood of musical creativity. By funnelling Jewish migratory paths through a contemporary musical prism, the AJME hopes both to create for itself a repertoire that will make a lasting contribution to the body of Jewish music, and to encourage more people to engage with this tradition."
That "Jewish music can be revitalised through fusions with other genres of music" is a fine idea, though I like seeing it revitalized as is too. The video below is a fun deconstruction of the seder classic Echad mi Yodea. They do a nice job of exploring the melodic and rhythmic possibilities in the song without making the song unrecognizable. On their myspace page you can hear a number of their other pieces, including Adam Starr's new composition "Meditations on a Judeo-Babylonian Ritual Song." I'm going to need to get a copy of that one. Very cool.

echad mi yodea

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Gene Marlow's Heritage Ensemble

Gene MarlowI love getting email. I've said that before, right? In particular I love the "have you heard" emails, because usually I haven't but now I will. Last week I got a nice email from a reader named Vivian who wanted me to know about "a composer named Eugene Marlow, and his group called The Heritage Ensemble. He writes both jazz and classical music, as well as interpretations of Hebraic liturgical music, which he performs with his excellent Heritage Ensemble....I hope you can find time to listen to some of the wonderful selections. It took me a week, but I did listen.

Gene Marlow, according to his website, is a jazz and classical composer with compositions for solo instruments, chamber groups and big bands. He's also a working musician, playing parties with his Heritage Ensemble which specializes in "Jewish liturgical pieces and Israeli folksongs arranged in various jazz and neo-classical styles". With the Heritage Ensemble he's recorded a new album, "Making Music of our Own." Honestly, from the samples I hear on the website, I don't love Marlows arrangements as much as Vivian did. Marlow's clearly a pro, but his compositions and playing are a bit mannered for my taste. I've heard enough jazz takes on traditional melodies to not find the idea novel and Marlow's jazz explorations don't push nearly as far past the originals as I'd like to go. That said, I completely understand why Marlow's audience loves this music. There is a gentleness and depth of feeling to the music that is quite engaging. If you enjoy the sound of a classic jazz combo of piano, bass and trap then you should check out Marlow. If you're in New York or the environs, you should consider booking him.

Here's my favorite sample from Marlow's website:

PlayBilbililos ("Rock from whose store we have eaten. . .")

Monday, June 7, 2010

Two from Sefarides: Juan Bau and "Por ke llorax"

Today I want to feature two great videos from Sefarides, a website and Facebook stream dedicated to "a la información sobre la cultura y la historia sefardí" (Which I'm assuming means "information about Sephardic history and culture" Gotta love cognates). I just got linked up withe Sefardies Facebook stream, which is now sending me lots of fascinating Sephardic videos.

Here's the first one...

Por ke llorax blanca ninya? Sephardic song on hurdy gurdy

I love this version of the song. I've got two different contemporary recordings of it, one by Psychedelic Sephardic rock band Deleon and one by Sephardic Indie-Pop band La mar Enfortuna (both tracks with the titled transliterated "Porke Yorach"). It's great to hear this more traditional version. That said, I'm not ready to go along with the videos notes that describe the song as "a sad Sephardic Jewish romance from pre-inquisition Spain." One thing I've learned about Sephardic music is that while the lyrics may be pre-inquisition there's no real evidence that the melody is that old. This shouldn't detract from my (or anyone else's) appeciation of the song or the recording. It's just that the mythos of Sephardic musical antiquity is a bit overblown.

This second video is a hoot.

Juan Bau - La estrella de David

When I close my eyes, I really love the vocals and imagine the singer in a suit on a theater stage. When I open my eyes I all I see is Bay City Rollers. But generational fashion quirks aside, Juan Bau is a seriously good vocalist working, at least in this recording, in a Sephardic context. And from looking at his website, Facebook page, and myspace page, Bau is a vocalist that is still performing and recording. My Spanish isn't good enough to get too far into these sources, but I get the impression that he's a popular Spanish singer who recorded one or two Sephardic recordings during a much longer recording career. If anyone knows more about him and can help fill in some details I'd appreciate it. I'm going to try to hunt down this album. Have to have it.

Hat tip to YouTube user flautadeorfeo for posting (and recording?) the hurdygurdy video and to mireyaesc for posting the Juan Bau video.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Jewish Music Fest Shoutouts, Chicago, SF, Toronto, Atlanta, Washington DC

My own adventures with the Detroit JCC Stephen Gottlieb Jewish Music fest aside, there are a number of Jewish music fests going on this summer that are worth pointing out. This is just a quick list, not an exhaustive one. If I'd don't mention one in the area you live in, check my left-side panel for a larger list of annual fests. If you're in Europe..check Ruth Ellen Gruber's extensive list of European Jewish Music Festivals.

Chicago Jewish Festival. Next Sunday, June 13, is the Chicago Jewish Festival. It runs from from 11 to 5ish, with 4 concurrent stages as well as food, art, and local organizations. I think the music is free, but am not sure. And I get to go! If you see me say howdy! I'll be live tweeting the show. This year artists will include my buddies StereoSinai as well as
"Tzioni ‘R' Us/Weiner Experience, Moshe Skier Band, The Ruby Harris Band, David Broza, Kol Sasson, Rabbi Joe Black, Listen Up! A Capella, Community Sing, David Broza, Jazmer, Barbara Silverman, Lafayette Klezmorim, Tarkay, Tracy Friend, Maxwell Street Klezmer Band, Guy Mendilow, Shakshuka, Saul Kaye, Cantor Jeff Klepper, Tumbalalaika, Guy Mendilow, Kol Tikva, Lynn Hazan, Caryn Bark, Shining Lights, Jeff and Janis, Anna and Catherine Kazyansky, Mamaloshn Yiddush Song Group, Ed Holstein, Marilyn Price, Steve Justman, Shelechet Aviv Israeli Dance Troupe, Ballet Entre Nous, Aaron Freeman, Jessica Honor Carleton, Solomon Schecter Choir, Junior Klezmer Band, Guy Mendilow Band, Judy & David, Jessica Honor Carleton, Joel Frankel, Judy & David, Marilyn Price, Jewish Jammers, and Comedy Ventriloquist Chuck Field."
And rumor has it that Patrick A of Can Can and Punk Torah will be in town for festival as well, though not performing.

Whew. Looking at a list like this is humbling. As much as I think I know the list touring Jewish musicians, looking at the line of summer Jewish music fests makes me realize how much more action there is out there than I can track. Great fun.

San Francisco Jewish Music Festival. July 11. This year is the SF Music Fests 25th year. They had a big showcase in March and will be having another one in July.
"Artists include Eprhyme, Glenn Hartman and the Klezmer Playboys, Peter Jacques, Elana Jagoda, Kugelplex, Ira Levin, Joe Nguyen, Kat Parra, Red Hot Chachkas, Dror Sinai, Gerry Tenney and California Klezmer, Vocolot and Joshua Walters. Plus klezmer, maqamat (Middle Eastern modes) and Middle East percussion jam/ workshops, an Instant Chorus, and an Instrument Petting Zoo, in association with the Community Music Center and Zambaleta World Music Institute."
Ashkenaz Music Festival, Toronto. From Aug 31 to Sept 6. Headliner shows require $ tickets, but everything else is free. And considering most of the "everything else" would headliners at other festivals, this is amazing. I would love to go but don't think I'll be able to afford it. Anyone feel like sponsoring an itinerant blogger? No? Oh well. Maybe in two years.
"Abraham Inc., Adrienne Cooper & Marilyn Lerner, Andy Statman, Batsheva, Beyond the Pale, Canadian Cabaret hosted by SoCalled (including helly Posen, Brian Katz and Lenka Lichtenberg, Lache Cercel, Aviva Chernick, the Yiddish Swingtet, Mike Ankielwicz), Daddo, Daniel Kahn, Deep Minor, Di Fidl Kapelye, Flory Jagoda, Gypsophilia, Jaffa Road, Klezmer Kids, Konsonans Retro, Kosher Gospel w/ Joshua Nelson, David Wall, and Ken Whiteley, Kurt & Annette Bjorling with Di Fidl Kapelye, Lache Cercel and the Roma Swing, Marilyn Lerner, Mitch Smolkin, Nayekhovichi, Nayekhovichi, Sephardic Cabaret hosted by Aaron Bensoussan, Shtreiml, Sisters of Sheynville, The Flying Bulgars, The Huppah Project, The Klez Dispensers, The Lithuanian Empire, Theresa Tova, Toronto Jewish Folk Choir, Vira Lozinsky, Zully Goldfarb."
Atlanta Jewish Music Festival. Ok, it was last night and I missed it. But I wanted to give a shout out to one of the new Jewish music fests. First of all I love seeing some Jewish action down South. There's been a solid Jewish population down there for a long long time, but it doesn't get the attention that Jewish in northern east and west coast cities get. Secondly, the line up for their fest was pretty interesting. Yesterday's show included the Moshav Band, DeLeon, Girls in Trouble, and 4th Ward Afro-Klemzer Orchestra. What's interesting about this is that it was much more of a rock / pop concert than your typical fest. Most fests lean toward Jewish flavored folk / world music. As more Jewish rock, pop, and hip-hop bands are getting formed, I wonder how long it will be until more fests have stages like Atlanta's.

Washington DC Jewish Music Fest. It kicks off tonight and runs until June 13, with....
Screening of The Jazz Baroness, Danny Sanderson, Seth Rudetsky’s Deconstructing Broadway, Galeet Dardashti, Uri Gurvich Quartet, Saints & Tzadiks (Susan McKeown & Lorin Sklamberg), Golem with Girls In Trouble, The Macaroons Children's Concert, and Vagabond Opera.