Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Rinat Gutman: Orthodox Woman with a Voice

There's a minor kerfluffle brewing on the Jew music scene lately. Jewish musician Naomi Less has called out the Jewlicious festival for not featuring enough women artists in her blog Jewish Chicks Rock. She basically called the progressive festival an Orthodox front. She got a response today from David Abitbol, aka Jewlicous, politely telling her she's got it all wrong. I'm not sure what to think. From my experience working on the Detroit JCC's Stephen Gottlieb Music Fest there are some many different voices, opportunities, and constraints involved in getting a festival staged it's amazing they happen at all. It may be that the subtle constraints that come from the individual tastes of the Jewlicious Fest presenters are leading to this outcome? Or maybe Less is just making noise about nothing?

One nice thing about Abitbol's response was the list of female performers that have been featured at the Jewlicious festivals recently. I'm familiar with most of them, but there are some new (to me) names I'll have to track down and some names that I've heard of but haven't featured lately or ever.

One that list is Israeli rapper, Rinat Gutman. According to this great interview in the Yeshiva University Observer, Gutman comes from a Charedi Zionist background with some ties to Breslov and Chabad. Gutman performs some women-only shows within the Orthodox community, but lots of shows for mixed secular crowds (such as the Jewlicious festival), too.
"In my rap I speak about things that come from inside, about thoughts and insights that come to me in response to things that happen to me in life. At this point in my life, the central message that I am trying to convey is about the western culture, which dominates everything. I talk a lot about the ramifications of this on our lives, and in my opinion, the implications for the approaching time periods are destructive.

For example, in my song Shekel v'Chetzi [shekel-and-a-half] I talk about our lives using the metaphor of a shekel v'chetzi store [dollar store]. In my eyes, this is the ultimate representation of western culture - the concept of instant gratification. You can find things almost for free, but you pass up on quality along the way. So I mention in my song all types of things that you can "buy" in this type of store, such as love, a professional degree, friends, etc.

I want to make a difference in the world of Jewish music because, in my opinion, it can still develop more. I want to take commonplace topics and make them humorous and lighthearted. For example, I have a Chassidic short story in a rap that talks about shidduchim in a funny and unusual way - it's about a groom who's too short and bride who's too tall, etc..
Good stuff, too, from what I've heard. I haven't seen her yet, but hope to. Get more info from Gutman's MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter pages.


Jewlicious said...

You got my name right the first time but then totally mangled it the second time. Aritbol? Ouch!

I don't know what to make of this minor kerfuffle. Naomi, an artist I respect, made the same assumptions about our Festival that many others make - that we're an Orthodox front and that is why there aren't enough women featured. The people making those assumptions do so based on surface appearances and not based on reality for if we were some secret ultra Orthodox kiruv organization, there would be NO women performing to mixed crowds. Not one. The public face of the Festival is an Orthodox Rabbi and many of our volunteers and participants are quite visibly Orthodox. But when we say Jewlicious is about unity, we're not kidding. The Festival featured Reform and Conservative services and we have given voice to a broad spectrum of views and ideas. We've had panels on LGBTQ issues, medicinal marijuana, organic farming, environmental awareness etc etc you name it! And I have already cited the many female artists who have performed at our Fest.

I'm glad you found rapper Rinat Guttman notable - she is indeed a talented artist and a neighbor of mine in Nachlaot, Jerusalem. Definitely worthy of greater exposure in the US. Yesterday, at the Jewlicious Festival, I also enjoyed a performance by Leerone who was captivating! I have her CD in front of me right now and can't wait to crack it open.

I hope Naomi will reconsider her opinions about the Festival and I look forward to having the Festival continue to highlight talented Jewish artists of both the male and female persuasion!

As for the Detroit JCC's Stephen Gottlieb Music Fest, let us know about it and we'll gladly pimp it out on our blog - I know Rabbi Yonah would love that as he originally hails from Detroit. Me? I'm a Habs fan so I hate everything that is Red and winged.


Jack said...

Doh. Sorry about that. All fixed.

And I hear you on things red and winged. I'm an honorary fan due to proximity and the fact that my real team, the Hartford Whalers are defunct. Don't get me started :)

Leaving aside Less's Orthodox Front assumption, it's interesting how different her perspective is from yours on the proportion of female headliners at Jewlicious. It would be great to look at the data ... gender of the headliner or, if band, band leader, for each of your shows. Without that it's hard to gauge.

If you want to pimp the SGMF, that would be fantastic. In particular, the Jewlicious crowd would probably be most interested in the "Progressive Jewish Music Showcase" I'm hosting. It'll be featuring Y-Love and Diwon, Pitom, and Stereo Sinai on March 24. I'll email you the poster. It's going to be a great show.

Thanks for the pointer to Leerone. I hadn't heard of her. I'll check her out.