Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Turetsky's Choir - the Russian Jewish answer to Riverdance

If you want a full on Jewish music pageant, it's hard to beat the Russians. The following video, from the Turetsky Choir, is a great example but only one of many I run across. It's an incongruous (to me) mix of some seriously good male vocalists, Jewish folk and liturgical music, and a high production value stage and pop instrumentation. Much like Riverdance does for Irish music and dance, it at the same celebrates and trivializes Jewish music.

I'd pay big bucks to see it live. And then need to take a shower.

The Turetsky Choir is led by Mikhail Turetsky, who first came to prominence in 1989 in Russia as the choirmaster of the Moscow Choral Synagogue, the main synagogue in Russia. Initially, Turetsky's choir was exclusively an art music project that produced concerts and recordings of primarily Jewish music. Over time, though, it added the flamboyant sets and pop sensibilities it's known for and began to mix Jewish music with pop and musical theater pieces.

And no, I don't know if any of the choir members, including Turetsky, are Jewish or what being Jewish might mean to them. To read the YouTube comments on this video, you'd think they were either treif impostors or best thing since Golda Meir (who, for the record, infuriated the Soviet authorities by visiting the Moscow Choral Synagogue back in 1948). And I'm not sure how much it matters. Seeing a bunch of seriously good male vocalists singing Jewish music to a huge crowd of Russians, in the face of the centuries of discrimination that Russian Jews have faced, does my heart proud.

Sing it loud, guys. Who cares if you know what you're singing. (Though I'm betting you do.)

For more info on the Turetsky Choir, see their website, for their recordings, see Amazon. Amazon doesn't actually stock them, but has them listed. If anyone knows a good source of import Russian recordings let me know. I'd love to pick up a couple.

Update: Score. I picked up one of Turetsky's early recordings at the Moscow Synagogue on eMusic. It's a very good recording of a synagogue male choir. No pop. no fanfare. Great singing. Now I have to track down one of the later recordings.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Yosef Karduner Live in NY

I've been feeling guilty that I haven't featured any new Chassidic recordings lately, but nothing had caught my attention. Yosef Karduner to the rescue. Karduner is an Israeli Breslov Chassid and a long time favorite of mine. His Shir Ha'amalot has become standard repertoire across the Jewish world for good reason. He's got a wonderful voice, simple and just raw enough. I'll admit that as much as I love Karduner I haven't bought any of his previous albums. Each had, to my ears, an over-produced quality that distracted from the essence of his simple presentations. The new album, "Kumzitz - Live in NY" is the album that I've been waiting for. It's easy to close my eyes and imagine myself singing along at a Breslov kumzitz. (Which I've never been to...invitations anyone?).

For more info on Karduner, check out his interview with Ben Bresky of Israel National Radio recently. The album is available through Mostly Music and CD Baby (download only).

Sunday, March 27, 2011

B-Mor7 and the Jewish Problem

Here's a great hip-hop track I found recently on bandcamp. The track is "The Jewish Problem" by the up and coming, Rhode Island based, hip-hop artist B-Mor7. While B-Mor7s tracks take on a range of subjects, The Jewish Problem is front and center personal response to the Shoah. While there's no shortage of Holocause related rock, pop, and hip-hop tracks, there's a sense of raw personal impact in the lyrics and delivery that jumps it up to front rank. Check it out...

B-Mor7 - The Jewish Problem

B-Mor7's pretty new and doesn't have a lot of interview or bio material out there, so I caught up with her via email to get sense of where she's coming from and where she's going.
Teruah: So...are you from Rhode Island originally? (FYI I'm from CT and used to go Providence for shows all the time. Mostly to punk shows at club called The Living Room, which probably isn't there anymore.)

B-Mor7: I’m from RI, I grew up in Edgewood (Cranston) and now I reside in Pawtucket. But I’ve spent most of my life in Providence (Divine Guidance) volunteering, working, performing and just hanging out.

Teruah: You mentioned (in an earlier email) that you play jazz and blues too, but the Magma Music v2 bandcamp tracks are all hip hop. Is hip-hop your main focus right now? On the bandcamp tracks are you mainly doing the rap or are you producing the tracks too?

B-Mor7: Yes, Hip Hop and Spoken Word Poetry. Everyone thinks I make beats but it’s actually the one thing I don’t do. I like to get tracks from a lot of different producers, some local and some international. I produce the album in terms of the lyrics, concepts, samples, guest appearances; but don’t actually create the beats themselves.

Teruah: Are you gigging at all? What kind of shows are doing? I saw your poetry on your website, are you doing any poetry slams? I used to do lot of them in CT.

B-Mor7: I was doing a some poetry slams but I’m not really into that right now because there isn’t a venue. I perform a lot of spoken word at different events though, mostly on college campuses or as intros to my Hip Hip performances. As for gigging I had a cd release party recently where I performed 2 sets and shared a venue with Chachi and his band Afrika Rainbow. They were amazing! Most of my shows are in the Providence/Pawtucket area but I’m branching out now into Boston as well. I’ll be opening for an amazing 9 piece female percussion band called Zili this week; they perform all over Boston on a regular basis. I’ve also collaborated with a lot of artists down south, in the Midwest and California. I hope to do more shows out there at some point.

Teruah: On the Magma Music 2, Jewish Problem was the only one that seems specifically Jewish themed. Is that right?

B-Mor7: Yes, actually on Magma Musik 1 I have a song called Evil Never Dies where I say a couple of lines in Hebrew but other than that I don’t have other Jewish themed music. The reason is complicated.

Teruah: How did you come to write The Jewish Problem? Are you Jewish yourself?

B-Mor7: I am half Jewish. Well, on my mom’s side so according to Jewish law I’m fully Jewish but my dad is not and I wasn’t raised Jewish. I visited my Bubby and Zady in Baltimore as a kid but I was not raised religious or celebrating most of the holidays. The main thing I remember is celebrating Hanukkah with my mom and singing the song in Hebrew; she was surprised I always remembered it year to year. The other thing I remember was very painful for me, which is why it took me so long to write the Jewish Problem song. When I was about 13 my mom told me that her relatives during the Holocaust were taken (the entire village) into a synagogue and burned alive. The only reason why I am here today is because her grandmother as a teenager had a lot of determination to come to America. Somehow she made it here and escaped the fate of her family. This touched me very deeply and caused me to hold a lot of pain inside. I couldn’t deal with it right away. It took me years to even face it and several more years to address it through writing which is usually how I deal with my feelings and express myself.

Teruah: How do you connect with being Jewish?

B-Mor7: As I got older I wanted to know more about my Jewish heritage and I began to look into it on my own. I found out about a workshop at a Jewish organization that combined painting with the sefirah (tree of life). This intrigued me and I started to look into Kabbalah and Jewish Mysticism. I also linked up with some students from Brown University at the Hillel house where we embarked on an esoteric practice of Counting the Omer, 49 Days of Self-Refinement. In the midst of this I was reading more about the Holocaust and about my specific situation to get information about my history. This all culminated in the writing of the Jewish Problem, a song I was working out in my head for years and then finally got it down on paper and onto audio. It’s a powerful track that includes information on my background but also what Jews have faced.

Teruah: Any other aspects of your background that are important to your identity?

B-Mor7: Yes, Hip Hop culture runs through my being; within this I’ve incorporated African and African-American history and culture into everything I do. In fact, it’s what I currently teach at Rhode Island College. I am also extremely involved in Asian philosophy and culture. This includes becoming a yoga teacher and studying Sanskit, Hinduism, Buddhism and Vedanta. I also grew up with Lao and Cambodian people and recently traveled to Laos so I’ve studied the language and culture there as well. I’m also interested in “Latin” America and the Caribbean and I’m trying to learn Spanish. I even rap in Spanish sometimes and I’m trying to do more of this. One group (made up of many nations) that is typically marginalized are the “Native Americans”. I have many friends from different indigenous communities and I’m involved in Pow-Wow’s (Native gatherings) where there is a lot of drumming. Connecting with all of these rich cultures, histories and struggles have made me into the strong person I am today and have influenced my music tremendously. Although there are differences there is something spiritual that unites oppressed peoples. I find this connection through music. One of my goals is to create a fusion Hip Hop cd that combines my lyrics with different genres of traditional and indigenous music. I’ve already experimented with this with Middle Eastern, Cambodian and Indian music. I can’t wait to start recording! I’m probably going to do some punk/hip hop blends as well with live bands.

Teruah: Sounds great. Reminds me a lot of Ylove. I'll have to introduce you. How did your crew and audience respond Jewish Problem? Do you find they relate to it? (I'm guessing that they’re mostly not Jewish, is that right?)

B-Mor7: I’ve had this song for a few years but it was just released recently so not too many people have heard it. The ones who have are amazed by it and think it is awesome. They also say people aren’t ready to hear it yet…I don’t know if I’m ready to perform it. I read it once for a group I used to work with and it was very emotional for me to do that.

Teruah: Your song is very much its own, but it covers similar ground to Remedy's Never Again. Are you familiar with it?

B-Mor7: No, but I’d love to check it out.

Teruah: There's something about hip-hop (as well as punk, which is more my music) that’s great for music about defiance

B-Mor7: Yes!

Teruah: Both your and Remedy's raps really show a raw nerve. The Shoah was three generations ago. Lots of American Jews think of it as ancient history. How come it's so raw for you? (Let's be clear...I applaud you for it. Just asking.)

B-Mor7: That’s a good question. Several reasons. For one thing, 3 generations ago is not ancient history. Especially when it translates as me not being able to know my ancestors as well. Most people I know have large families. I don’t. This made me feel disconnected from my family, and my past. You also mentioned defiance. I’ve always been curious about the persistent defiance, rebellion and revolt of oppressed peoples throughout the world because these are the stories that exist but are usually ignored or pushed under the rug when history is taught and they are so important to our quest for humanity. When I started to record the Jewish Problem I stumbled across a trailer for the movie Defiance (a film about Jews who fled into the woods and fought off the Nazis) and the synchronized was perfect. I couldn’t wait for the movie to come out (a year later) but it gave me even more inspiration, information and ideas for my song. I even sampled a couple of lines from the trailer to place in my song for dramatic effect. As for hip-hop and punk music, in its purest form it is very defiant by nature. I definitely exude this essence in my music, lyrics and stage performance. It even shows in my studio name “Outlaw Culture”.
For more info check out B-Mor7's website and bandcamp site.

For salvation, Kaddish. For redemption, Kaddish. For revolution, Kaddish? Ofra Haza, Twitter, and the Yemeni Revolution

It's rare that Jewish music has international prominence and when it does it's usually because of some dustup over Israel. For a current example, check yesterday's Israeli National News article "Jewish Music Group Rejects Israeli Money After Threat." While an interesting and frustrating article, Jewish music itself plays a small role. The article could just as easily been about a Jewish literary group or student group. Not so this morning.

Today I woke up to a twitter discussion between National Public radio strategist and digital technology community organizer Andy Carvin and Maria Al-Masani, a Canadian public relations agent, model, and former Miss Universe Canada. Al-Masani was telling Carvin, and others, about how Ofra Haza's song Kaddish was becoming the anthem of the current Yemeni revolution. Haza was a popular Israeli singer of a Yemeni-Jewish family who sang pop-Israeli, Yemeni-Jewish, and Yemeni-Arabic music.

Here's the exchange:
Al-Masani Saturday 3/26, 23:09: @acarvin @TomOdell Andy you are jewish? That's wonderful! Have you heard the music of Yemeni-Jewish singer Ofra Haza?
Acarvin Saturday 3/26, 23:11: @ was a big fan of hers before she passed away, RIP.

Saturday 3/26, 23:13: @acarvin same here. :-) Her music in general but especially her song kaddish is played by so many in Yemen as sound track to uprising

Acarvin Saturday 3/26, 23:14: Yemeni Jewish singer Ofra Haza and the revolt. Wow. RT @al_masani: her song Kaddish is played by so many in Yemen as soundtrack to uprising

Al-Masani Saturday 3/26, 23:14: Awesome! @jilliancyork Loving how @acarvin is standing up for Muslims against Twitter hate tonight.

zweever212 Saturday 3/26, 23:22: Israeli singer Ofra Haza's song Kaddish played by many in Yemen as an inspiration for uprising. / @al_masani

Al-Masani Saturday 3/26, 23:26: @zweerver212 to us she is Yemeni. She also sings many songs in traditional Yemeni dialect.

Al-Masani Saturday 3/26, 23:27: @gfry @emilylhauser Ofra Haza is a source of national pride for Yemenis. We have a Yemeni-Jewish population, many are Israeli citizens

zweever212 Saturday 3/26, 23:28: @al_masani well yes, she's a yemeni jew, i've heard her songs in the dialect since im an arabic student. we're all one people.

Al-Masani Saturday 3/26, 23:27: @zweerver212 exactly, Jews, Christians Muslims united against brutal regimes #MENA #Egypt #Yemen #Libya
Ofra Haza singing Kaddish at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1990*

Haza's Kaddish isn't the liturgical prayer of the same name. But, similarly to Alan Ginsberg's poem Kaddish, picks up on themes from the prayer to create her own secular prayer for peace and redemption. It's a deeply moving song and it's wonderful to think of it being adopted by a people striving for redemption and peace.

The discussion is also fascinating as it shows how labels like Yemeni, Israeli, and Jew are negotiated. Haza fits all those categories, but the commentators, for their purposes, preferred more restricted descriptions. Yemeni. Yemeni-Jew. Israeli. When confronted both were able to step back to the larger label set. The result... the restricted categories turned out to be ways of describing the commentator, not Haza.

Just as a note, I don't have any independent confirmation that what Al-Masani said is true and that Haza's Kaddish is really being played in Yemen right now. If anyone has any additional information, please let me know.

* The video I posted is not the video linked in the twitter discussion, which is more pop and more English language. It's not clear from Al-Masani's tweets what recording is being played right now and the Montreaux recording has always been a favorite of mine.

hat tip to OfraFan for uploading the video.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Stereo Sinai hits Detroit with a new Purim track

Chag Sameach Purim everyone.

This week is going to be a whirl of activity. The Detroit JCC's Stephen Gottlieb Music Fest kicks off on Wednesday. Big events for me include my "Silver Age of American Jewish Music" talk at the Oak Park Michigan JCC on Thursday night (come one come all!) and the Progressive Jewish Music Showcase on Sunday at the West Bloomfield Michigan JCC. The Progressive Jewish Music Fest is a HUGE deal. As far as I'm aware, there's never been a concert like it in Michigan. It's going to feature Y-Love and Diwon's hip hop, Pitom's alt-rock/jazz and my Chicago buddies Stereo Sinai's biblegum pop.

Stereo Sinai just came out with a cool Purim track, supported by my other buddy Alicio Jo Rabins of Golem and Girls in Trouble. Check it out, and, if you're local come see them play. It'll be a great show.

The Esther Song

Here's Stereo Sinai's description....
"It's taken from a moment in the Book of Esther when Esther realizes she can't just sit there and let the world fall apart. In the song's refrain she says, "‎For how can I endure the evil that shall come unto my people? How can I endure destruction? How can I stand back and watch my kindred suffer?"

Of course she can't, none of us can. She stands up to the king, in front of the King. Where we see the world crumbling - be it as big as an earthquake in Japan or as (seemingly) small as a friend who needs a shoulder to cry on - you do what you gotta do. Here's hoping this song will be a call to action, and a call to empathy. May we not stand idly by."
If you're in Michigan or northern Ohio, come see Stereo Sinai on Sunday (March 27).

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Help Kickstart the Noah Budin Songbook

Ok, this is the fourth Jewish music related Kickstarter project's I've featured and I want to make a few things clear. I think that the Jewish music community, as well as the rest of the world, will start seeing a lot more artistic projects funded this way. And I think that's a good thing. It puts pressure on artists to think about how, and how effectively, they're engaging with their audience and it puts pressure on us, the audience, to think about about what artists we value and how we support them. In short, it helps artists and audience become collaborators in a really direct way.

On a more practical note, I don't get any kickbacks from the project recipients. I do pledge to most of them myself. I haven't posted every kickstarter campaign I've seen and as the number goes up I'll be increasingly choosy about which ones I do post. So stay engaged with your favorite artists, get on their mailing lists, facebook, and twitter feeds. Our artists only can light up our lives if we help them do it.

Ok, enough of that. Today's pitch is from Noah Budin, a singer, songwriter, and storyteller who's very much loved in the pop liturgical / songleader community. His songs have become camp and Hebrew school staples. Here on the chilly North Coast, my daughter's youth choir sings Budin's Hallelujahland with great gusto every chance they get. If you don't already know Budin and his work, you should check out his website, grab an album or two and look for one of his many concerts.

Budin is looking help to self-publish a songbook. Here's his pitch and a medley of this tunes.

"Every song from Hallelujah Land: Songs of Faith and Freedom and Metaphor will be published in this songbook in two different formats: sheet music and chordster. The sheet music will have, well, all of the things sheet music has. You know, time signature, key signature, a melody line, and chord symbols written over the top of the staff. In other words, lead sheets. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, a “chordster” is a “camp” style representation of the songs: lyrics with chord names above each line in the appropriate places. Perfect for guitar players and song leaders....

OK. So, why do I need your help? I'm a DIY musician. Self published, self recorded, self booked, and self financed. While all aspects of the book are being produced professionally, I have no publisher, no distribution and no cash advance. I don't expect to make a lot of money from sales. Like my CDs, it's a labor of love - passion, really - and, while they seem to bring pleasure to people, for me, they are marketing tools. I really just like to play music for people.

Over the years I've gotten many requests for sheet music to my songs. I'm humbled and grateful that my music is "out there" and being used and enjoyed by so many people. So, I'm looking for support from my fans, especially the educators, song leaders, and other musicians who would love to have the book, to bring this project to fruition. In other words, at most levels of pledging, I'm asking you to purchase the songbook in advance to cover the costs of production"
This kind of buy-in-advance pitch makes a lot of sense and is going to become more and more common as we go forward.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Help Jake Shulman-Ment & Friends Romanian Klezmer Tour

The history of klezmer music is deeply intertwined with the history of Roma (Gypsy) and Balkan music. The Roma contributed significantly, by sharing roads, meals, and music with Jewish klezmorim and recently, by helping maintain the repertoire through the loss of klezmorim during the Shoah. That shared history is still being made, as exemplified by cross-collaborations like Alan Berg's the Other Europeans project, Yale Strom's film "A man From Munkacs: Gypsy Klezmer".

Another fine, current, example, is Klezmer violinist Jake Shulman-Ment. Shulman-Ment is currently living in Romania on a Fulbright scholarship studying Romanian violin music. Why?
"Why am I doing this, you ask? Well, because Romanian music is probably the non-Jewish music that had the strongest influence on klezmer music as we now know it when it was still alive in Eastern Europe....Romania is an amazing place to perform klezmer music. Due to years of severe cultural and informational repression under the communist regime of Ceausescu directly following the horrors of the second world war, the majority of Romanians are unaware of the richness of the Jewish history that exists here. I've found music to be one of the best ways to communicate this. Every time I play a klezmer tune for people here, they look surprised and ask me, "Where did you learn that Romanian music?" My response is, "Well, it's also my music, and I learned it in New York!"
Shuleman-Ment has started a Kickstarter fundraising campaign to "take this conversation to another level where people literally listen to it happening musically in a concert setting" and is asking for all of our help. He's got a kickstarter campaign going to raise funds. As he notes "Finding venues in Romania that are interested in this kind of concert is easy. Finding one that can pay us is very, very difficult. Also, I want these concerts to be as close to free as possible for the public. I am going to use part of my Fulbright grant to cover some of the costs, but I need to save some to eat, so I'm turning to you!"

He's asking a modest sum to put the band together, with instruments, in Romania and to put on "10 concerts all across the country over the course of two weeks." I've put my $ down. How about you? Can you help continue the shared history of klezmer and Romanian music?

Here's his pitch. He's also got a fine album available through CD Baby. Check it out.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Teruah in 1552

The excellent Jewish history blog "On the Main Line" focuses on showcasing and contextualizing interesting historical Jewish texts. A Jewish children's primer from 1827? He's got it. Earliest known print source of the Golem of Prauge? That too. The post, though, that near and dear to my heart is his discussion of a "page from Libro de Oracyones, the Ladino siddur published in Ferrara 1552 by Yom Tob Athias (the Spaniard formerly known as Jeronimo de Vargas)."

Not only does this text have an early description of the shofar calls, but it's an information graphic! Note the way the different calls are drawn. Tekiah are long swoopy lines bracketing the other calls. Shevarim is three short strokes. (note how much they look the shin used to abbreviate them) and Teruah is short hyper-kinetic wiggle. In my day job I'm a research scientist with a deep love for information graphics and visual notation. This hits me where I live, folks. I need to make a Teruah blog graphic out of this. Love it. love it. loveit.

Check out the full post for a great linguistic exploration of the different ways in which Teruah is translated in Spanish.

Hat tip to my buddy Daniel for pointing me to the post. Thanks!

The Return of the Detroit JCC Stephen Gottleib Music Fest

I can't tell you how excited I am about the upcoming Detroit JCC Stephen Gottlieb Music Fest. This has been my first full year working on the fest and it's been a big adventure. I've learned a lot about what it takes to put on a music fest and, while I don't claim to be any good at any of it, feel like I contributed to this year's fest. And it starts in two weeks! I'm going to have individual posts about some of the acts I find particularly interesting, but right now I'm going to with the full schedule.

Friday and Saturday, Mar 18/19 (Shabbat): Celebrate Musical Shabbat. A number of area synagogues will be filled with music in anticipation of the fest. Stop come sing with us at Congregation B'nai Moshe, Temple Beth El, Temple Beth Emeth, Temple Emanu-El, Temple Kol Ami, Temple Israel, Temple Shir Shalom, Adat Shalom Synagogue, or Congregation Shir Tikvah. I'll be at Beth Emeth in Ann Arbor

Wedneday, Mar 23: Marvin Hamlisch.
"Multi-award winning composer Marvin Hamlisch .. [is a] preeminent conductor and one of the greatest artists of our time, Hamlisch is one of only two people (along with composer Richard Rodgers) ever to have been awarded Emmys, Grammys, Oscars, a Tony and a Pulitzer Prize. The composer of Broadway’s “A Chorus Line,” “The Goodbye Girl” and “Sweet Smell of Success,” and for films including “The Way We Were,” “The Sting,” and “The Informant.” Hamlisch also served as musical director for Barbra Streisand’s 1994 U.S. tour."
Thursday, March 24: Jack Zaientz (that's me!)
I'll be giving my talk "The Silver Age of American Jewish Music Is Happening Now – And Why We’re Missing It!" Yep. Your humble Musical Schadchen will be on stage talking about the exciting state of Jewish music and playing a lot of great music. Come say hi!
Saturday, March 26: David Broza.
"Israeli superstar David Broza has been considered one of the most dynamic and vibrant performers in the singer/songwriter world. His charismatic and energetic performances have brought to worldwide audiences, a fusion of the three different countries in which he was raised: Israel, Spain, and England, filling concert halls with his famous guitar playing, ranging from flamenco flavored rhythmic and percussion techniques, to whirlwind finger picking, to a signature rock and roll sound. Broza unites the three worlds by utilizing his ability to take on the troubadour tradition, up to now, featuring lyrics of the worlds' greatest poets." Broza's website." I've seen Broza before and he is fantastic live.
Sunday March 27: Family Concert with Mark Bloom, in conjunction with the Barbara & Douglas Bloom Matzah Factory.
"Singer, composer, pianist, educator and arranger, Mark Bloom is among America’s leading music innovators, merging jazz and Judaism. He has performed and produced his “Jazz Shabbat” service at more than 70 congregations. Bloom's website.
Sunday March 27: Progressive Jewish Music Showcase featuring Y-Love & Diwon, Pitom, and Stereo Sinai.
"Y-Love (Yitz Jordan) is African-American, Orthodox Jewish and an extraordinary hip-hop artist whose music intertwines English, Arabic, Hebrew, Yiddish, Aramaic and Latin and combines ethereal scripture with gritty social consciousness. Y-Love’s first full-length album was “This is Babylon,” which came with a Parliament/Outkast-esque production vibe. Y-Love's website and MySpace page.

Based in the stereophonic heart of Brooklyn, world music maestro Diwon (aka Erez Safar) is one of the most innovative and versatile producers and DJs today whose style blends Yemenite music with electro hip-hop. Diwon's MySpace page

Dubbed “Biblegum pop,” Stereo Sinai’s (Miriam Brosseau & Alan Jay Sufrin) music has a signature sound of ancient, holy languages with blasphemous backbeats and synthesized pop melodies. The duo was declared a “Favorite Band of 2009” on StereoSinai website.

In Hebrew, Pitom means “suddenly.” An avant-jazz quartet from New York founded by Jewish guitarist Yoshie Fruchter, Pitom includes violinist Jeremy Brown, bassist Shanir Blumenkranz and drummer Kevin Zubek and was profiled in the recent Forward article "The Secret History of Jewish Metal". Pitom's website."

Monday, March 28 & Wednesday March 30: Elaine Serling.
Singer/songwriter Elaine Serling has been composing, performing, producing and teaching Jewish music for more than four decades. Her concerts have inspired and captivated adult and children audiences alike in cities across the United States, Canada, Israel, Australia and in her hometown of Detroit. Click here to visit Elaine's website
Tuesday, March 29: Film: "The Klezmatics: On Holy Ground"
"Get a backstage pass to The Klezmatics: On Holy Ground! America’s leading klezmer band was filmed over three years, resulting in a revealing movie that shows the highs and lows of band life. Grammy Award-winners, the Klezmatics have appeared on the PBS Great Performances series and NPR. “On Holy Ground!” tells the story of their celebrations, frustrations and pursuit of reaching an ever-widening audience. Watch the trailer here."
Thursday, March 31: Local Music Showcase featuring Heller, Steyer & Green, Maggid Steven Klaper – the Jewish Troubadour and David Nefesh
"Heller, Steyer & Green features the talents of Cantor Penny Heller Steyer of Temple Shir Shalom and her children Tiffany Steyer Green, cantorial soloist at Temple Kol Ami, and Matthew G. Steyer, visiting cantorial soloist at Temple Kol Ami and Temple Shir Shalom.

Maggid Steve Klaper is a Jewish troubadour – a spiritual storyteller, minstrel and teacher (maggid is the traditional title for a Jewish inspirational speaker) who infuses traditional Jewish teaching with ancient and contemporary melodies. Click here to visit the website.

A seven-time nominee (and one-time winner) in the Detroit Music Awards, David Nefesh has written more than 100 songs that blend folk-rock with pop, combining melodic sensibilities with intelligent lyrics and polished guitar playing. Visit David's website here or watch him on YouTube."

Saturday, April 2: "Jews Who Rock: Their Stories and Music" featuring Gary Graff
Musicians Billy Brandt (Grievous Angel, the Mission Band), Martin “Tino” Gross (the Howling Diablos) and Mark Pasman (WCSX’s “Motor City Blues Project”) join forces with award-winning Detroit music journalist Gary Graff of the Oakland Press, Billboard, WCSX and New York Times Syndicate for a night of music and commentary dedicated to Jewish artists in popular music, as well as their own original material.
Sunday, April 3: Chamber Orchestra Concert Conducted by Edward Benyas
Edward Benyasis an acclaimed conductor and oboe soloist with the Chicago Chamber Orchestra and Artistic Director of the Southern Illinois Music Festival. He has performed with the Chicago Symphony under Daniel Barenboim and Lyric Opera of Chicago under Zubin Mehta, toured with Andrea Bocelli, and has conducted such distinguished soloists as Emanuel Ax, Christine Brewer, Marvin Hamlisch and the Eroica Trio. Gaining some of his earliest orchestral experiences with the JCC Symphony Orchestra under the late Julius Chajes, Maestro Benyas returns to his native Michigan to direct the first classical chamber orchestra program in the Berman Center for the Performing Arts, featuring a Bach Brandenburg Concerto, music of Chajes and Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring. Visit the website here.
Sunday, April 3: Annual Michigan Board of Cantors Concert: A Tribute to A Night on the Town in Old Detroit
Join the Michigan Board of Cantors for a musical romp through old Detroit! Catch some jazz at Bakers, see a show at the Fisher, stop by the Roostertail for some Motown hits and much more. So grab your sweetie and get ready for a glorious trip down memory lane!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Kobi Oz "Mizmorei Nevuchim / Psalms For The Perplexed"

Yesterday, while wandering around the Jewish corner of, I ran into a recent album from Kobi Oz, lead singer of the popular Israeli group Teapacks. As Yehuda Mirsky notes in his essay in Jewish Ideas Daily "Some mainstream Israeli musicians have recently been turning for material to religious texts; others have become immersed in the musical traditions of Sephardi Jewry. The two trends have come together in a new album, Mizmorei Nevukhim ("Psalms for the Perplexed"), by Kobi Oz." My Hebrew isn't good enough to follow the lyrics, which Mirsky describes as "abound[ing] with riffs on the terrors, longings, and sheer nuttiness of Israeli life, plus a whimsically phrased but dead-earnest questioning of dogmas both religious and secular." Fortunately, all the songs are translated courtesy of "Makom - Israeli Engagement Network."

I love the album's sound which is mixes a capsule history of Israeli pops with mizrachi overtones and archive samples. And the lyrics for the song below, Prayer of the Secular" are priceless. Check it out.

You can get more information on and the album, including translations and a video interview, from the album website.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Wednesday Music Links

Here are some recent links that I've sent out over twitter that haven't turned into their own blog posts:

Ladino - 500 Years Young - a YouTube trailer for a 2005 Israeli film on Sephardi vocalist Yasmin Levy (Hebrew, English subtitles). (hat tip to @IGRKGT)

Sway Machinery gets some love from Pitchfork for their new album "House of the Friendly Ghosts, Vol. 1". JDub kvells.

Reb Yosil offers up a free Rosh Chodesh download. Benji kvells

Ruby Harris plays 'Otchichornya' traditional Russian/Yiddish song on violin (h/t to @JacqueeT)

SoulAviv's uses Kickstarter to fund Soul Gospel Shabbat CD (h/t @bellaluna)

I found out that satellite TV provider DirecTV now offers Jewish Life TV, including a Jewish Music Videos show. (which was playing Orthodox music videos on Shabbat. #Fail)

Friday, March 4, 2011

Shabbat Shalom Detroit

Shabbat shalom, everyone.

Yesterday's Detroit Jewish News ran a really nice full page story on me and Teruah. So when got to the Detroit JCC's music fest meeting last night I got copies of DJN thrown at me and a lot of good natured ribbing. C'mon. The picture does NOT make me look like a grumpy rapper. Very funny. If you're a new reader who saw the article... great to meet you and thanks for stopping by. I'll be giving a talk in Detroit on March 24 as part of the Detroit JCC's Stephen Gottlieb Music Fest, so stop by and say hello.

This been a long week of meetings and family stuff, not much time for blogging or anything else, so I'm really looking forward to Shabbat tonight. So, for my 'get in the Shabbat groove' video I thought I'd share this lovely recording of the Yigdal prayer. When I was a kid, at a Conservative synagogue in Connecticut, we usually closed Friday night services with Adon Olam. Yigdal was saved for special occasions. Because of that I've always deeply loved Yigdal. The melody used in this recording isn't the one I grew up with, it's a Sephardic melody sung by the Israeli musician Avraham Perrera. I honestly don't know much about Perrera other than the few of his songs I've heard on the internet. If anyone knows more about him or has a pointer to any biographical information, please drop me a line.

Hat tip to YouTube user 2751984 for uploading the video. You can find Avraham Perrera recordings at