Friday, May 27, 2011

The Chavlog, a niggunim video blog

Shabbat shalom everyone.

I'm really looking forward to Shabbat this week. The crazy storms across the midwest caused me to spend a lot of unnecessary time hanging out at airports (3 failed attempts to get to Huntsville, Al), but that's a minor inconvenience compared to the destruction in Missouri. I think we all need a break.

I'm really excited about this week's 'get in the Shabbos grove' video. As you all know, I love niggunim. For anyone not introduce to them yet, niggunim (the plural of niggun) are wordless or mostly wordless Chassidic songs, typically of a spiritual bent. And they make great drinking songs. But you didn't hear that from me.

Yesterday I ran across a new project from Mendel "the Sheichet." I last checked in with Mendel back in 2008 in a post about his Pittsburgh based Chassidic heavy metal band, Teihu. Right now he's doing a fascinating video blog about niggunim for, a Chassidic community news website.

Chavlog #8: The 63rd Niggun from on Vimeo.

What's fantastic this is that Mendel puts a lot of effort into explaining the history and context of each niggun before singing it. From a Chassidic perspective, this is critical to understanding and properly approaching the niggun. They're not just melodies, each one is a spiritual statement.

The whole series is posted on Vimeo. Enjoy! and Shabbat shalom.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Help Asher Barkin's Chassidic Jazz

Asher Barkin is a Cleveland based vocalist and bandleader who plays local simcha gigs with his group the Lyd Orchestra. Barkin's got a great voice and the Lyd Orchestra's got a lot more style than a lot of their peers. Here's a video of theirs to give you an idea of what they're about.

Zamru Set from Asher Barkin on Vimeo.

Barkin started a IndieGoGo campaign to get advance support for his first album. Part of his goal for the disc is to entertain his fans, part is to help land simcha gigs, but, interestingly, part is to help him push the music forward in a way that's hard to do at a commercial gig. Barkin is looking to do music that better integrates the Orthodox music he loves and performs with jazz, which he also loves. Putting together the album will help him work out some of his musical ideas and get them out in front of the world.

So I plunked my $36 down. I'd like to see where Barkin goes with this. Linking Jewish music and jazz isn't a new idea, but I'd like to see how far he can push the simcha band sound and I'd like to see him get better established as a regional band leader.

What about you? Check out his facebook page for more info and the IndiGogo page to lend your support.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Ben Zimet's Yiddishland in Senegal

Ben ZimotBen Zimet is a Yiddish singer with a serious pedigree... a dozen albums recorded between 1978 and 2010 and a "Yiddishland" cabaret show that's played around Europe for just as long. As his website tells it....
"Ben ZIMET is a yiddish singer and storyteller. His parents were Polish Jews. He is a Canadian citizen and has lived most of his life in Paris. He now navigates between Paris, and Dakar, in West Africa. After his growing years in America, Ben ZIMET settled in Paris in the early 60s. Here, he made his stage début with the great pianist and accordeon player Eddy SCHAFF, at the famed Café-Théâtre de la “Vieille Grille.” This was in 1973. Later, he created and presented his “Songs and Tales out of Yiddishland” all over Europe and throughout the world, telling his stories in French or in English and singing in Yiddish the unique world of the East European Jews."
While I'm rather partial to his straight up Yiddishland folk and art music and his storytelling (check out this video of him in action), I was floored by this video of him mixing up Yiddish song and Senegalese music and dance.


The first time I watch the video I was struck by the "no, really?" daffiness of it, but after watching it a few times I realized that's just me being parochial. It's no more of a stretch than Socalled's Yiddish theater hip-hop mashups or Jeremiah Lockwood's cantorial R&B, both of which I adore. (Or Paul Simon's Grammy winning collaboration with South Africa's Ladysmith Black Mambazo, for that matter.) It's no more or less than another example of diaspora in action. It only stands out because of the solitary nature of experiment.

(H/T to Y-love, who tipped me off to Ben Zimet and YouTube user bigsoce for posting the video).

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Y-Love's "This is Unity"

My last post was Y-Love's great political anthem "For My People!" And I haven't posted a thing since. I've been through a couple of grueling weeks of writing research grant proposals. Three of them. At the same time. yeesh. It's fitting then, that now as I sit down to get back to blogging I've got an email from Shemspeed with Y-Love's latest...This Is Unity, from his new EP "See Me."

"The “This is Unity” campaign highlights one of humanity’s most elusive concepts: Unity. As a result of extremisms and borders of class, race, religion and lifestyle, people have divided themselves into an ever-growing number of categories with which to separate from and label one another. In those categories themselves, we as humans often stereotype and stigmatize those who do not resemble the rest of the category.

“This is Unity” is an holistic, anti-bigotry campaign designed to highlight and celebrate diversity. From the music-video featuring Y-Love which highlights Jewish diversity, we hope to encourage a strengthening of Jewish unity and Jewish peoplehood worldwide. Through workshops and projects that bring together artists from different backgrounds to perform in front of varied and mixed audiences, Shemspeed makes its contribution to building bridges between peoples in the hope of encouraging shared experience, constructive dialogue and some impetus for the resolution of some of the world’s most pressing disputes.

Standing up for what is right in the face of what is wrong with the world — through love and unity. This is unity, and this is how we at Shemspeed, Be’Chol Lashon & Nu Campaign do it."
I dig the music and the message. The bounciness reminds me of Y-love's early Modular Mood tracks a lot more than his grittier Babylon tracks. I also dig the contrast between For the People, angry punk hip-hop fist-pumper of a protest song and This is Unity, a positive, inclusive jump-up. Great stuff, Yitz. Keep it coming.

By the way, for a way funnier take on Jewish racial and ethnic unity, check out Manishtah's classic vid "JOC Slapping."