Tuesday, July 29, 2003


Another thing that troubles me is the seemingly shameless ability of many in the business to simply say whatever it takes to promote their product without regard to obvious contradictions between their words and their deeds.

Numerous composers, producers, and performers who have made public statements of how terrible the secular influences are in today’s music have also released albums that are part of the problem.

Here, for example, is an album description taken from the Neshomaorchestra.com website.
This album has been recorded with one purpose in mind. That purpose, simply stated, is to return Jewish Music to its former glory and splendor. It is our hope that we have captured the Neshoma of a Heimishe Simcha in its most pure and basic expression. That is, we have attempted to let the Niggunim and the words speak directly to the heart and soul of a Jew-without the extraneous influences that unfortunately have begun to corrupt many of our meaningful and most treasured Niggunim. We pray that you, the listener, will discern the emes amiti of the music included on this album and will allow it to elevate your Neshoma to an even higher plane.
This is simply laughable. First, a listen to the album shows many secular influences. They are especially noticeable in the arrangement of “Ilon, Ilon” from the album Aish by Abie Rotenberg. The screaming electric guitar solo by guitarist Mike Coon is great, but if that doesn’t count as “extraneous influences” then I can’t imagine what would.

Second, a listen to the album, “Neshoma @ Your Simcha” which is directly below it on their website, reveals that the band does in fact incorporate a myriad of secular influences into its arrangements of popular Jewish music. Also, anyone who has been at a “Neshoma” wedding has heard their contemporary pop and funk stylizations of today’s Jewish music. It’s what they do best!

The band did make an effort to incorporate a more traditional sound by hiring guest musicians like clarinetist Michoel Lamm and accordionist Zevy Zions to add an old-style klezmerish touch to the album. Much of the music is more laid back and less edgy sounding than the Neshoma @ Your Simcha album. The band was clearly trying to achieve a more traditional sound and that’s perfectly fine with me. I’m not criticizing the album musically (That’s perhaps for another post :). I just take issue with the grandiose, self-righteous pronouncements in the liner notes for “A Heimishe Simcha” which simply ignore the band’s twenty year plus history of incorporating secular influences into the music they play at simchas.

I’d like to point out that the people at Neshoma are not the only such offenders. They are simply following in the tradition of others in the industry like Yerachmiel Begun of the Miami Boys Choir who regularly make pious pronouncements about the unfortunate and inappropriate use of secular music styles and influences, all the while releasing a steady stream of recordings which –rather poorly, to my mind – attempt to incorporate those very styles and influences.
More later.