Friday, April 30, 2004

Boro Park Rocks!

Heimishtown writes:
I’ve emailed a number of people in the past several months asking them to reflect on their choice of using a specific frum community as an example of something disparaging.
A few thoughts:
Community-level rechilus or hotza'as shem ra is very problematic, and I don't think we want to go there. I would like to believe that it is usually not an entire frum community we mean to condemn, rather the behavior of specific individuals within that community.
In the case of the Boro Park rock term, it is just interesting to note that waddaya know, they're from everywhere but Boro Park. Perhaps the implication is that "this is what sells in Boro Park." I imagine that they sell all around the frum circuit (to be honest, most JM productions don't attract me). I don't get this "holy aura" feeling in Lakewood or Boro Park or Williamsburg or Monsey (all places I've asked people to take a step back and think about how they've written or spoken of, and all places where I can find at least ten families I'm close to). I sometimes feel that people are quick to paint an entire diverse frum community with one black brushstroke, and it's time to reevaluate the integrity of such assessments.

I don't know about the other cases she's talking about, but in this case, this is just silly. First, I think that her interpretation of “Boro Park rock” as being a putdown of a community is incorrect. In its common usage, its more of a descriptive term that differentiates the style from other Jewish music like that of the “Carlebachesque” bands or groups like Safam or Diaspora who have a unique sound. It’s the same as describing something as having a Nashville or Motown sound even though the artist being described may not be from that area.

The fact that many people who use the term happen not to like that style of music doesn’t make the term itself a pejorative.

Second, much as “Cookie” may not like to admit it, there is a clearly distinguishable Boro Park sound. And, even though many of the singers don’t currently live there currently, much of the industry is based there, so it’s fair to describe it that way. For instance, the big record label/distributors are based in Boro Park, several of the big producers in that end of the industry live there. Yisroel Lamm, of Neginah writes a lot of the BP rock arrangements, and helped to pioneer the style. Neginah Orchestra is based in BP – they’ve done a lot over the years to create and promote this sound to the community. The big music stores, Mostly Music and Gal Paz are located there as well. Country Yossi magazine, the JM industry’s fave advertising circular – er, Jewish interest magazine -- is based in BP. Etc, etc, etc.

The reality is that almost all of the music that is typically referred to as “Boro Park Rock” is either composed, arranged, produced, performed, or distributed by a Boro Park based entity. And, even in cases where it’s not, there’s a strong overlap with the BP scene in terms of arrangers, composers, studio musicians, etc. The same people are for the most part involved in producing this stuff.

Alomg these lines, Velvel points out:
There has been some hullabaloo about some Jewish musical terminology which may be offensive to people who aren't directly involved in the music scene.
On some sheet music, in the area where it's noted what the beat is (eg - "disco"), I have seen a label "Crown Heights Rock" actually printed on the sheet. We all know exactly what that means
Maybe Heimish is offended, but the fact is in the JM industry, this is a common nomenclature. And I would venture to say, that although they may be different neighborhoods, "Crown Heights Rock" and "Boro Park Rock" mean the same thing. I feel comfortable using either term, although I enjoy using "Hassidisco," a term I learned from BlogInDm.
Maybe the residents of Boro Park or Crown Heights don't actually make the music, but as far as I know, it's widely enjoyed there.
I can certainly say that I think Disco sucks just as easily as I can say that "Boro Park Rock" sucks.

To give credit where its due… I first saw the term “Hassidisco” used by Henry Sapoznik in his introduction to “The Compleat Klezmer”, a great collection of klezmer transcriptions that Amazon has here:

Pete Sokolow’s introductory essay on the theory and performance of klezmer is a must-read, and the tunes are great too.