Friday, April 30, 2004

More on Boro Park Rock!

Heimishtown responds in less then compelling fashion. The fact that some of these people “live” in other parts of Brooklyn is irrelevant to the point at hand. The bottom line is that at some point in the production or distribution of the vast majority of these albums, someone in Boro Park is somehow involved. I’ve rarely -- if ever -- used the term “Boro Park Rock”, but it’s a perfectly fair description of a regional style of Jewish music. I can’t imagine that she’d be happier if it were called “Brooklyn Jewish music” either, so, although that’s probably a more accurate term, suggesting its use instead wouldn’t change anything here.

Let’s be honest. We all know what’s meant here and that’s really the point at hand. It refers to the mainstream Jewish music coming out of Brooklyn like that of M.B.D., Avraham Fried, Shloime Dachs, Mendy Wald, Yisroel Williger, Miami Boys Choir, etc.

I think, that since “Cookie” doesn’t like this music herself – she’s made several snide comments about the genre on her blog – she’s seeing a negative association with what is essentially a descriptive name. And, that’s fair. She’s entitled to her sensitivities and needn’t use the term, but, it’s a far cry from rechilus or lashon hara.

Also, Jew cannot “become” a pejorative. It can be used in a derogatory manner, but that doesn’t make the word itself a pejorative. That's why this response to the use of "Jew" or “Al Yahud” as a put-down by Arab students at Detroit’s Wayne State University resonates. Perhaps I’ll buy one for the Israel Day Parade… The Palestinian demonstrators and the Neturei Karta idiots who protest alongside them are bound to enjoy it.

She writes:
Maybe what I'm trying to say is that the shiny black shoe music industry (a much more fun term, IMO) is not very visibly populated by the crowd of people to whom it is targeted. The influences show.
Huh??? Just look at these pictures of some of these artists. (These were chosen at random. I could just as easily have used many other singers to illustrate this.)
Eli Gerstner
The Chevra
Shloime Dachs
Michoel Pruzansky

I’d say they look exactly like the community they’re marketing too. Obviously, Brooklyn is diverse enough that no one can look like all the segments of the frum community. That being said, which community do they look like they come from? It ain’t the “kipah srugah” crowd, that’s for sure! The “uniform” that these guys choose to wear for performances and press photos looks an awful lot like the clothing fashions one sees on Shabbos in Brooklyn.

She also writes:
The deep and pressing question that remains is whether people sensed a need for recorded music for this audience and decided to take advantage of the principles of free market economics, presenting an undertalented, overhyped, regurgitated drivel as music, or whether we should make fun of people for listening to stuff because it has Jewish themes and a beat
I fail to see why this is an either/or preposition, or why the questions are either deep or pressing. They're not!

At any rate, the answer to the first is yes. Just listen to the stuff! Does that mean that there’s no talent there? Of course not! Clearly some of these people are quite talented. They’re just writing commercial music and coasting on the fact that for so many years “regurgitated drivel” was selling well. I think that some of them would do much better to address their focus towards the secular jingle industry, as that’s basically what they’re doing, only using “pesukim.” There’s no reason why they wouldn’t be able to plug advertising slogans into short hooky melodies they write using exactly the same skill set they’re using to create their current product. Personally, I think it would be an improvement if they substituted advertising slogans for, say, the text of kaddish, for instance, in their musical creations. And, I'd be more likely to purchase the product being marketed.

To her second point, as far as I can tell, the bloggers she’s been responding to have not been making fun of people for “listening to stuff because it has Jewish themes and a beat.” They’re criticizing what they consider to be silly or inappropriate music. Both MO Chassid and Velvel are on the record as appreciating artists who play Jewish themed rock music. In Velvel’s case, he performs with several Jewish-themed bands that definitely have a beat. In fact, he rocks!

Mo Chassid has written about artists like Avraham Rosenblum quite favorably. (For instance, here.

The lady doth protest too much, methinks!