Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Handel Ehrlekh - A Wigged-Out Photo Blog

One of the perks of playing Khasidic weddings is the opportunity to buy specialty items that aren't available outside of the community.

About eight years ago, I had a couple of extra minutes before a gig in Williamsburg. So, I went into a local gesheft and picked up the following souvenir.

This is a board game called "Handel Ehrlekh". It's hard to translate the title accurately. Idiomatically, it means "Dealing Ethically", but "handel" often has somewhat of a negative connotation as well, as in financial wheeling and dealing, or "bargaining down".

Essentially, this is a Monopoly rip-off with an educational message aimed at teaching Torah values to kids. There's something deliciously ironic about infringing copyright [ Whoops! Meant to write IP] to teach ethics.

At any rate, the game works much like Monopoly, but with some key differences. Here's a photo of the game board.

I've pictured it sideways so you can more easily see some notable parts of the board. These include the jail or "tefiseh", which is an old Eastern European jail, naturally. It's located in the bottom right hand corner. Don't miss the "shtreiml gesheft" on the bottom center. The bottom left corner is a picture of the swirling hellfires of "Gehennom" (Hell). Continuing clockwise around the board, the box with the arrows at ten o'clock points to a second box called "Mikhutz Lamakhane" or excommunication (i.e. Kherem.) The text reads "Harkhek mekhover ra, keyner tor zikh mit dir nisht khavren". (Stay away from a bad neighbor, nobody is allowed to act friendly towards you.)

It's not all about hellfire and excommunication, though. Sprinkled throughout the board are various Hakhnosas Orkhim (hospitality), tzedoko, and yeshiva/kollel squares. The concept behind these is to teach the values of Torah study, charity, and hospitality. The Hakhnosas Orkhim squares are of particular note. As in Monopoly, a player needs to own a full set of properties before they can start building on them. Every set of properties includes one Hakhnosas Orkhim. If someone lands on a Hakhnosas Orkhim, the owner is required to fulfill the mitzvah and host him free of charge.

The game is played pretty much like Monopoly, with a few additions.

Some of those are:

The oldest player plays first as a sign of respect.

While one who lands on a "wedding hall' has to pay rent, he also receives a $50 stipend from charity towards "Hakhnosas Kale" (marrying off a bride).

There's a "tzedoko" in addition to the bank. Every profitable transaction requires players to donate ma'aser (a tenth) of the proceeds to charity. Of course, if a player runs out of money, he receives charity. This results in the game being never ending, for, if you run out of money, you immediately receive a tzedoko (charity) stipend.

My favorite instruction in the rules addresses what happens should the tzedoko pushke run out of money:
"Az es treft zikh un di tzedoko pushke iz shoyn leydik, makht der gabai tzedoko a groysn 'appeal' un yeder shpiler zol gebn khotsh $50. (Es farshteyt zikh tomer men hot.)"

If the tzedoko runs out of money, the adminstrator should make a giant appeal, and each player should donate at least $50 (if he has it).
Here are the full rules:

As in Monopoly, there are two kinds of cards. In Handel Ehrlekh, they are called "Iberashung kartelekh" and "Kheshbon Hanefesh kartelekh" (soul searching cards).

The cards tell you something you've done, comment on it, and then tell you what to do. The "Iberashung kartelekh" are positive and the "Kheshbon Hanefesh kartelekh" are negative.

Here are some sample "Iberashung kartelekh":

As you can see, the values being taught with these are typically admirable. For example: "Gebakn khale lekovod Shabes koydesh!" (You baked Challah in honor of Shabbos), "Host gegebn a sakh tzedoko mit a gute hartz" (You gave a lot of charity with a good heart), "zikh ayngehalten fun kas" (You restrained your anger), "rakhmones gehat oyf yenem" (You had mercy on another).

There are some unusual ones though. My personal fave is "Yiddishe tokhter! Du hust dikh gerukt in a zayt ven a mans perzon iz gekumen antkegen" (Jewish daughter! You moved to the side when a man was approaching." "A tzniyusdike gefil un a khoshevkayt fun di neshome."

The "Kheshbon Hanefesh kartelekh" are less impressive. Mixed in with the admirable "Nisht gefolgt Tate Mama!" (You didn't obey Father and Mother), "Farshemt Yenem!" (You embarrassed someone), and "Gegesn un a farleslikhe hekhsher!" (You ate something that didn't have an acceptable Kosher certification), are some, umm, less universally acceptable ones.

Here are some sample "Kheshbon Hanefesh kartelekh":


Some faves:

"Yiddeshe Tokhter! Du host aroys gelakht ven mener hoben gehert! Zeyer a groyse pritzus! Shtel dokh in 'mikhutz lamakhane' un blayb aroys 3 gang." (Jewish daughter! You laughed when men could hear you. Very immodest! You're excommunicated! Lose three turns.)

"Geredt English tzuvishin zikh! Yiddish redn taylt up fun di goyim! Shtel dokh in 'mikhutz lamakhane' un blayb aroys 3 gang." (You spoke English amongst yourselves. Speaking Yiddish separates us from the Gentiles! You're excommunicated! Lose three turns.)

"Getantzt mit shtrik in gas! Vi iz dayn gefeel fun tzniyus? Batzol shtrof $50 un blayb aroys a gang." (You jumped rope in the street! Where is your modest sensibility? Pay a $50 fine and lose a turn.)

"Geleynt a treyfene bikhl! Tomey, Tomey! Arayn in Gehenom un blayb aroys 2 gang."Ungevoren di 2 tayereste pletzer vos du host." (You read an unkosher book. Unclean, unclean! Got to Hell and lose two turns. Lose your two most valuable properties!)

My all time fave is this one:

"Geholfen di Tziyonistishe medinah! Fun a shaykhes tzu reshoim kumt keyn guts nisht aroys! Nor shoden! Tu teshuvah! Zitz in a yeshivah 2 geng, un tzol far di yeshiva vifel es kost far yededn aroys gebliben gan $50 far tzedokoh!" (You helped the Zionist country! No good can come out of an association with evil people, only bad! Repent! Sit in a yeshivah for two turns, and pay $50 tuition per day to charity).

Fundamentalist Monopoly. Freyt far di gantse mishpokhe!

Incidentally, speaking of "gefeel fun tzniyus" (modest sensibilities) and yeshivos, perhaps this game might be marketable to the good folks at Yeshivas Rabbeinu Chaim Berlin.

According to Yeshivah World news, the Rosh Yeshivah, Rav Aaron Schechter has called on his community to boycott a wig store located "directly across the street." Read the Yeshiva World post first, then come back here for more. It's OK, I'll wait...

Note that they've posted a copy of Rav Shechter's letter. Their translation is not accurate, so you should really read the original Hebrew.

Over at the appropriately named Hirhurim, Rabbi Gil Student agrees that the pictures are provocative and seems to suggest that the store is in the wrong.

I disagree. Strongly.

I saw a photo of the wig storefront on DovBear, and it seemed to me as though this was a gross overreaction on the part of the yeshivah and its supporters.

So, having some free time last night, while on a music researching expedition in the general area, (more about that sometime soon, perhaps), I decided to check out the scene of the crime myself.

A few things are immediately obvious. One is that those criticizing the storefront as immodest are certainly not using a Halakhik definition of immodesty. That's an important point, when you consider that they're trying to impact someone's livelihood.

Here's a photo of the "offending" store.

Frankly, I see no problem with this display; certainly there are no Halakhik issues with it. For the record, this doesn't mean I think the store owner shouldn't consider his neighbor's concerns.

On this topic, I feel that is very important to note, the frankly dangerous approach, seeming to be a trend in the Chareidi community, of changing the rules in the middle of the game, as it were. This impacted on musicians when the Agudah attempted to impose their limitations on the size of wedding bands. (For a somewhat related post on arbitrary legislation resulting in a diminshment of Kavod haTorah, see here. Better yet, read Rabbi Cohen's entire essay. You can pick it up on disc at the upcoming SOY Seforim Sale.) Musicians who had spent years developing their craft, were suddenly effectively notified that they were out of business immediately. (It mainly, but not exclusively, affected those who played instruments not considered essential in a five-piece band setup for Orthodox affairs.)

This is just unfair. Arbitrarily taking away parnasah from people involved in melacha nekiah (honest work) is unjust. At this point, the storeowner has a lot invested in this location. Restricting his right to do business, especially when he isn't violating any halakhos or laws, is unjust.

There are halachos about "hefsed merubah" (large financial loss) that allow for permitting 'questionable' meat in certain situations -- that might otherwise have been ruled unkosher-- in a case of grave financial loss to the meat producer. Why do we worry less about 'real' halachik issues with regard to kashrus, then about arbitrary 'hashkafik' reasons? Is a shokhet or farmer more worthy of having the halakha look out for his financial health then a wigmaker?

What if it was a different industry -- one that more members of our community participated in -- like accounting or law? Imagine if one day they banned those and similar jobs. A lawyer would wake up and find that his entire legal education was useless, he had no job, and would never be able to use the skills he/she'd invested so much time in acquiring. Same for doctors, electricians, plumbers, whatever. It would be viewed as unfair and rightfully so. Why is it fair to do to musicians? Or wigmakers?

I recognize that the situation in this case is not exactly analogous, because the wig seller isn't out of a job, and does have options to remain in business using his/her skill set. However, it's a slippery slope. For, if these photos are indecent, by implication, so ought be the wigs he sells. Is a ban on them next? Even if not, consistency would seem to demand the avoidance of anyplace someone might be wearing one of these, including most Chaim Berlin simkhos.Is this where we're heading?

It seems to me, that at the very least, Rav Shechter and Yeshivas Rabbeinu Chaim Berlin have an obligation to try to work with the storeowner to help protect his business, even as they ask for his accommodation. It has to be a two-way street. It's very clear from Rav Schechter's letter (posted at the Yeshiva World link above) that he hasn't even personally spoken to the store owner.

Another point that's unfortunately clear from Rav Shechter's letter is his disdain for the storekeeper. Frankly, I find it hard to understand -- let alone justify -- the rationale behind his writing "Hu 'yarad', verotze lehorid ta'am Torah shebeyneynu" in a public letter. (He's referring to the owner having made 'yeridah' -- moved from Israel to the US.) Is this approach in the spirit of "derakheha darkhei noam" and "Tzedek, tzedek tirdof?" Is this the proper response, even if the seller was rude to the people asking him to change his window dressing?

Incidentally, by way of comparison, here are some photos of a wig store on 13th Avenue, a neighborhood that's more Chassidic than Coney Island and Avenue M. These were also taken last night.

I haven't seen a letter urging anyone to boycott that store.

Another misrepresentation people have been making is that the store is "directly" across the street from the Yeshiva. It's not. It is diagonally across the street from the Yeshivah at some distance, and the street it's across is Coney Island Avenue, a heavily trafficked four-lane road.

Here's a Google map of the area:

View Larger Map

The store is one storefront in from Avenue M on the opposite side of Coney Island Avenue from the Yeshiva. It is directly across the street from a funeral home. Next to the funeral home is a diagonally placed street called Locust Avenue, which does not bisect Coney Island Avenue. The yeshivah is on the other side of both Locust Avenue and Coney Island Avenue.

Under normal circumstances, it is simply not necessary to pass the store when walking to the Yeshivah. When leaving the Yeshiva, one could easily cross Avenue M before crossing Coney Island Avenue, and avoid walking near the store that way.

Here's a photo of the Yeshivah taken from the front of the wig store.

It was dark, and the photo isn't so clear, but you can tell how hard it is to make anything out through a window at this distance, even when backlit.

Finally, here's a photo of the wig store taken from Chaim Berlin. I was leaning against the corner of the Yeshivah building closest to the store when I took the shot. The wig store is to the left of "The Modern Chemist".

As you can see, it'd be quite hard to make anything provocative out at this distance (assuming something in that window was). The people claiming that this storefront provides an unavoidable provocation are misrepresenting the reality.

Perhaps we should start marketing Handel Ehrlekh to the folks at Yeshivas Rabbeinu Chaim Berlin?

A note about transliteration; I flunked YIVO as a second language.

Monday, January 28, 2008

From the mailbag... [updated]

Recently, PHP rhythm guitarist Doni Joszef emailed:
Just writing to let you know that our band - PHP - is about to release our debut album entitled "Hodu" - with Sameach Music. The CD should hit stores in about 1-2 weeks....

[Update:1/29/08] Additional PR material removed at PHP's request.[/Update]

...Guests musicians include Nochi Krohn, Aryeh Kunstler (who actually just joined our band as bass/vocals), Shaya Leiber, and others.
Doni included a links to download the album and cover art. No liner notes, though.

Regular readers may remember that a while back, I linked to a thoughtful article Joszef had written for the 5 Towns Jewish Times.

The email started me thinking about if "a fresh energy of 'jam' and creative grooves" are in fact "so desperately needed in Jewish music." The next logical question to ask is whether the concept is in fact fresh. Of course, the most obvious question is whether this specific project is any good. For the record, I do have some biases about the genre. I'm not a fan of pointless noodling and I could care less about which version of "Dark Star" is the most awesome. In general, my preference in this style of music runs towards the funkier, jazzier end of the spectrum. Vintage keys. Clav, B3, Wurly, etc. Think MMW rather than the Dead.

Getting back to my questions...

Long time readers will know that I support creativity in Jewish music, so from that standpoint, new approaches and sounds are always welcome. (Whether a given approach works or not is another matter.) From that standpoint, a fresh approach is always nice.

I'm not sure I accept the premise that there aren't enough Jewish 'jam' projects out there though, i.e. Soulfarm, Merkavah, Piamenta, even NOKAS. Check this out too. In a 2006 article about Matisyahu, Slate's Jody Rosen described his aesthetic as "white-boy-jam-band reggae, with lots of guitar filigree, frequent show-offy solos, and a far thinner bass sound than you'll hear on any Jamaican dance-hall record." That's a relevant quote, because on listening to this album, my first thought was that some of the horn section stylings sound like they came off of Matisyahu's first album.

Recording a jam album is always a challenge because the inherently restrictive format of an album --the time limit-- imposes limits the band doesn't have in live performance. Jam bands are meant to be seen, experienced even, not just heard.

Listening to this album, the songs pretty much all follow the same form. There's an intro or "groove vamp", then there's typically a setting of liturgy, (for the most part, the lyrics seem to be an afterthought to the grooves), although there are some wordless songs, and then a "jam" or solo section. Then, it's back to the other sections. Taken on their own, some of these sections are interesting, but it often feels like the song sections do not flow together organically.

The band relies heavily on the guesting keys, percussion, and horns to carry the album. Strange, since they perform as a quartet sans these instruments. As a result, this is an odd debut album; it's a jam disc with mostly restrained jams and a heavy reliance on guest musicians to fill out the sound. That said, there are some nice musical moments when everything seems to come together and the production quality is very good.

For a sense of PHP's live presentation, check out some YouTube clips of a recent show here, here, and here.

The album is available here.

James Hix writes:
I stumbled across your 2005 blog on Finale vs. Sibelius and it was just what I needed to make up my mind which way to go in buying a new notation program. I’ve been an avid MOTU person since they came out with Professional Composer back in the middle 80s and switched to Composer’s Mosaic when it was released. MOTU had the best customer service department for any company I’ve ever dealt with. Any question I had they could easily help me with and each upgrade seemed to fix problems specific to what I needed. Then they up and abandoned the software around 10 years ago leaving a lot of people hanging. I even bought an old Macintosh G3 solely dedicated to Mosaic (it won’t run in Mac OS X or Classic) but I’m getting tired of booting it just to write music.

I’d taken a college class back in 89 on a very early version of Finale and even then Pro Composer was more intuitive. Mosaic blew it away when it was released, but I still had friends who told me I was crazy for not using Finale. They’d never used it, but knew it couldn’t be as good as Finale. I’ve fought the last ten years the temptation to break down and purchase Finale because I had a personal affront to using it. A couple friends have recently told me they were using Sibelius and really liked it, After reading your comparison I’ve decided that Sibelius is probably the best choice for me.
Glad to have helped. Judging by this and many similar emails I've received, I've sold a lot of people on Sibelius over Finale. Those MakeMusic! guys should take customer service a little more seriously, I think. If they had, I'd never have tried Sibelius. In fact, Blog in Dm is the #1 Google search result for sibelius vs. finale and many similar searches.

A.J. Towne writes:
There is this new hot music group!! You guys should check them out! I just got their cd today in the mail, and they’re great! I paid $15.95 and that included shipping and handling! Man you really should get this cd!! They are a great group and some of them have preformed with really big signers! Check it out.[Web URL removed]
$15.95 including shipping and handling! WOW! That's awesome! No plug for you!

Got a bunch of comments on "The Klezmer Gene (A Recessive Gene)."

Jordan writes:
Lovely piece. I know exactly what you mean.
A. writes
Just saw this posting re the klezmer's beautiful.
Der bavustzinik arbeter writes:
Ahem... my best friend from middle school is getting married in may. alas, she is marrying a lovely, but not Jewish man. as of right now she has no plans to have live music at all, but i've been suggesting that should she want a jewish band, all she has to do is "challah" and I'll help her find something. I really do hope the klezmer gene kicks in...
Ari comments over at the Klezmer Shack.

E. forwards a link to Shloime Dach's: Political Bundler.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Link Dump - I Have A Dream Edition

Yosef Karduner and Rabbi Lazer Brody sing Adir Ayom. Rabbi Brody says the song is a Turkish melody that was adapted by his great great uncle, Reb Mendel Litvak.
In this clip, Yosef Karduner and I sing a traditional Breslever niggun, Adir Ayom. Some say that it's an original Turkish melody, but my great great uncle - Reb Mendel Litvak, a student of Rebbe Natan of Breslev - put the melody to the words of this moving song that we sing every week at Melave Malka (Saturday night meal, ushering out the Shabbat Queen).
In the liner notes to his "Breslever Melave Malka" CD, Karduner attributes the song's adaptation to R' Ephraim ben R' Naftali citing Harav Nachman Yisrael Burstein as his source. It's a beautiful melody; even more so in the version on Karduner's disc, which we reviewed here.

The melody doesn't sound particularly Turkish. If anyone has any further information on its provenance or adaptation, please pass it on. Thanks!

Speaking of Rabbi Brody, he and Menachem Herman are "Knocking On Heaven's Door."

Here's another Karduner/Brody clip. "Moshiach Yichbosh Et Haolam Bli Yeriah Achat."

Hirhurim posts "Rock and Roll Davening" complete with Craig Taubman photo.

Over at Ohr Sameach's site, the rabbi gets asked "Is Classical Music in Harmony with Judaism?" Via The Kvetcher, who doesn't like the answer given.

Klezmer violinist Alicia Svigals writes about a "Queer Klezmer Quandary." Via the Klezmer Shack.

Speaking of violinists, the J-Post checks in with the Hip-Hop Violinist.

Katie Green blogs Rachel Sharansky's wedding. Mazal Tov!

The Klezmer Shack posts "Rudy Tepel, o"h."

The Klez Kamp 2007 Podcast site is up, and more goodies are being added.

The Army is looking for a "professional celebrity rock music band."

Breslov Rocks!

Speaking of Breslov, here are some "Rabbi Nachman of Braslav sayings on Music."

YK theorizes about Chabad's musicians. Breslov anyone?

ADDeRabbi asks "Ayeh?"

Imshin posts Shlomo Artzi singing in Yiddish.

Looking for a good Tu' B'Shvat song to do with your pre-schooler's? Try Gordon Lustig's "Look At Me (I'm A Tree)" It's kid tested!

Jill Sobule needs your help to make her next record.

Me wants one!

Oh man! We missed our chance!

This five year old sounds just like a guy we heard at an affair a while back.

Mathematically inclined? Check out Jazz Math!

Over at da Forward, songstress Lisa Loeb says:"Don’t Call Your Daughter’s Boyfriend a ‘Parasite’" There a country song title in there, we thinks.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Klezmer Gene (A Recessive Gene)

Over the past few years, I've played a lot of small weddings for unaffiliated Jews. In many instances, the calls for these affairs come in a week or two before the wedding. In one case, a fellow walked over to us at a Sunday night gig and hired us for his wedding on Thursday.

Coming off of a really fun one of these weddings, where we had them dancing in the street in Greenwich Village, I've been thinking about what makes people who have clearly been planning their dream wedding for a very long time, suddenly decide that they need "authentic" live Jewish music at their affair.

In some of these cases, there was already a secular band booked for the affair, and might even have had a stereotypical "hora set" they could have played. In others, no dancing was planned, and there may not even have been space for dancing. (Hence, the street in the Village.)

I think that there's something really deep that makes an otherwise secular bride and groom decide that they need "authentic" live Jewish music at their affair; especially if they aren't having dancing, there isn't even any room in the venue for dancing, and they have an iPod loaded with their fave music. Yet, they still want those dances, and want to be lifted up on chairs while they each hold one end of a napkin.

In a humorous moment, I've named this need "The Klezmer Gene" (and referred to it as recessive), but it's really about the Jewish spark -- that part deep inside that makes us all want to connect to our heritage and traditions. For some of us, it's religious observances; for others, it's the food. For some it's the language, whether Hebrew, Yiddish, or Ladino. And for others, it's the music.

So, as the big day approaches, the couple will often start to feel a pull towards tradition, even though it hadn't previously seemed to be that important in terms of their vision for their day.

I, for one consider myself blessed to be able to help people connect to tradition in this way. It's awesome to be able to share that which binds us all together. See you at the next "last-minute" wedding. L'chaim!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

1/9/08 Link Dump

David Kaufmann seeks our generation's Micky Katz or Allan Sherman in the Forward. The Forward also introduces its new Bintel Brief advice columnist, songstress Lisa Loeb.

DovBear posts a link to the NY Times obit for Rav Shmuel Berenbaum, ZT"L.
The Mir Yeshiva is exclusively devoted to the study of the Torah, the first five books of the Bible. It has 1,200 members. Another branch is in Jerusalem, with an estimated 4,000 students. In contrast with other Orthodox and Hasidic traditions, it shuns all music, song and dance in the belief that secular learning is useful only for earning a living.
Having played a number of Mir Yeshivah events over the years including, at various points, Simchas Beis Hashoeva" and Purim gigs, this assertion is bizzare.

Teruah posts a link to Arnie Davidson's Project Ben David - an attempt to create prayer melodies which "will soon become the new 'standards' for this generation.

Jack doesn't like the project as a whole, but did like Davidson's "Esa Einai" which is available as a free download from Davidson's site. I checked out the tune last night and there's a gross mispronunciation that I just can't get past. The vocalist, Davidson, I believe, consistently mispronounces the word "heharim" as "hekharim", substituting a "khet" (or "ches" for the non YIVO-ists) for the "hey". Oh, well.

The J-Post reviews discs by Mare Winnignham and Sarah Aroeste.

Life-of-Rubin is posting viewer complaints about the new Gerstner DVD.

We missed this at the time. Here's a Nafshenu promo interview about their CD, "A Heimishe Wedding." A highly informative video.

To address just one point...

The claim is made that --unique to Nafshenu-- all of the musicians on the album are actual musicians you might see on the bandstand at Nafshenu weddings, and are not studio guns for hire.

This claim is untrue. To cite one example, Neshoma Orchestra's "Neshoma @ Your Simcha" CD featured only Neshoma's regular bandstand musicians on the recording. Nafshenu is well aware of this, as Aaron was still working for Neshoma when that album was produced.

Finally, courtesy of YouTube's Kol Isha division, here's Rosenblatt's "Kaddish" performed by Mezzo-Soprano Dorothea Fayne.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Peeps (Not for Easter)

Some more for y'all...

They're out in force these days!

The "Time Waster"

The "Time Waster" gives the musicians an earlier start time if they book a very short event that is booked at the minimum rate for the slot. Their logic is that since the musician is being compensated, might as well have them come early. This is fair, within reason, but it's frequently abused. It also unfairly penalizes those musicians who actually do come early as a matter of course. The most recent specimen of this fine peep gave us an 8 PM start time, but gave the guests an 8:30 invite time. There's no reason to have the musicians set up and ready to go an hour before the gig. Folks, if you're worried about the musician being on time, how about expressing your concerns to them directly?

The "Most Amazing Mentalist Ever!!!"
This fine entertainer has a pre-printed introduction that MUST be read before he starts his show. Among the salient facts he deems necessary for elementary school kids to know; he's played Caesar's Palace in Atlantic City and shares a first AND last name with a character that appeared in one episode of season two of "The Soprano's". I guess when your resume is that dry after 30 years in the field (allegedly), you've got to scrape the bottom of the barrel for intro factoids.

The "Gay Mashgiach"

'nuff said!

The "Don't Go Anywhere" Client

What with being used to hearing "Don't Go Anywhere" in grade school as a prelude to being reported for a disciplinary infraction of one sort or another, this client is a pleasant change of pace. When we hear "Don't Go Anywhere" at the end of a job that has been invoiced/paid in full by the office, we know a nice tip is on the way. Our informal research indicates that "Don't go anywhere" means at least $50, but it's frequently more. Thank you! We appreciate it!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

From the mailbag...

Psachya writes:
A caveat to your "It's so nice to hear a band that's not too loud" peeps: There should be a sub-category for people who tell you this during the opening cocktail hour, when you are playing at your lowest volume of the evening. They inevitably add, "We'd love you to keep it at this volume for the rest of the night." Yikes!
Albert writes:
Bonjour, A question from France: i would like to understand the first words of the song "Shnirele perele" by the Klezmatics. I understand Yiddish but cannot get the first sentance. Can you help me to find the text?
The music I have from Zlamen Mlotek translates it as "string of pearls."

E. forwards this bit o' Zionist blather.

J writes about Mustapha:
JJ did a nice take of it on his 100% album, he called it D'ror Y'ikra.
He's referring to this disc. I believe it's the track titled "Hora Yerusholayim."

Psachya comments:
Re "Mustapha" - thanks for the clip. I always wondered why Ken Gross put an "extra part" into the song. Guess I should know Ken better than that...BTW, my guess as to how this song became "Jewish" is probably through the New York/Israeli club scene of the '60's and '70's, which gave us songs like "Gino", "Rosa Rosa", "Finjan" and the like. Present-day survivors of that scene include Avner Levy, Shlomo Haviv, Gadi Bodinger and Avram Pengas. Any of the above could probably give a dissertation on the provenance of that material.

1/2/08 Link Dump posts an interview with Adi Ran. Check out their Yosef Karduner interview too! There are video and mp3's, so check it out y'all.

Speaking of Breslov, Arutz Sheva has posted a sample track from Shuly Rand's CD. Rand is well-known for his role in Ushpizin.

The J-Post reviews the Nochi Krohn Band disc.

Here's a promotional video for a wedding hits album. I find the opening segment in the shul to be lacking in respect. There are halachos about kedushat beit hamedrash. This sets a bad example. A little responsibility, guys?

George Robinson profiles Rob Tanenbaum, the composer of "Shiksas Are For Practice" and other fine songs.

Sameach has posted a preview clip of the Yeshivah Boys Choir plus DVD.

For those interested in seeing rather than just reading about... peep this! Truly a hartzige nigun!

This year's KlezKamp Blog is up. From the KlezKamp blog, here's Mark Rubin and Andy Statman.

Ari Davidow has posted his notes from the recent Yiddish Dance Symposium. We were invited to participate, but had to play that day. Looks like a worthwhile project. Hope the next one isn't on Sunday of Chanukah!

Here's a classic: " The Three Little Bops!"

Finally, what do klezmer and classic rock hits have in common? The accordion!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Mustapha: A 100% Heymisher Nigun

One of the tunes that is sometimes played played at Chassidic affairs during a debka/hora set is the crossover song, Mustapha. I assume it entered the repertoire via the Druse/Meron connection just like so many other melodies did. Naturally, it's now a holy nigun.

I haven't had this one called much lately on my sideman gigs, but thinking back to when it was, I remember that at club dates one of the sections is usually omitted. Check out Bob Azzam's version which has this "missing section". It's the last melodic section of the song in this version. (According to the "About This Video" information on the YouTube page, Azzam was Jewish.) This "missing piece" is also included on the Ken Gross arranged "Mostly Horas" recording of the song.

So what happened to this missing piece? Here's my theory. I suspect most musicians and bands were/are not aware of the original melody and learned it on the bandstand or just played it off of the sheet music they were given. There's a transcription of the tune on page 462 of "The Book", which is one of the unlicensed books floating around which was used by bandleaders to get through a club date years ago . That transcription omits this section. Since most weren't familiar with the song independently, and it wasn't being sung, the omission of a section passed unnoticed. So, I posit that it's all the result of a bad chart.

Similarly, you'll notice that there's a two bar vamp before each F minor section in Azzam's version. That vamp is also omitted from "The Book". That vamp is omitted on the Jewish bandstand in the States, even though it helps to set up the switch from major to minor nicely. I do have a recording of an Israeli clarinetist, Shmuel Ne'eman, on which he plays the two bar vamp before the first F minor section. He also plays the "missing section", but without a two bar vamp preceding it.

While we're on the subject, here's Dario Moreno's swinging version of the tune. Not to be confused with Queen's song "Mustapha".