Friday, September 26, 2008

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Taking To The Dance Floor

Here's something that happened at a recent left wing MO/Conservadox wedding at a venue in a Chareidi 'hood.

During the first dance set, the caterer walked in and gave the leader of the Carlbachian-style jam band a "one minute" sign indicating that he should end the set in one minute. (Typically, the caterer gives more advance notice.) About twenty seconds later, he walked out of the room, giving him a "cut the music" sign. Ten seconds after that, the power goes off. Apparently, the caterer had seen that some family members were dancing together during "Keitzad Merakdin" and decided that he'd end the music due to the mixed dancing.

(Some venues in Chareidi hoods have "no mixed dancing" clauses in their contracts. From what I've been told, this venue did not. I've played a few events where the caterer has enforced that clause in their contract by asking the band to stop playing until the women return to their side of the mechitza, but I've never had the power turned off with no warning.)

Annoyed at the rudeness of the caterer's interaction with the band as well as the potential damage to the electronic equipment, the musicians immediately grabbed their instruments -- clarinet, violin, acoustic guitar, and melodica-- and completed the dance set from the center of the packed dance floor. The room was rocking!

The caterer turned the power on shortly thereafter, when he was told by the family that he would not get paid otherwise.

Viva la revolution!

(I just might have first-hand knowledge of this episode.)

Friday, September 19, 2008

Paul Shaffer and the OU...

... want you to know about the National Day of Lashon Hara Awareness tomorrow. "Fiery Gehenom", oy!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Questions for Upcoming Eli Gerstner Interview

Yossi Zweig emails:
I am doing a video interview with Eli Gerstner & Dovid Stein iy"h next week and was wondering if you wanted any questions asked.
We'd like to ask Eli how he came to create a song like 'Yehai,' with such universal appeal that it can be chanted gleefully by young children, while its deeper message of ultimate peace granted by the Ribono Shel Olam can be appreciated by everyone else.

Also, what does it feel like when "fame hurls itself upon you and hits you like a ton of bricks"?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

New Wedding Takanos - Phase One

From today's Hamodia, here is "Phase One" of the new wedding rules being established in the Chassidic community.

Naturally, it'll impact musicians. Because they haven't made things hard enough...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Lipa Bigger Event Update

From Lipa's website...
Extra! Extra! Read all about it, right here on Lipa's astoundingly, astonishingly, astronomically superb site!

After many major consultations, conferences and conventions on the subject, the next Big Event has been officially signed, sealed and secured! The staff at Madison Square Garden is already busily preparing the location round-the-clock for the occasion of the century.

Sheya Mendlowitz has once again teamed up with the unstoppable Lipa Schmeltzer to dazzle, daze and dumbfound their excited audience. This concert will headline under a different name - one that alludes to The Big Event, while still dignifying and respecting those Rabbanim who previously ruled against its taking place. Boruch Hashem, this time around, Lipa has secured the support and the approval of daas Torah for his unparalleled performances. Permission has been granted by a number of distinguished, chashuva Rabbanim, for Lipa to stage this newest musical phenomenon. Stay tuned for more thoroughly thrilling details!!
This should get interesting!

Rabbi Luft's Got 'em Talking!

Here's an op-ed from today's J-Post, "Silencing Dissent, Hushing Up Scandal."

Here's the lede:
Two items recently crossed my desk. The first was an article that appeared in The Jerusalem Post written by Matthew Wagner entitled "Haredim move to silence 'treif' music". It was about a movement to ban musicians who produce or perform any music which the Guardians of Sanctity and Education deem inappropriate. Musicians playing such music would be banned from playing in wedding halls, their CDs would be banned and their concerts disallowed.

The other item was a breaking news piece from JTA indicating that Rabbi Benzion Twerski had resigned from a task force in formation being brought together to deal with sexual abuse in the Orthodox community. New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind, also an Orthodox Jew, is establishing the task force to deal with this scourge. Twerski resigned because of the many threats against him and his family made by several individuals from his community.

When taken together these two items suggest such a profound and disturbing conflict regarding the current goals of the Orthodox world, of which I am a member. If music is so important, is not the emotional welfare of members of the community even more so? How can music be a threat and abuse not be? While some may argue that this is not the message to be learned, that the insular community is seeking ways to deal with the sexual abuse problem discreetly, it is clearly not so when someone as prominent and discreet as Twerski can be so horrifically threatened. But, he is not the only one to receive threats. Apparently so have musicians. The canceling of a recent concert is evidence of this.
Read the whole thing! (Hat tip, E.)


Mendy Pellin asked MBD about the proposed music hechsher.

Chaptzem posted an "artitorial."

Over at Serandez, G. posted"The Devil's Music!!!..."

Sweet Gams calls it "an assault on the human spirit."

Emes Ve-Emunah posts "And the Beat Goes On"

FM posts "Haredi Rules For Playing 'Kosher' Music."

Here's the Vos Iz Neias thread on the matter.

Here's Yeshiva World's.

More on Rabbi Luft coming soon...

Monday, September 15, 2008

From the mailbag...

Cleaning out the backlog...

Chaim comments on "Worlds Are Colliding!"
I know what you are saying about worlds colliding, but this isn't the first we're hearing of it. Srully Williger was one song short on his last album and recorded Niggun Nevo. When he was on Nachum Segal he described going to Israel for a wedding and "discovering this song all the Bochurim were singing." When referencing the composer he said he thought it was composed by "some Israeli guy", lol.

I'm sure Shlomo Katz (born in California I think) is glad he's known as some "Israeli guy." In some cases I think it's more explotation of a more popular style of music among the mainstream. People who would otherwise never even give the time of day to a Shlomo Katz, being forced to acknowledge that style is more popular tofday. Allthough I do think it's also some people who really do appriciate those artists.

So if it takes Chassidic Pop artists to bring Shlomo Katz, Adi Ran, Aaron Razel and Yitzchok Fuchs, then so be it. I look forward to many more of these collabarations.
That's actually a good example of the exploitation side of the equation. To date, Williger has not paid royalties to Shlomo Katz for the use of his song. He didn't ask permission either. The notion that he was unaware that it was a Katz composition strains credulity. And, Williger did not make the song popular. It was already popular when he decided to include it on his album. Classic exploitation. Taking a song that's popular in the YU/NCSY community, and is beginning to be requested/played at Charedi weddings, and releasing it on your own album, without securing permission/paying royalties is simply unethical. Plus, adding insult to injury, the cover version didn't exactly do anything for the song from a musical standpoint either.

Watsky comments:
Thats one big leap to call this stuff Funk "anything". Its about as funky as Mozart. Actually its not "even" as funky as Mozart. Its an insult to funk to call this stuff funk. Funk is a culture. This music is not of that culture, this just ain't funky. Not funky, not even close. I wish is was funk, but it isn't.
It's a good time to reprise Jack's equation: "Funkish = Jewish + Funky - most of the funkiness."

Yossi Zweig emails a flyer for a concert to benefit Project Yes.readers may remember that Project Yes's Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz paid us a visit here. Rabbi Horowitz, the guest post offer stands. Seriously.

Yosef Na Nach comments on the new music ban:
This whole music ban thing really makes me happy, First of all my music gets banned, that's a first, Yeah! Second of all the "Rabbi's" are right to a certain degree, all this music that is with a pop sound to it sounds a little bit prideful (except the Na Nach music of this sort and by the way I hear that "Lipa" is getting more into Na Nach as well as "Leviyatan" and others I suppose that I don't know about). and as far as the Rabbi's turning the youth away from them, this is, in my opinion also good. I don't think that this is their intention, I fear that their intention is really is much worse... to turn kids away from Judaism. By making something asur that really is not by Halaka. Being too strict in one area makes for leniency in another area. I don't want to think what they are being lienent about. But Na Nach will always be here for the kids as an alternative. To follow the way of Rebbe Nachman and listen to great music. Thanks for keeping us updated with all the hot news of the Jewish Music World.
E. has some questions about "Kosher" music:
1) If a cd doesn't have a hechser, does that make it treif?
2) Is a non hecschered cd permissble lefi some deyos?
3) Does a cd need to be officially banned in order for it to be considered treif in contrast to one with a hechsher?
4) What about individual songs on the cd?
Consult your local Orthodox kanoi!

A reader forwards his propsed design for a new music kashrus symbol he calls the "Clef K,"

Personally, I'm makpid to only listen to 2/4 Yisroel, but I'm meikil on stam notebending. Saxophone akum is assur lechol hadeos.

J. writes:
The Shloimy Daskal video should be banned! Made me cringe…
Oy! No compassion for off-the-derech children!

Speaking of... Joe Flix emails a link to his review of the Daskal album.

Finally, Gordon Dale writes:
My name is Gordon Dale; I am an ethnomusicology student in Boston, MA. I'm very interested in the series of bans that have been issued such as the MBD show in Israel and The Big Event, and now the Committee for Jewish music's outline of permissible music. I have looked to your blog for updates on these issues and it has consistently been a great help.

I'm hoping that you can help me to get clarity on a few specific points about which I've been wondering.

1) When the Lipa ban was issued it had the same signatures as the ban on the MBD show in Israel. There was much speculation that the ban was not actually signed by all 33 Rabbis that were named on the ban. Did this turn out to be true?

2) The new Committee for Jewish music just released a series of points outlining what would make music kosher. Do Rabbi Luft and the other people on the committee hold enough clout within the Haredi leadership to enforce these guidelines?

3) Why, in your opinion, are these bans coming out now? Recreational Jewish music has been around for a long time and instruments such as saxophones and electric guitars have never been called into question previously. What is going on in the world that prompted this situation to come about now?

I sincerely appreciate your help with these points and I hope that we can stay in touch as I continue to study this interesting time in Jewish music.
Our response:
1) The 33 rabbis who signed the Lipa ban were not the same rabbis who had signed previous concert bans in Israel. Those bans were signed by some Israeli rabbis. The Lipa ban was signed by American rabbis. The text of the Lipa ban makes reference to the Israeli rabbis disapproval of concerts —in fact, the text was partially lifted from one of those bans — citing it as a basis for the ban. Apparently, all of the rabbis did sign some form of public notice, but some have since gone on the record, either admitting that they were manipulated into signing (Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetzky), or claiming that the text they signed is not the one that was published (Rabbi Yisroel Belsky). You can find this information elsewhere on the blog. I’ve been told that other rabbis who signed have privately disclaimed the ban, or elements therein. I believe I posted a link to the letter Rabbi Belsky wrote about this and I linked to the Jewish Star interview with Rabbi Kamenetzky wherein he made this admission.

2) Rabbi Luft has had some success achieving concert bans in Israel (and at least once in Manchester, England). I don’t know if clout is the right word, but to date, he has successfully manipulated some prominent rabbis into supporting his crusade. He’s been agitating about this for many years. Some of the earliest posts on my blog address his writings on the subject. He may be successful at getting rabbis to sign onto this latest campaign, but it will not be very successful, IMO.

3) There is no ban on saxophones and guitars. Rabbi Luft is attempting to achieve this now. He’s been trying to do this for years. It is important to note that this entire episode fits into a broader pattern of how the Hareidi leadership has been working (or not working) over the recent past. It’s too much to get into right now, although I’m happy to discuss it at some point, but essentially, IMO, the Hareidi leadership in America has abdicated its responsibility to lead and the Hareidi leadership in Israel (and America too) are allowing themselves to be manipulated. As a result, a small group of connected extremists can effect a new prohibition on something previously allowed. This has happened a number of times in other areas of Jewish life over the past few years.

I should add that although Rabbi Luft's proposed ban will not be adhered to, should he succeed in manipulating gedolim into endorsing it, the trickle down effects will make life more difficult for musicians working in the Chareidi community.

Finally, L-o-R forwards a link to a new A.K.A. Pella video.

Peeps With No Name

Submitted for your consideration...

The prospective client who goes from "we have an iPod, that should be fine" to booking a six-piece band in .2 seconds. (This without a sales pitch!)

The couple spotted doing body shots at the bar at a recent Orthodox wedding in the Five Towns.

The cigarillo hand rolling cigars in the lobby for wedding guests to take with them as they exit.

The woman who asks us to turn down before we played a single note.

The Trinidadian singer (with charting singles in the '70's) who wants to hire the simcha band to make a record with him.

The smart waiter who removes a table from the party room, sets it up as a drinks table outside... and then carries it back downstairs and into the room with drinks, glasses, and soda bottles falling all over.

Finally, some fashion advice. If Heaven has gifted you with thick black bushy eyebrows and a huge schnozz and you've chosen to grow a thick black mustache... you might want to choose a pair of glasses other than the thick black plastic frames exactly like the ones in the popular "Disguise Glasses."

Saturday, September 13, 2008

We'd Like To Congratulate Rabbi Ephraim Luft...

... on the occasion of his achieving an international chilul Hashem!

Don't miss the "Rules for Playing Kosher Music." No matter what style of Jewish music you play, whether you're a chazzan, a klezmer, or a Jewish rocker, you're all in violation of some of these rules!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

9/10/08 Link Dump

Y-Love posts " Another Rabbinical Music Ban: “Rap is Disgusting.” (Via Life-Of-Rubin.)

Here's a subtle and nuanced music video for a subtle and nuanced Shloime Daskal song. (HT, Chaim.)

Teruah's on a roll. Here's a beautiful post by Jack about "the art of being an Impromptu Jewish Wedding Consultant." He also reviews Rivka Krinsky's new release. Interestingly, she covers Yitzchak Attias' Mizmor LeDavid off of "Gather The Sparks." Relatedly, he recently posted "Kol Isha"

Over at Shemspeed, its "Halachot for the DJ."

Ethnic earworm contest @ Bogie's!

MBD: Mizrahi style!

Frum Satire posts "Jewish Music Hechsher: What exactly is Jewish music?"

The B'nei Menashe have released a fundraising CD.

In the J-Post... Heavy Metal 'hasbara'".

This Daily News article might be of interest to those following the Isaac Hersh story.

Heichal HaNegina posts "The Niggun of His Life!", a post about the celebration of Musa Berlin's 50th year performing.

Finally, here's a nice rendition of a nigun. Anyone know who this is?

Friday, September 05, 2008

Thursday, September 04, 2008

New Music Ban Link Roundup - Updated

Buncha links 'bout da new music ban we blogged Tuesday for ya'll.

Dov Bear posted "Charedi law or Shariah law?"

MO Chassid posted "Fighting Poverty: Creating New Jobs."

The Levite Shlepper posted "Elul Part II: חשבון הנפש."

Noy G. Posts "Finished."

Yeshiva World posted "Israel: Meet the Committee for Jewish Music." In general, the "value" in YW is in the comments.

in a rare, non-Akapella related post, Aryeh Steiner posts "Introducing "The the Committee for Jewish Music."

Failed Messiah posted the subtly titled "Racism Haredi Style:The Bigoted, Ignorant, Race-Baiting "Theology" Behind The Newest Music Ban – Haredi Modesty Squads Act As Bans' Enforcers."

Over at SerandEz, G. posts "Paging Kevin Bacon..."

Meanwhile, Ephraim Luft Twitters.

Life of Rubin posts "Music Ban: Nobody Cares."

Another update:
Emes Ve-Emunah posts "Another Look at Askanim."

Wolfish Musings posts "Rabbinic Committees: Where Are We Headed?"

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

It's Time For Another Music Ban!

The Jerusalem Post reports in "Haredim Move to Eradicate 'Foreign' Pop"

Here's the lede:
Musicians who use rock, rap, reggae and trance influences will not receive rabbinic approval for their CDs, nor will they be allowed to play in wedding halls under haredi kosher food supervision, according to a new, detailed list of guidelines drafted with rabbinical backing that differentiates between "kosher" and "treif" music.

The guidelines, which are still being formulated, also ban "2-4 beats and other rock and disco beats;" the "improper" use of electric bass, guitars and saxophones; and singing words from holy sources in a disrespectful, frivolous manner.
Those damn 2/4 beats still here? Ban 'em, I says!!! And those saxophones devil horns too! Some people even play jazz on those. Can you believe it??? Of course they're treif! Treifer than pork knuckles, says I!

Naturally, Ephraim Luft is behind this. I've addressed some of Luft's writings in the past.

Essentially, what all of this boils down to is Luft's delusion about the origins of much of the "Chassidic" music he idealizes. Also, I find his presentation incredibly racist and condescending. Plus, these banners are clearly ignorant about what they're trying to ban. 2/4 beats? Really? Do they really mean to ban freylakhs? Hard to believe, given the music they seem to approve of. Why are "leading rabbis" listening to ignorant "experts"? It's sad. And, although it might impact on a given concert here or there, ultimately it won't work. The end result? A diminution of respect for rabbinic leadership. Somehow, I suspect that's not what they're aiming for.

Here's a Vos Iz Neias thread on the article.

9/2/08 Link Dump

Hold the date! Speaking of Lipa... he's got a non-singing performance with the circus on Cool Hamoed. Its non-singing because he won't sing in front of mixed-seating audiences. Obviously, there's a world of difference between "singing" in front of a mixed audience as opposed to acting. [/sarcasm}

Jack posts about Yosef Karduner's Shir Lama'alos. You can buy the official Karduner songbook here.

MO Chassid is taking back the shul.

Michoel Pruzansky has a new music video. The concept behind the song, that someone was miraculously saved from a suicide bombing at Sabarro's in Jerusalem and from the 9/11 attacks appears to be based on an internet hoax. The person this allegedly happened to was killed in the Sabarro's attack.

Vos Iz Neias links "Israeli Chabad Spokesman Speaks Out On The Ramifications Of Banning Kosher Entertainment."

Emes V'emunah posts about the Lipa color war break-out in "Mocking the Gedolim."

YNET writes about Menachem Herman's latest in "Hasid of Rock & Roll."

Mentalblog links to a Guardian article about Menachem Toker's 'Chassidic Idol'"The Upcoming Voice" contest.

Benny Friedman's learned a few things about Romania. He obviously didn't find any kosher mamelige.

Here's a great story: "Ailing Singer Pledges Refunds."

People are posting complaints about Oorah's Kars-for-Kids program at the Complaints Board. Speaking of Oorah... they're apparently suing Marvin Shick.

Stereo Sinai posts about Israeli singer Yonatan Razel.

Jewschool posts "New Music Alert: Eprhyme."