Tuesday, December 27, 2011

BD'E: Adrienne Cooper Z"L

Legendary Yiddish singer Adrienne Cooper has died. Adrienne was an incredible spirit and singer. I was fortunate to know her. Words fail.

Adrienne leaves some incredible recordings...

Her most recent recording is "Enchanted", wit music arranged by Michael Winograd.. Amazon has it here:

Wo can forget her collab. w/socalled on on Balebuste?

Amazon has it here:

Adrienne sang with many groups including the all-female klezmer supergroup named Mikveh.

Amazon has it here:

There are other great recordings as well. It's worth the time to search them out on Amazon.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Blog in Dm T-Shirt Giveaway

A little while back, Sam at ooshirts.com contacted me to offer some free custom T-shirts in exchange for a review on the blog.

After some thought, I decided to accept his offer. I also decided to use the opportunity to create a shirt that otherwise wouldn't exist (ruling out a band shirt, commercial concept, etc.) Looking back, one of the major topics I've covered on the blog has been bans. So, I created a shirt that comments on the topic.

As part of "reviewing" the process, I decided to limit myself to using their online shirt designer, instead of uploading artwork, etc. So, the shirt was completely "designed" on the ooshirts website.

Doing so was quite simple. I created the text, placed it on the shirt, and then created a 2nd layer of text (the strike-through lines) and placed that over the first layer. I'd estimate the entire thing from selecting a shirt style to completing the final text took me under 5 minutes. (I did spend some time fooling around with different design options/texts first.)

After an in-house designer reviewed the design, the order was submitted. I received a proof, and then about 10 days later, I received the order.

The brand/style shirt I chose was "Anvil organic" T-shirt in black with white printing. The shirt feels great and the printing looks good. About the only criticism I have, is that I'd have preferred a different "question mark", but that is a limitation that can easily be worked around by designing the text in your own program and uploading it, instead of limiting yourself to the somewhat limited collection of fonts available in the online designer.

You can see the shirt here (click on the pictures to see a clearer resolution. The text is sharp and crisp on the shirt.):

And now, I'm going to give one of these shirts to a reader. But, you'll have to earn it. I'm opening my inbox for guest-posts on any music related topic. Best one wins one of these very limited-edition shirts in size L. Send 'em in by Jan 15th and I'll pick a winner shortly thereafter. I reserve the right to reject posts I deem unacceptable/unfair. (I'll ship this in the continental US. If you're outside the US, you'll need to cover the shipping if you want the shirt.)

G'luck! May the best man/women win!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Chop 'em Down!

Here's an odd news report. The title says it all. Matisyahu snaps, kicks a female journalist in the face. Guess he meant that "no more Hasidic reggae star" stuff.

Methinks he misunderstood the teachings about Matisyahu fighting on Chanukah.

UPDATE: Rolling Stone has more. Hat tip, E.

Jon Zorn Does Christmas

John Zorn released a Christmas album this season. Jake Marmer penned (pixeled?) some musings about it here.

Amazon has it here.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

For the record...

I had no idea this was in the works when I wrote that last post.

The State of Reform Music

... according to Teruah.

From the mailbag...

Dov emails:
This year, The Avoda put out the most energetic, catchy and dancy song of the season! "Spread the Light" will make you get up off your seat, while telling the story of how it really was. No gimmicks. No Cover. All original! Check it out! And please post it!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Matisyahu's Beard...

...would make a good band name. Especially for a reggae Chanukah project. Just saying! Groggers song coming in 3, 2,....?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Mo' Jewish Music Videos....

...for Amy Klein to hate on. From her fave Maccabeats: and from 613:

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

No Love for the Maccabeats!

Amy Klein doesn't heart the Jewish music video trend typified by the Maccabeats. I'm guessing she's not gonna like this new Aish Chanukah video either.

Monday, December 05, 2011

A Picture is Worth 1000 Words

There's only one place where a sign for "Garden Paradise Hall Ladies" in front of a neon "The Lingerie Shop" sign means... you've found the local simcha hall.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

From the mailbag...

Catching up on some older emails... Itsi is looking for a musical collaborator in Brooklyn. If this is you, let me know and I'll pass on your info. He writes:
I live in Flatbush, Brooklyn NY For many years I worked closely with a professional pianist (not far from where I currently live,) at a rate of $35/hour to record demos of my compositions. Using Sonar/Cubase we recorded all tracks in MIDI form, and worked together on music-arrangements, etc. Unfortunately, the musician with whom I was frequently working developed a wrist condition, and was warned by his physician that continued overuse of his wrist may result in the loss of mobility of his hand. He and I continue to work together, however, with the health of his wrist a major concern, we do so far less frequently – greatly slowing the progress as a result. I was wondering if you know anyone in the Brooklyn, NY area, (preferably in Midwood/Flatbush,) that may be willing to work with me based on a similar ability/arrangement I mentioned above (and enjoyed until recently)? I thank you in advance for your time and consideration, and hope to hear back from you soon.
Daniel Ori writes:
Dear Hasidic Musician, I love your blog and find it very resourceful. I'm actually a jazz bassist in NYC (www.danielori.com) It would be amazing if you could mention/review our new music app, Classical Melody Book. Here's the press release: For Immediate Release: The Melody Book releases its first app Classical Melody Book for iPhone/iPad/iPod touch Classical sheet music library Now Available in Apple’s App Store New York City – July 2011 – The Melody Book software has announced the worldwide release of its first iPhone/iPad touch app, which is currently gaining a lot of attention from the Apple iTunes store. Classical Melody Book provides hundreds of music scores for popular classical music along with an interactive melody based search, file transfer, and exclusive Call-A-Tune features. For those who have ever heard a melody, only to later have trouble recalling the name of the tune, the Classical Melody Book offers an innovative Melody Search that allows amateur and professional musicians to find the sheet music for hundreds of popular classical music pieces arranged for piano, guitar, violin, clarinet, orchestra, and more. In addition to the extensive sheet music archive, the app introduces “My Music”, a file transfer folder where users can import and share sheet music with a quick and easy interface. Whether it is being applied to the instruction, performance, or study of sheet music, Classical Melody Book is a useful and fun tool for musicians of all levels. Classical Melody Book is available in the United States at the Apple iTunes app store for $4.99, and is priced accordingly in other regions. Please visit www.themelodybook.com for more information on this app and upcoming releases.
Michael writes:
A friend of mine who heard a shmooze from Harav Matisyahu Solomon of BMG told me that he said music is music. (except for rap) It doesnt matter who composed it. A melody has the ability (but not always) to uplift ones soul. That was the intent of it being created. Therefore there is no 'innapropriate' use of a melody in parts of our davening just because it was composed by non jews.
I wrote about Rabbi Solomon's approach here a while back.

Brett writes:

This is Bret from SkyeLab Music Group in New York City. Our producer/engineer Arthur Shweky has 14 Gold/Platinum records, 2 Grammy nominations and has worked with some major stars such as Madonna, Will Smith, Alicia Keys, Santana, Queen Latifah and many more, along with being involved in 6 #1 Billboard hits. We have a new artist, Saul Hassoun, that we are producing and feel may be of interest to you. His music would likely appeal to readers of your blog. For your consideration, you can check out the video for Im Eshkachech Yerushalayim at the link below. Thank you for your time, I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the music!

Yonatan writes:

You have some interesting articles, but...because the "search" feature of your blog doesn't appear to work, at least not for me, I can't find what older material you have on some topics of interest. Otherwise, not bad.
Um, thanks. I think. The Google toolbar has never worked properly on the blog. Unfortunately, Google doesn't let me hide it. You can search the site in Google, either from the Google homepage, or using your browser's search feature and you'll get much better results.

Finally, Monique writes:

INSTRUMENTAL JEWISH HIP HOP ACT, THE ASTHMATIX RELEASE DEBUT EP IN TIME FOR HANNUKAH The Jewish culture is as much steeped in its dark and beautiful history as it is in stereotypes such as Jewish guilt and kosher brisket. Sydney-based quartet, The Asthmatix respond to this with an irreverent, off-the-wall-anything-goes brand of hip hop that is equal measures Marx Brothers and Scott Storch, Monty Python and John Zorn. The Asthmatix is comprised of two diagnosed ventolin-puffers and two members who have used asthma as an excuse on more than one occasion to get out of sports class. Band members include Morphingaz on beats and cuts (Chilly Gonzales / Mocky), Daniel Weltlinger on violin (Lulo Reinhardt / Monsieur Camembert), Damn P on keys and melodica (The Strides / Dereb The Ambassador) and Asparagus Mlynsky on decks (Radio Alice). The Asthmatix have been blending the art of klezmer, hip hop, middle eastern melodies and traditional turntablism since 2007. Their live performance sees the four-piece cleverly combine Jewish humour with traditional Jewish melody, soaring violins and old school hip hop beats. Whilst New York-based hassidic homeboy, Matisyahu may be helpful as a reference point for the falafel-munching foursome, The Asthmatix are more likely to be compared to the likes of instrumental hip hop pioneers, Hermitude than their fellow Jewish counterpart. Their debut single, Latke was released in December 2010 to coincide with the festival of lights, Hannukah. Exactly one year later, just in time for the very same festival, The Asthmatix release their highly anticipated debut EP, 'Go Team Go' Listen here. ‘Go Team Go’ will be released through Futureskool of Music on 20 December 2011 For more information: facebook.com/asthmatix

Saturday, November 26, 2011

NY Times Hearts Jewish Music

Finally, a Jewish band the NY Times can unreservedly love.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Der Yiddisher Hendrix

On The Main Line posts about Mikhl Yosef Gusikow, who he calls the "Jewish Jimi Hendrix of the 1830's".

Monday, November 14, 2011

New Miami Boys Choir Video

Appropriation goes both ways. I found this video linked in a piece on Chassidim playing er, distinctly non-Hasidic (even anti-Semitic) music. Hat tip, Dov Bear.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Paul - The Jewish Beatle

Time for Adam Sandler to update his Hannukah Song.... Welcome, Paul!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Dissing Lipa

Tzig doesn't like Hoshana Raba by the Airmonter. Personally, ich hub hanueh gehat at a recent wedding I attended, where Lipa was called up for a kibud as Rav of the Airmont Shul. He's walking a challenging line, methinks, but largely succeeding, and there are sure to be some growing pains. I, for one, am pulling for him to pull it off. Of course, wrt the guy plugging his own forthcoming release, by wrapping his esrog in a promotional sticker... oy!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Three Keyboards = 35 Piece Orchestra

More union doings... this time in Kentucky. The interesting part of the article to me is this:
For September’s production of “Carmen,” the opera hired the musicians directly through their union at the rates called for in the musicians’ old agreement with the orchestra.

But in news release Sunday, opera officials said that arrangement was too expensive and cannot be repeated for “Figaro.”

Opera officials have said it cost $91,895 to hire the musicians for “Carmen,” when it would have cost $58,340 under the opera’s normal arrangement with the orchestra.

Make Some Noise!

The Groggers new video...

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Post Chag Link Dump

Alexander Gelfand writes "Jews Try To Ban Offensive Music" for the Forward. He links to my series on Rabbi Ephraim Luft's book.

A bit late, here's Matthue Roth's "She-mix-ni Atzeret." Still worth noting, if only for Drake's beverage.

Occupy Wall Street Kol Nidre chazzan Avi Fox-Rosen on "How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Chazzanus."

Finally, given the popularity of the "shreds" videos. I suppose it was inevitable that someone would make a "Singolda shreds" clip.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Alte Heim Old Brooklyn

Andy Statman's got a new album out. Check this!

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Carmine D'Amico RIP

Psachya writes:
I just found out that Carmine D'Amico passed away this past Sunday Oct. 2nd, from cancer. Carmine has been out of the JM scene for a while, but he was a formidable presence on the scene during the '90's and early 2000's. He appeared on countless Jewish recordings, and performed at hundreds of Jewish weddings. He was incredibly talented, and didn't have to "put on a show" to showcase his talents. I spent a bit of time with him, both at weddings and in the Homowack Hotel's show band. I learned a lot from him simply by "trying to keep up," and he had some great stories from a lifetime of being a very active musician. He left a definite mark on our music, and his presence will be missed. My prayers are with his family.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

5/5/11 Link Dump

In honor of the 25th Anniversary of Shlock Rock this year, Lenny Solomon has written 25 new song parodies which you can pre-order here.

Lipa Schmeltzer has released a video urging people to sign a petition in support of Sholom Rubashkin.

An Omaha-based rabbi blogs about "Scarborough Fair" the melody his chazzan uses on Yom Kippur for "B'yom Din." The notion that it might originally be a Jewish melody is simply wrong.

MBD releases his "final" album. Again.

At the J-Post, a writeup of Eli Dali's Jewish heavy metal project "Metal Prayer".

‫אוי גוועלד‬‎

I'm belatedly posting Metal Jew: "A few belated thoughts on the death of JDub"

Here it is... "The Truth About the Groggers."

Monday, October 03, 2011

Exhibit A...

... for why the folks doing job prep need to be able to read sheet music.(Also, why people producing lead sheets for wedding bands should learn about music notation conventions.)
I was given this chart for a wedding I led for one of the "offices". It was to be played at the chupa as the little kids walked down. The Russian conservatory trained trumpet player as well as the the sax player were both unable to read it in real time. So, I had to carry the melody for 'em. #justbecauseitplaysbackrightonyourcomputerdoesn'tmeanit'swrittenoutproperly.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Shana Tova!

And the winner (by a landslide) of this holiday's Maccabeats/Fountainheads holiday video competition is.... Shana Tova!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Off the Cuff...

Confidential to the well-meaning friends of the new couple... Bringing handcuffs out on the dance floor to chain the couple together might seem like a good idea. However, if you're going to do this, you might want to get real cuffs, not the cheap ones from the dodgy store downtown. That is, unless you want to take the groom out of the first dance for five minutes while you desperately try to unlock the cuffs, which have closed too tightly, and are cutting off circulation. Just saying...

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Union Do's

There's a nice little exchange in the current Local 802 union newsletter "Allegro". It really speaks for itself about union values and respect for members hard-earned $.
An investment in chairs? My eyes nearly popped out when I just read in the July/August Allegro that the Executive Board has voted, nearly unanimously, to spend $1,169 each for 20 new chairs for the board room. Am I reading this right? Are we really about to spend more than twenty-three thousand dollars for new chairs for the board? Please tell me there is a decimal point missing somewhere. Scott Robinson
Recording Vice President John O’Connor replies: I am sympathetic to Scott’s point of view. If I were looking at this without background, I would probably have the same first reaction. However, there was a consensus among the board that it was time to get new chairs. Our old chairs had lasted more than 20 years but were at the end of their lives. When we began pricing well-crafted, American-made chairs, we quickly got a lesson in the retail market value of such an item – and it was eye-opening. In the end, a majority of my fellow officers and I did indeed vote to purchase 20 new chairs at $1,169 each. And this price, believe it or not, was a bargain. We consider the chairs to be a capital investment, one that will last for decades. In fact, the new chairs have improved the Executive Board room so much that it was like redecorating the entire room. Finally, it’s worth mentioning that this room is where many of our most important negotiations and meetings take place.
The attempt to claim it as a bargain is hysterical.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Aish Gets Burned!

So Aish Hatorah released a viral Rosh Hashana video. Quite a few bloggers are not fans. See Tzig's "Rushishono's In the House", Dov Bear's "Another Aish video insults our intelligence", and Chakira's "hear deep in with your mouth".

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Friday, August 26, 2011

Justice vs. Gibson

Something is clearly wrong at the Justice department.

I'm betting on the guitar players.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Kickstarter Patronizing

Here's an interesting article on Jewish artists using Kickstarter.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Friday, August 12, 2011

Monday, August 08, 2011

From the mailbag...

Christian Dawid writes:
We have the rare chance to make CD recordings with Arkady Gendler this fall. Many of you know Arkady, one of the greatest living treasures of Yiddish song and language, and today in fact one of the last links to pre-war Yiddish culture and tradition.

Over the past ten years, Arkady has written a number of amazingly beautiful new songs. Most of them have not been recorded yet, some have never been performed in public. It is Arkady's wish to still see his original work published, accessible to everyone - he is proudly approaching his 90th birthday this fall.

Several of his songs are dedicated to the places and festivals Arkady visited during the last years, invited to Yiddish and klezmer
festivals. He wrote songs about Kiev, Vienna, Weimar, his home Zaporozhye and the Dniepr Klezmer Cruise. A new song about his hometown Soroca, "Fargest nit Soroke", was never performed in concert, as was "Khaves Tekhter", a song dedicated to his late wife.

Many of us agree that Arkady's own work should be documented now! It would be a wonderful gift to Arkady when we can realize the very first recordings of most of his original songs, and do it in an artistically careful way. A wonderful (and quite prominent) international group of friends, artists and scholars is dedicated to this project already.

But yes, we do need funding urgently! Only the community of Arkady's friends can make this project possible.

If you can help us with a small (or bigger!) pledge, and spread the word to extend Arkady's network in the Jewish cultural world, it would be a very valuable contribution to the realization of this project. And there are many rewards: for a $10 pledge you already receive the recording of a joke, told in Yiddish by Arkady!

Please learn more about the project and support us at Arkady Gendler: An Artistic Documentation by Christian Dawid — Kickstarter

With best wishes from Arkady, who says to "greet everybody who remembers me"
Sincerely, Christian Dawid

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Morasha Flashmob

Here's an interesting post, "On Flashmobs and Maccabeats", about the Morasha flash mob at a mall recently.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Looking for A Guest Post?

After some thought and some private communications from some folks named in -- and hurt by -- Chaim Rosenblatt’s guest post, I’ve decided to pull it. The reason I am doing so is because upon rereading it, I believe that he made some unfair characterizations about other offices' historical behavior that are incorrect. Snark and good-natured humor is ok. Put downs ought not be. Neither should misrepresentations. And, people who do the right thing by their musicians and by the public, ought not have their names publicly dragged into this. I should have vetted the post before putting it up, and I apologize for that and for any hurt caused by the post. And, rather than just rebutting those assertions, I'd rather leave these people out of it. They didn't ask to be brought into this conversation and their actions don't warrant it either.

Even though I’m pulling the post for those reasons, I will share my thoughts on the specifics of Rosenblatt’s comments, because I think his points are worthy of comment.

At the beginning of his essay, Rosenblatt listed reasons why musicians sign up with the union.

1) To make their needs heard
2) To assure they are guaranteed at lest a minimum payment
3) To assure themselves health and pension
4) To oversee that they are treated properly

He also gives a reason for why the orchestras sign with the union.

1) Orchestras sign up so that they can get access to the vast musicians the union represents.

It seems to me, that while these are all true, there are other reasons for why a musician might join the union. A major one, which Rosenblatt omitted, is to help assure their peers are also treated fairly. This concept of “arevus”, a sense of responsibility towards others, rather than just oneself, reflects a sensitivity that I see as lacking throughout the piece. I will elaborate shortly.

Rosenblatt listed a number of reasons for why musicians aren’t joining the union.
1) The health plan isn’t great for larger “frum” families.
2) The pension plan is in trouble. (He provided a link to document this).
3) The notion that the union represents union offices more than the individual musicians.

Based on what I’ve seen, these are all legitimate criticisms.

As far as working with the union… Rosenblatt, has offered to pay into the union pension/health fund for all union musicians he’s hired. To me, that sounds like a fair option, which would preserve union members benefits, while allowing Rosenblatt the right to decide not to join the union.

However, according to Rosenblatt, the union has demanded that he
1) Hire only union musicians
2) Or else, pay into the union pension/health payments, even for non-union musicians.

Since, even union bands in this field regularly hire non-union musicians and there is no reason for the union to collect payments on behalf of musicians it doesn’t represent (and who will never benefit from those payments), it seems to me that those demands are fundamentally unfair.

Rosenblatt also asserts that his non-union five-piece band costs him more than a union five-piece band would.

In this case, I believe he is comparing apples to oranges. Comparing first stringers who deserve, and get a premium, to generic “bottom tier” union musicians, might look good on paper, but is not realistic. The reality is, if you want to consistently present a good band, at least some of the musicians will command more than “scale” for their work.

Rosenblatt also listed a number of well-known mistreatments that occur in the business.
1) Getting cancelled for an in-demand date, like a Sunday in June, on the Thursday before.
2) Needing to wait one, two, or even six months to get paid.
3) Being treated disrespectfully by the bandleader.
4) Situations where there is animosity between a musician and the office, but he still takes work because he needs the money and they have the most jobs available for him.

As we’ve discussed in previous posts, the largest offenders in this regard are some of the union offices. (As I noted before, this should not be taken as a criticism of all union offices.)

Rosenblatt presented his policy, which is:
1) He reserves the right to hire whoever he wants, union or non-union.
2) He will not use a musician who cancels on him after confirming a date.

It seems to me that he is well within his right to adopt those policies.

As far as his characterization of specific people as haters… I think he unfairly included one pro-union musician in that list. There is a difference between arguing a pro-union position, as this person did, and unfair accusations as Mr. Farrington did. He should have acknowledged the difference. Again, good-natured teasing is one thing. Name-calling is another.

Rosenblatt included a bit about undercutting and named a lot of names, asserting that different bands have done the same thing he is doing to break in etc. I don’t want to get into the specifics of that, except to say that from what I know, he mischaracterized at least one band/bandleader there unfairly.

I do want to address the general concept on two levels. This will bring me back to the notion of “areyvus”, of looking after one’s peers/community and not just oneself.

There is a difference between lowering the commission a booking agent makes, which might be a fair tactic to use while breaking into an industry, and charging so low a rate, or even playing for free, in a way that harms existing businesses.

For instance, as I believe I've written about in the past, I’ve had competitors approach steady clients and offer to play for free. I believe this is an immoral tactic. (As an aside, I recently heard of a shul that had hired a band for their annual dinner and were then made such an offer by a competing band. To their credit, the dinner committee consulted with the shul’s rabbi, who told them that they should not accept the offer.)

Anyone can play one such gig for free on a given date. No one can play for free, or very little $ regularly. Adopting such tactics, while they may be beneficial to the individual making the offer, (and to the client) directly harm the community of musicians at large. A slight discount, to account for perhaps lesser experience, is appropriate. So is starting out playing smaller, low-budget affairs. But, the numbers I’ve heard quoted for some bands, indicate that at the very least, the regulars – who were living in their parent's home at the time and did not have real financial obligation of their own – literally took jobs that other musicians need to eat.

And, there is always someone else that can do this. To the extent that Rosenblatt alleges that other offices have done this, in those cases they are also wrong. However, based on price quotes I heard at the time, he took this to an extreme when starting out. I think this is unfair. It reflects the valuing of self, regardless of the consequences to others.

Incidentally, this criticism does not only apply to offices that use unfair booking tactics. It also directly relates to how the individual musicians within this part of the industry ought to view their obligations with regard to accepting work from certain offices. It seems to me that perhaps the largest criticism of the musicians union is that they don’t protect the individual musicians from unfair offices. Yet, to a large extent, those offices would simply be unable to continue their unfair practices if musicians -- union or not -- wouldn’t take work from them.

This is especially true when musicians take gigs where an office has lowballed a gig, beyond what their steady office can compete with, because the steady office is committed to paying everyone scale or above.

I think this illustrates the tension I personally see with regard to union/non union in the frum industry. In other words, I’m not convinced that Local 802 is relevant to the frum community. Thus far in this discussion, I’m leaning strongly in the opposite direction, and I take strong issue with a lot of what they do/have done. (I am open to hearing another perspective, and would love to see a guest-post from that side.) Yet, I still think there is a need for musicians to demonstrate solidarity (to use a popular union concept) within the frum industry. Perhaps its idealistic, but ultimately, thinking this way will benefit everyone.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

More Email About Unions

Michael writes:
One final thought:
Any musician that worked for a band and got stiffed should NEVER agree to work for them again. Or better yet, before cutting them off accept a gig and show up and NOT play until the thief gives you what he owes you plus the current gig up front. If you let someone abuse you more than once you enable him to do it to others. (I do not believe Rosenblatt ever stiffed anyone out of money) On the band side: If a musician cancels a gig on me without justifiable cause I will Never book him for another one no matter how great a musician he is.
I have a similar policy. There are great musicians I will never call for a gig, because they cancelled for no reason or last minute without making any effort to cover the slot.

This actually raises a good point about something the union ought to be doing, but which, to the best of my knowledge doesn't do. We hear talk, as threatened in the Allegro article against Chaim Rosenblatt, about an office being labeled "unfair", with the result that union members would not be allowed to accept work from that office.

It seems to me that a more appropriate place to make that threat would be against union offices that are stiffing union members. This would serve a few goals. First, it would protect union members directly, which is ostensibly the union's main goal. Second, it would prevent these offices from undercutting those bands who do pay their musicians. I've lost a few gigs over the years to a union band who quoted prices so low, that the only way he could have do so, is by intending at the outset to either stiff some musicians at the end of the night, hire unprofessional kids to cover some slots, or, as has happened, both. In an extremely price sensitive economy, it's simply impossible to compete with that, in situations where cost is a/the major component of the client's decision process.

So, why didn't doesn't the union talk about this? If the tactic of not permitting union workers to working for a certain band does have an impact, why is that tactic not used here?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Some Pro Union Responses...

JP Farrington writes:
So the way you get to the bottom of things is you go to Chaim and ask him if the union's allegations are true? That's real investigative reporting. Hard to understand your complaint about the union doing nothing for musicians, when after several years they are actually trying to do something and musicians like you take them to task for it. Everything the union says about Chaim I am sure is true, including the contradictory statements that he is paying scale and not paying scale. He's doing both! That's the point. He entices certain musicians he likes for certain chairs and exploits the rest. He is the typical exploiter. Divide and conquer. But hey, don't take my word for it. Ask Chaim. I'm sure he'll tell you the whole truth. Then you can proudly carry his water for him. God save us musicians from your kind of truth seeker.
Actually, I asked Rosenblatt about some allegations the union made that were, in the main, absurd on their face. There is a lot of resentment at Rosenblatt/Evenal within the industry for their undercutting, yet, in several years of hearing complaints, and playing on other bandstands with these musicians, I have yet to hear of even ONE musician who claims that he was paid under scale, let alone that he was shorted, stiffed, booked for two gigs on a Sunday, then switched to a twi. etc. These are complaints I hear regularly about certain bands. When people talk about offices that have stiffed them, the top offenders have been union bands. (To be clear: I'm not claiming that all union bands mistreat their workers. Only, that the biggest offenders in this regard in the "frum" industry have all been union shops. Everyone in the field knows this.)

It seems to me that there ought to be a case the union can make, without misrepresentations or distortions. If you'd like to write a guest post about why "frum" musicians should join the union, I'd be happy to post it.

Jordan Hirsch writes:
I think that the complaints of union inaction against Barock are well founded, to a point. One of the things you have to realize is that the union can only go after employers for stiffing musicians if the musicians inform the union about it. In fact, when that has hjappened in the past, the union has been very effective in getting the money. But a lot of times, musicians are reluctant to go to the union because they are afraid of retaliation by their employers. Unfortunately, the union was not focussed on the Jewish Club date field for about four years, in the previous administration.

But all this talk of above scale makes me laugh. There would be no scale to pay above if the union, with the support of musicians, did not negotiate for it. The Union, in fact, any Union, is only as good as the interest of the members in getting involved. When musicians have gotten involved, the Union has done amazing things. By the way, it is not just scale that is secured by the Union negotiators, but Pension and health benefits. In other words, the Union can make it possible for the music business to be a professional endeavor, not just a way to pick up extra income. Chaim Rosenblatt does not pay a cent into anyone's pension. Unions are a fantastic way to make the needs of the musicians heard, but it can only happen if the musicians are willing to be involved.

You are too young toremember when scale was $89.00 for four hours, and overtime was paid at a little less than time. Now scale is much higher, and will get higher still if musicians are willing to make a commitment to working together. And overtime is paid at time plus 20%, which frankly happened because I was on a commitee that made it happen. Scale does not just magically appear, it has to be fought for.

That's just the beginning of my response. Feel free to ask me any questions.
I've invited Jordan to guest post. I hope he does.

Jordan's response actually highlights one of the issues with the union, which is, that although it is supposed to protect members from exploitation by management, it really can't when management is booking a lot of work.

With regard to the idea of musicians not complaining to the union for fear of retaliation.... even without complaints, the union ought to have known something was wrong and acted. We're talking years of non-payments here. It shouldn't take a complaint (and this was public knowledge in the industry) to get the union to do something.

I agree with Jordan that there would be no scale without the union. I'm going to leave the discussion of scale for a separate post.

Monday, July 18, 2011

More On The Musicians Union

So, I'd been hoping to get things started with a nice presentation of both sides of this issue. However, thus far, there has been no compelling pro-union case made in any of the emails I've received. So, we'll look at things from a critical angle first.

Let's look at the two recent stories I linked from the union newsletter...

On the surface, these stories (which the union has put out there) seem like union success stories, at least in part. In one, the union tells of its success at winning a $39,631.21 judgement against Barock Orchestra for health benefit contributions owed to the Local 802 Health Fund, its lawsuit against Neginah Orchestra and Shelly Lang to recoup $78,000 owed to the Local 802 Health Fund, and its convincing of Aaron Teitlebaum to sign a union contract.

The other one tells of the union efforts against Chaim Rosenblatt.

Yet, when reading these stories and thinking about them for a moment, it seems clear that the union does not protect musicians as it should, and that it selectively presents or misrepresents "facts" to suit its agenda.

Lets look at the first story...

Its been an open secret for years that Barock Orchestra has been regularly stiffing musicians, yet, where has the union been? The fact that things were allowed to get to the point where these kinds of amounts of p/w could be owed at all, seems to demonstrate that the union is NOT on top of situations where rank and file members are concerned. Similarly, without getting into specifics, there are an awful lot of known abuses by union bands that have gone unchecked for decades. Where is the union on this? Well, apparently, after the numbers accumulate enough, they are willing to go after money that will sit in their bank accounts for a while. But, as far as achieving justice for individual musicians who have been screwed, it seems, not so much.

The same with Neginah. There are decades of stories, and in fact, when I broke into the business many of the musicians I most respected were refusing to work for them after having been screwed.... yet the union did virtually nothing. And the idea of holding up one of the main actors there as "doing the right thing" since he split off, is weak tea at best.

OK, so the union isn't quick to stand up for rank and file members in the Jewish field... but certainly their organizing campaign against Chaim Rosenblatt is legit, right? Well, let's take a closer look at what they are trying to do...

The concept of the union, as I understand it, is to protect musicians from exploitation by unscrupulous management. So let's see....

The union makes a number of assertions about Rosenblatt in their article. On the face of it, some of them seemed absurd, so I emailed Rosenblatt to ask him a few questions about these issues.

Here are the questions I asked him:
I'm planning to write a piece about the union article you sent me. If you'd like to write a guest post, that offer stands.

I have a few quick questions for you... I've put some quotes from the article below with a quick question or two after each one, asking if the assertions made about you/your business practices are true.

"While claiming to be paying above scale to his musicians, a claim that we know is a lie, Rosenblatt cited the recent upheaval in Wisconsin in order to press home a point that should not be lost on Local 802 members."

1) Do you pay above scale to all of your musicians?
2) Do you or have you ever paid any musicians below scale?

"He also wants to paint the union as an organization that does not represent musicians but represents the Jewish club date offices who hire Local 802 musicians and who do the right thing and pay into the health and pension funds."

3) Is this a correct characterization?

"The truth is that the members themselves are calling us and asking us to please do something about Rosenblatt. By undercutting scales and not paying pension and health benefits, Rosenblatt’s ability to undercut bids from legitimate offices that hire union musicians is greatly increased."

4) Are you aware of any union musicians you've hired, who have complaints about your pay rates or the way you treated them?

"Rosenblatt may pay some players "scale" or even more – that’s fine with us. But we feel that Rosenblatt’s intention is to destroy the union in the Jewish club date field. Let’s say that Local 802 was forced to withdraw completely from this field. If that happened, does anyone think for one moment that Rosenblatt would continue to pay an amount greater than "union scale" if this scale didn’t exist anymore? And then, guess what would happen next? Another unscrupulous employer out there might then undercut Rosenblatt. More and more undercutting would lead to a race to the bottom. The union exists to prevent this scenario. We provide a minimum scale, a line in the sand that may not be crossed. That is why the grassroots musicians in this field are fundamentally on the union’s side – not Rosenblatt’s."

5) Do you really intend to "destroy" the union, so that you can pay musicians less?

"What kind of person is Chaim Rosenblatt? I think he’s a young businessman who exploits his employees and, because of that, undercuts his competition. He is apparently not a musician and does not understand or appreciate what it means to be a musician. I feel he is the kind of person who should not be allowed around art in any of its forms."

6) Has any musician ever complained to you that he/she feels exploited by you?
6a) Have you ever heard of such a claim being made to others by your musicians.
In his response, Rosenblatt told me that he treats his musicians well and always pays above scale - not just scale. Those union musicians who have health plans through the union need to have their jobs go through the union in order to count those jobs towards the required number of gigs to get those health benefits. Rosenblatt has offered to pay those musicians through the union, but the union is insisting that all musicians be paid that way. This insistence that he only use union musicians/pay through the union means that, if he signed a union contract, the union could (theoretically) stop him from hiring non-union musicians. Since many Jewish musicians are not union, this would potentially limit his ability to hire the musicians he wants. (In practice, the union hasn't forced this issue that I'm aware of with other bands.)

He does believe the the union represents the interests of the union offices, not the individual players. He says he is unaware of any musicians who are unhappy with their pay. (This allegation by the union seemed absurd on its face.)

It seems to me that an objective observer reading the union article against Rosenblatt would find it confusing -- (It both asserts that he pays less then scale AND that he pays over scale allegedly to "destroy the union") and not compelling.

Note: I am not a fan of the way Rosenblatt/Evenal broke into the business, but that still does not justify a smear campaign based on innuendo and distortion.

I'd still like to present a coherent argument for unions in general and for Local 802's continued involvement in the "frum" music business, so if you feel you can make one, please send it in.

If a good submission comes in, I'll post it. Otherwise, I intend to start looking at general claims the union makes, and explore whether they are true or relevant to the "frum" music industry.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Shed No Tears for the Death of JDUB

Over at Commentary, Matthew Ackerman blogs "Shed No Tears for the Death of JDUB."

A Personal Plea About the Boro Park Tragedy!

Please, guys! Can we, just this once, not write a song/capitalize on this? Thank you!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

JDub Records is Closing

JTA report here.

This could be a good opportunity for someone(s).

Union emails

Michael writes:
Here is my take on the matter:
Chaim got started booking gigs for Evenal. (3 guys who could play a wedding but at that time could not get work with the 'reguler ' bands. They were willing to work for a pittance just to get work. Isn't that ok? The other guys they hired were paid scale+ but they still could pull off a 5 piece band for 1500.) After they got busy chaim figured it was time to start booking some stuff on his own. To my knowledge everyone who works for him demands and gets paid at least union scale.
A reader (if you want attribution, let me know) writes:
I am not keen for this discussion to take place, because many people who are affected by the Union, both positively and negatively, are often unequipped to put aside their prejudices from either the left or the right, and often the discussion of these issues turns into a yelling match. In addition, many of the participants are not old enough or in the business long enough to have an informed perspective on what the Union has until now accomplished for musicians, especially in NYC and LA. Suffice it to say that outside of the strong musicians Union locals, the freelance music field is a catch as catch can business, and there is no way to gauge of people are able to make a living as musicians.

The question can be divided in another way: Do you think a Union can help sidemen keep their wages and benefits stable and growing? And do you think THIS Union can do that? I think the answers to those questions will force people to think differently about the issue than they do now. I have much more to say, but Shabbos is coming.
I'm interested in hearing from more folks on this. Please send in your comments.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Housekeeping - New Email Address!

I've changed email addresses. For all future blog-related correspondence, please use the email address in the sidebar. Please update your files, as the old address will be out of service shortly. Thanks!

More Union Matters

I've received a number of emails with regard to the post "Does the Musicians Union Have A Role in the Jewish Club Date Field?"

I'll be posting these for discussion. I am hoping for a productive discussion.

First up, Chaim Rosenblatt emails to tell us about the union article against him. It is in the May issue of Allegro, the union newsletter. It is the fourth article titled, "'Are You Ready for Us?' Organizing Matters" by Michael Donovan

Unfortunately, the union website is not setup to allow hot-linking to specific articles, but you can navigate to it from their homepage.

Here's the opening, but I strongly encourage reading the whole thing for the purposes of this discussion.
"We enjoy paying our musicians well above what unions tell musicians they are to be paid. We enjoy treating them right! Wisconsin agrees!"

That was a recent text message sent by Chaim Rosenblatt, owner of the EvanAl Orchestra, to Local 802 Representative Peter Voccola.

As we demonstrate and protest against EvanAl Orchestra and Chaim Rosenblatt Productions in order to get the Jewish club date field in order, it is interesting to note Rosenblatt’s choice of words.

While claiming to be paying above scale to his musicians, a claim that we know is a lie, Rosenblatt cited the recent upheaval in Wisconsin in order to press home a point that should not be lost on Local 802 members.

For informed union people, this particular method of attack from an employer who exploits his workers in order to undercut scales is both insulting and ridiculous at the same time....
I've offered Rosenblatt the opportunity to write a guest post on the subject, and I hope that he will. I'll give him a chance to do so, before addressing the specifics of this article.

At the same time, I am happy to post guest posts from other perspectives. Send 'em in, and I'll put 'em up on the blog.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Not A New Lipa Schmeltzer Ban - Updated

Failed Messiah posts A New Lipa Schmeltzer Ban. Only problem is, he either misunderstands or misrepresents the material. It's not a ban on Lipa Schmeltzer at all, although the flyer does refer to Lipa negatively, in the context of condemning the notion of concerts in Uman.

Update: A post-event report (in Hebrew) here.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Does the Musicians Union Have A Role in the Jewish Club Date Field?

It's been a while since we've had a good discussion thread on the blog. Here's one that many folks have strong opinions on. I'd like to hear from folks on both sides on this. Pro and anti. From management, union workers, and the union too, if they want to contribute. Let's see if we can get a useful conversation going.

A few questions to start...

1) Does the union have a serious role in the Jewish club date field?
1a) Should the union have a role?

2) For union members: How specifically has the union helped you personally? Do you feel it is worth joining/staying in the union?

3) For non-union members: Why haven't you joined the union? Has there been any down side for you?

4) For offices who have a union contract: How has being union helped or hindered your business?

5) For offices who don't have a union contract: How has being non-union helped or hindered your business?

6) For all, any general thoughts or questions on this topic you want to share or discuss?

As a trigger, for this discussion, I'm going to repost a link I shared in an earlier link dump, "Let's Stabilize the Jewish Club Date Field."

This situation can be viewed in a variety of ways, as either demonstrating a strength or weakness of the union. What's your take on it?

Some Links for Y'all

Jello Biafra cancels Israel gig, but will go to Israel, and may reschedule. He attacks boycotters. Check this:
"I can't back anyone whose real goal or fantasy is a country ethnically cleansed of Jews or anyone else, where people who think for themselves or talk to the wrong person are automatically a sellout."
Read the whole thing.

Teruah posts "The Wondering Jew Talks Jewish Music." Jack's on a roll these days. check out some of his other recent posts while you're there!

JDub Records interviews the self-proclaimed Gangsta Rabbi. I remember seeing reviews of his cassettes in the Musician's Exchange mag they used to give out in local music stores in NY years ago.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

7/2 link dump

Haven't done one 'o these in a while...

"A nigun a day" says "No joke. This song was composed, lyricized, recorded, and sold!" Look for a sequel coming soon! "Me and My Eidim's Five!

Over @ HuffPo, Josh Fleet posts "Words Of Wonder: How Jewish Poems Become Songs Of Praise."

Some yeshiva students rock Jerualem of Gold.

Oy, Mayn Libe Basarabye!"

Deleon releases a "Soca Hora Hora Medley."‬‏

Over at Sh'ma "Rethinking Music Making: A Teshuvah for the Conservative Movement."

Over at the musician's union website, frum wedding band offices gone bad.

Sibelius released "Scorch for iPad."

The Forward had a bit on "Daniel Kahn and the Relevance of Yiddish Protest Songs" and a piece on and Benjy Fox-Rosen's. latest. There are audio clips. Go listen!

This is Yiddish on " Rocking Out — In Yiddish."

Finally, Menachem Herman posts "Not Another Brick In The Wall".

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Say What?

"Bugs Meany"
A Chanel-wearing older woman approaches the piano player at a nice soiree at a 2 Million dollar apartment in NYC to talk about how wedding bands ALWAYS play too loud. Totally not a concern with a piano/violin duo, one would think. After finishing her rant, she heads over to the buffet for some veggies. Returning with a plate of carrot sticks, she confides: "when the music is too loud, I just put these in my ears. Tissues don't help, but these are spongy and block the sound." It was tempting to play loud just to cause her to do that.

"The Goth Rebbetzin"
This older peep shows up dressed like a rebbetzin in prim black suit/white blouse combo, sporting a snood. Oh, and black lipstick. Mamesh tznius!

"Suicide Girlfriend"
If you invite your eccentric non-Jewish childhood friend --yes, the one with a handlebar moustache, who looks like a circus ringmaster -- to be your best man, keep in mind that he might bring his Suicide Girl model girlfriend as his date. She will wear a strapless/backless/sleeveless ball gown, which will show off her full body tattoos (featuring flaming skulls & naked women) covering her entire right shoulder/arm/back. And, she will be in all of the photos. Just an FYI.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Do you Ya'alili?

Do you Ya'alili? Hat tip, Leibel.

Seriously, what's the deal with wedding bands posting videos of themselves attempting to play the song? If your lead singer(s) have to keep leaning over/picking up papers to read the words, it might not be the best image to post all over the web. You do want to look like you know the material you play, right?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Gay Weddings

Check 1,2! Is this thing on?...

Some interesting changes are possibly afoot in New York. There is the possibility that the Senate will pass a same sex marriage bill. A bill was already passed by the Assembly, and they are one vote short in the Senate, so if one Republican can be induced to vote for it, the bill will be come law.

(This is just a question of timing anyway. It is inevitable that a same-sex marriage bill will be passed in NY sometime soon.)

Here's an article that discusses what Republicans are negotiating with regard to the bill.

Check this part:
Ball, one of the critical undecided Republicans, said he was looking at the same-sex marriage bill from a "very pragmatic perspective."

"I understand that there's going to be certain areas where they're not going to be able to have religious protections because you open up a whole new can of worms," he said.

One example: a proposal by a Washington and Lee University professor that would create exemptions for individuals who don't want to provide marriage-related goods or services because of their religious beliefs.

Professor Robin Wilson believes, for example, that a baker should be able to reject a couple's request for a wedding cake if his religion prevents him from serving a same-sex -- or an interfaith, or even interracial -- couple. He would only be forced to bake the cake if his refusal created unnecessary hardship for the couple, because, Wilson said, "in a straight up contest [...] marriage equality trumps religious liberty." Such a proposal would likely be a non-starter in New York state, particularly for individuals, as opposed to religiously-affiliated non-profits. "You can't institutionalize discrimination within the bill, nor would I ever want to," Ball said. Yet the proposal is an example of the issues that lawmakers may have to grapple with should they decide to broaden religious exemptions.
Depending on the final bill passed (whether this bill or a few years down the road) there may well be implications for how "frum" wedding bands deal with this issue.

Currently, I have seen offices take the following approaches to booking gay/lesbian weddings.

1) Turn the job down for religious reasons.
2) Book lesbian weddings and send out an all female band. (In Halacha, lesbian relations are only prohibited Rabbinically, as opposed to male homosexual relations whichy are Biblically prohibited.)
3) Book the wedding, but under a different band name.
4) Book the gig, and claim the client surprised the band a week or two out with the fact that it was a gay wedding. (This actually happened. The claim, that is. Not that I believe it.)
5) Refer the job to a different band (and earn a referral fee).
6) Accept the job.

Depending on the final legislation, some of these options may no longer be legal.

It is possible that this might open up the field of options for gay and lesbian couples looking for Simcha/Chassidic music at their weddings, which would be very meaningful to some homosexuals from the frum community.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

New Skver Mitzvah Tants Melody - UPDATED


The silence from communal leaders in and out of Skver speaks volumes. For shame!

UPDATE: Tzig has some relevant comments here.

UPDATE II: Remix time!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Chag Sameach!

From the mailbag...

Six13 forward a link to their video "P-A-S-S-O-V-E-R." Their description: "It's our "Kosher L'pesach" take on two big hits by Usher and Ke$ha"

Dovid Kerner forwards a link to Matza'laya. I think I've posted this one before.

Monday, April 11, 2011

BDE - Micky Lane Z"L - UPDATED

Shalom emails to inform that Mickey Lane died recently. Baruch dayan emes! There's an obit here. His brother Zal has commented on the blog in the past. Condolences to the family.

UPDATE: 4/12

I will add any reader comments to this post.

Zevy Zions writes:
We all grew up with Mickey’s bass lines on all of the early Neginah albums. He was a great musician and he will surely be missed.
Sy Kushner writes:
I was saddened to read of Mickey Lane's passing. Mickey was truly unique, one of a kind. Though I had not been it touch with Mickey for many years, I recall our conversations about music and musical gear, both about which we were passionate. We both laughed at our inability to get rid of our obsolete gear with the result that both our pads looked like a Sam Ash warehouse. He performed with me during the Mark 3 days. He was surely a handful on the bandstand and beyond. May G-d give him peace and rest his soul.
Yehuda Mond writes:
Mickey Lane hasn’t played on a JM album since the late seventies (as far as I know), so here is some background for those who’ve never heard of the guy. Any Jewish music listener who has listened to the Rabbis’ Sons, D’veykus, Kol Salonika, Neginah Orchestra records, and The Messengers (among many other artists from the ‘60s and ‘70s) has heard Mickey’s bass line. Back when contemporary Jewish music was in its infancy, and before the fretted and fretless bass guitars became more standard, the bass fiddle (a.k.a. contrabass) was used, which was one contributing factor for the Rabbis’ Sons “folksy” sound.

My condolences to the Lane family – Mickey has earned an honorable spot in the JM Hall of Fame.

Parenthetically, a shout-out to Sy Kushner: We’re still singin’ Romemu. Keep squeezing the accordion!
UPDATE 4/17:

Shalom writes:

YouTube - Mickey Lee Lane- "Shaggy Dog"

This is a side of ML that we never got to hear; I remember him only as a bassist and engineer, not a guitarist, but it sounds like he could rock out with the best of them.

An earlier one: hYouTube - Mickey & Shonnie Lane - "Daddy's Little Baby"This one is credited to Mickey and Shonnie Lane; did he have a sister?

There's some other stuff of his on YT if you dig around. Someone put up a discography at the Goner Records Mobile Message Boardbut that's just the non-JM stuff. Might be interesting to start going through some old records and see what else there is with his name on it.

Commentary Discovers 613

It is a great time for Jewish music, but I don't know that I'd choose this to illustrate that.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Friday, March 25, 2011

Concert Controversy - UPDATED

Yesterday, a promo video for an upcoming concert to benefit Tzivos Hashem was posted online. The event featured Avraham Fried, Lipa Schmeltzer, a boys choir, and a segment called Jewish Kids Got Talent.

Apparently, some in the community found either the notion or the actual footage of the black choreographer and hip-hop dancers to be unacceptable, and controversy erupted.

A little while ago, The Cool Jew interviewed the event producer, who defended the decision to include those performers, and said the show would continue as planned. A short while later, the Lubavitch youth organization "Tzivos Hashem" contacted TheCoolJew.com to state "this issue has been corrected. These performers will no longer be part of the show and will not have anything further to do with it."

I've done some checking around, and have been unable to find anyone else commenting on this aside from the Cool Jew's posts. There doesn't appear to be any controversy over this on any of the popular Chabad/Lubavitch websites. It looks to me like a one man crusade by the Cool Jew against the black choreographers. That changes the story materially, so I though y'all should know. CJ did write another post today, "Rabbi Heller Blasts Tzivos Hashem Concert" about the topic, but without audio, I'd read that as this rabbi is opposed to concerts in general, not specifically addressing this one and the question of non-Jewish dancers etc. In other words, the only person who seems to have had a problem here is the blogger himself. That's a very different story. It speaks to his racism alone. That's a relief to hear.

PS, as that post quoted Lipa, the dancers did appear at today's show.


The Cool Jew posted a rant, Shame on You Tzivos Hashem, today. I'm counting this as confirmation of my previous update. He's trying to gin up opposition, but, contrary to his reporting, this does not appear to have been generated controversy beforehand.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Maccabeat-down II

The authors respond to criticism of their Jewish Week article with "Missing the Point: It’s about women (and men) and Orthodoxy, not the Maccabeats."

Meh. A weak response to defend a weak article.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Monday, March 07, 2011

From the mailbag...

Ben writes:
I thought you'd enjoy this new music video for Purim. It features 100 Israelis from all different backgrounds dancing in the desert.

It's called Raise Your Mask - a parody of Pink's Raise Your Glass.

Happy Adar!
E. sends a link to the Maccabeats "The Purim Song."

He also forwards a link to this VIN exclusive.

Jew Man Group writes:
Hi there!

Big fan of your site. We’re a new “Kosher comedy” venture that just released our first single – it’s “Bar’chu!”, a remix of “Forget You” by Cee-Lo, and we’re hoping you’ll find the video worthy of posting. It’s going viral as we speak. J

Please check it out and let us know what you think!
Psachya writes about Mikis Theodorakis:
The sad thing (for me) about the Mikis Theodorakis debacle is that he,at one time, was rather popular in many Jewish homes.

Those of us who grew up listening to Art Raymond's "Morning Simcha" radio program were very familiar with some of Theodorakis' music. Art didn't play it himself, but for years his program on WEVD ("The Station That Speaks Your Language") was immediately followed by a Greek language program. And, every morning, the first sounds heard after Art signed off was a selection from Theodorakis' score for the movie "Z". As a result, Theodorakis got a bit of a following in the Jewish music-listening community. My grandfather A"H had an LP of the "Z" soundtrack, and I've seen it in many other LP collections beside Shlomo Carlebach, Jo Amar, Ruach Revival, and other early-'70's Jewish music icons.

So it turns out that the guy was an anti-Semitic jerk all along. It just makes me sad. This is music I grew up with.
Shalom writes:
You wrote: "In case you had any doubt... "

No, I never had any doubt. Ever since I read, years ago, that he composed a so-called "Palestinian national anthem", long before the PLO had morphed into the PA, I kind of got the idea.

Shame, because the soundtrack to "Z" has got some great music on it; now I feel uncomfortable listening to it.

You think this is gonna stop Jewish musicians playing his music, though? I'm not altogether sure they even should. I remember the controversy a couple years ago regarding the move to rename Corbin Place, which was named after a notorious anti-semite; I think the biggest "shtoch" you can give them is to have Jews living peacefully on "their" street, or enjoying "their" music at a Jewish function.

(For other self-proclaimed anti-semites, check out author Roald Dahl. Personally I prefer to say "Jew-haters", because that was the original term before the PC folk got a hold of it, and because some of the worst Jew-haters are themselves Semitic.)
Hinei ma tov...

Shalom also fowards some more Al Hanisim clips:
First of all, how'd you know it was me?

Second, I've uploaded yet another Al Hanisim, this time really the original (it came out before the composer's own version).
YouTube - Really The Original Al Hanisim (Izhar Cohen, 1974)

(Someone else has uploaded a live performance at YouTube - אודי דוידי- על הניסים. Good stuff.)

Also, I've put up the original version of Tanchum Portnoy's Eitz Chaim, so the folks who sing it wrong can learn the right way.
YouTube - עץ חײם (The Original "Eitz Chaim" (Tanchumim, 1975 - composed by Tanchum Portnoy
A valiant attempt, but there is no chance that'll help.

Bob writes:
I think many Shlomo Carlebach tunes would go really well with a Caribbean-style steel band. Has this been done? I'd pay for a CD like this.
Yehudah Mond writes:
Tribute to Moshe Yess A"H:
Although it has been two weeks since the passing of Moshe Yess A"H, he deserves honorable mention for the major influence he's had on JM. While some might argue that he has gone off the deep end during the last few years, his musical style and personality is inimitable. For those old enough to remember there was Megama, and even the younger generation knows "My Zaide", with many a budding guitar player picking out the chords to that song (can't miss that CMaj7). His voice added a whole lot of feeling to Journeys 1 through 3 (e.g. The Ninth Man, No Place Like Home, Ride the Train, The Rebbe of Lublin, Pesach Blues and more), The Amazing Torah Bike, Miami Experience 1, and of course the immortal Marvelous Middos Machine...
Like Dr. Doomshtein, whom Yess played to perfection on MMM, Moshe Yess was also a ba'al t'shuvah who became involved with Jewish music while in Yeshivas D'var Yerushalayim. The bold, daring characteristic of his unique bass voice, and his personality, which shone through every recording, will be sorely missed.
Shmuel writes:
With all the brouhaha surrounding the passing of Debbie Friedman, it seems that the untimely passing of Moshe Yess, one of the seminal figures in modern Jewish music has gone unnoticed. Having worked with Moshe and Megama on several occasions back in the day, I can truly say that he was perhaps the finest singer/songwriter to cross over from the secular world. The man had real chops and he knew how to craft a pop song. His approach to Jewish music was original and totally out of the box. Lyrically, he had the soul of a poet. The effect that his song “My Zayde” had as far as lighting up Jewish souls across the world is simply incalculable. I still get requests for it almost every time I play out. (I frequently play for older crowds). Simply astounding. On top of that he was a really, really nice guy – just wanted to sit and jam.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Busy Weekend for Jewish Music

It's been a busy weekend for Jewish/Israeli music. First, Israeli trance DJ Noy Alooshe collaborates with Libya's Col. Ghaddafi to create "Zenga Zenga", a viral hit across the Arab world.

The neatest part of this is the fact that many in those countries will also see another side of Israel,apart from the government propoganda that is the usual fare there. Comments like this one can only help:
I pray for the Middle East especially during this time of protests against the long held dictatorial styles of government in all those Arab countries.

May you be able to shed the autocracies which have ruled you and lied to you and tried to keep you controlled with stories of hatred toward Israel---instead of being legitimate governments themselves.

The idea of Israel being the "boogey-man" has helped keep themselves in power. This, as well as many other lies, needs to come to an end.
It's currently the most-favorited comment on that clip.

Meanwhile, Yoely Lebovotz goes to the country!

Oh, and Lipa Schmeltzer released a wedding album too.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Matzav.com Needs An Editor!

E. forwards a link to a Pinchos Lipschutz article,
"Simcha, Unplugged."

Check this!
Have you ever noticed that when musicians play at weddings, they appear indifferent to their own music? They sit or stand impassively as their fingers run up and down their instruments. As they blow their trumpets, pound their drums and glide their fingers across the keyboard, their faces are expressionless. No wonder. Their ears are plugged. They are unable to hear their own music, much less enjoy it.

The only musicians who visibly enjoy their own music are those who sing. For these artists, singing is an opportunity to express their deepest longings and emotions in music. The singer whose soul is wrapped up in his music has the uncanny ability to touch his listener’s soul.
I know what he's describing. I've seen guys who do that too. That said, the generalization is frankly offensive to all musicians.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Fighting Lies With Lies

Life In Israel posts about a radio interview with MBD about his recent concert "for women only" in Israel.

MBD talks about the lies pro-ban activists have been saying. Like this one:
He said that before his last performance, the one to a woman only audience, Rav and Rebbetzin Landau (the rav of Bnei Braq) called the head of the organization and said that they had been told they were bringing a dancer to perform. The organizer was in shock and after a moment responded that it is not true but there is only one performer at the show and that is Mordechai Ben David. The Landau's thanked her and wished her well. MBD says he is happy the Landaus checked out the story and did not just sign based on what the askan tells them, like many other rabbonim do.
Rafi and the comments section call out MBD on his own dishonesty. He's been flogging a revisionist history for a while already. It's not working.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Ban Updates

Our good friend, Rabbi Ephraim Luft goes 0-2 this week in Israel. (We reviewed his magnum opus "The Torah Is Not Hefker" here.)

Meanwhile, a riot broke out at Rabbi Amnon Yitzhak's speech in Emmanuel, after some opponents played Jewish music he's been campaigning against, whi;e he was speaking. We've mentioned his campaign against Shwekey in "Rabbi Amnon Yitzchak Makes Stuff Up!". Via FM.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Discussing The Unspeakable

Recent events have me pondering the following topic -- How to have a discussion when one side believes the other side should not ever be mentioned or when mentioning one side, in and of itself, has consequences.

Two examples:

1) The recent brouhaha over a Jewschool post about Debbie Friedman. You can read about this here. I thought about whether or not I should bring this subject up at all. The family's response -as well as the fact that this was common knowledge- make me think that there is no additional harm to the family in linking the discussion. That said, personally, I found the Jewschool post offensive. There are appropriate ways and more importantly times to raise these questions. Not during shiva and in clear ignorance of the facts. However, it illustrates the conundrum I'd like to address, which is that there is no way to have this kind of conversation without raising the issue in some way. If the Jewschool blogger's facts had been accurate (they weren't), his point would be much stronger, than if he hadn't used the name.

2) I received an email about a recent post of mine on bans. The email was critical of my position/presentation. It included a request not to post the email, or even portions of it, without permission. Since I make a point of posting critical emails, I emailed back asking permission to post the email and a response. When this writer expressed discomfort with the idea, I offered a right of response as well. Ultimately, my correspondent denied permission to publish on the grounds that since, from their perspective, their position was Torah, it would be impermissible and impossible for me to disagree with it. Go argue with that.

The question I'd like to put out there is this. How can one have discussion on important issues, when one side, for whatever reason, makes even the raising of the topic off-limits? Perhaps, as in a situation like my first example, it can be done while respecting the individual's privacy. However, in matters of public policy, is there really no way to raise questions about the actions of Rabbinic leadership? Personally, I can think of a number of recent examples in which rabbinic action was taken in response to public criticism. In quite a few of these cases, I am convinced that if not for the public nature of the criticism, no action would have been taken.

A short list:

1) The Lipa Schmeltzer concert ban
2) The recent RCA "brain death" paper brouhaha
3) Agudah et al on sexual abuse

So, for those like my respondent who apparently believe in papal rabbinic infallibility... Do you ever think there's an appropriate way to publicly raise questions? If not, why do you grant yourself the right to take a position, if you won't concede that right to your counterparts on the other side? More importantly, if that is your position, why should the folks on the other side even address your concerns?

Monday, January 17, 2011

1/17/11 Link Dump

Over at the Forward's Sisterhood blog... "Taking on the Rabbinate."

Tininitus? Reboot your brain.

I want a printer like this!

John Lennon vs. Van Halen.

The J-Post obit for Debbie Friedman... Beloved US Jewish songwriter, Debbie Friedman, dies

Rootless Cosmopolitan on " The Death of Yiddish?"

At Life in Israel..."nteresting Psak: Which Music Should Be Used To Introduce Shabbos."

Here's a great song for you! "Mean Old Jews Who Crucify My Lord" by Sister Albertha Harris Lewis. A real toe-tapper!

More Winter Peeps

"Rerun Guy"
This peep, speaking at a sheva brachos, announces that he's repeating a speech most of the guests heard at last night's wedding, because the panim chadashos missed it. He then proceeds to repeat the entire speech verbatim. At least, that's what he claims.

"The Starving Host"
This peep lines up a number of speakers at the sheva brachos he's hosting. He speaks last. All of the speeches are before dinner is served. He asserts: "Rather than letting you eat now and dreading my upcoming speech, I'd rather speak now and have you look forward to the food!"

"The Proud Mother"
Quote: "You play as good as my daughter!" We hope that's a compliment!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Winter Peeps

"In Your Face Video Guy"
This peep stalks the room with his personal video camera. Sizing up his prey, he stalks them, waiting until the precise moment they are least prepared. Then, just as his prey begins chewing their food, he strikes. "Say something for the video" he urges, as his cornered prey frantically tries to swallow. This peep has also been spotted lying in wait outside the mens room door. Beware!

"Principal Shlemiel"
This peep, the principal of a small school (menahel in yeshivish), gets the Bar Mitzvah boy's name wrong in his address at the Bar Mitzvah. Multiple times! A good rule of thumb. If you can't remember the Bar Mitzvah boy's name, you really ought to turn down the invitation to speak.

"The Rambler"
This peep begins his speech saying "I won't speak long..." 20 minutes later he's still talking!

"Learn Out Loud Rabbi"
This peep can be found at gigs in private homes. When the musicians start playing background music, before most guests have arrived, this peep begins learning loudly. Natch, he's sitting next to us, and wont consider moving into the study, or anywhere else in the mansion. Don't worry. We're not fooled. We see his foot tapping along on beat!

"The Spiritualist Bandleader"
This bandleader calls to inquire about our availability for a possible great paying out-of-town gig, he had in the works. Upon being told we're available, he gives the following instructions: "K'muvan, go to mikvah and daven Reb Nosson's tefilos for parnossah!" P.S. we booked the gig!

"Pop Music Now"
This peep comes running over at a yeshivish affair to demand a Top 40 tune NOW! Naturally, the prep sheet for this yeshivish affair not only has no secular music requests, but even requests the band avoid playing any line dances or Mizrachit music. Dude, it's just not going to happen unless the bride or groom personally come over to request it...

Sunday, January 09, 2011

BDE - Debbie Friedman Z"L

The great Jewish singer/songwriter Debbie Friedman has died. Baruch Dayan Emes!

"Lechi lach/on your journey I will bless you/and you shall be a blessing lechi lach."

Friday, January 07, 2011

Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetzky on the Ban Process

Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetzky 2008:
"Rabbi Kamenetzky confirmed that he had spoken to Friedman and said that he had understood that the request for the ban originally came “from rabbis in Eretz Yisroel. We didn’t want to differ with them. It was expressed that certain performers...upset some people.”

The Rosh Yeshiva was asked whether anybody had confirmed the origin of the request. “It seems that it was a request from mouth to ear and everyone went along with them,” he responded. “What they said was that it was a request from Rav Elyashiv and Rav Steinman. I didn’t confirm that.”

Asked if it is unusual for distinguished rabbonim to sign a kol korei on the say-so of one person, Rabbi Kamenetzky was candid: “Usually we meet together. This time, with time pressing, we did not get together. And maybe it was not the right thing.”

Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetzky 2011:
"Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky, who signed the ban, said he was not familiar with the site but was given the ban by Rabbi Malkiel Kotler, of Lakewood.

“I know very little about it, but I relied on the rabbanim that signed it and they said it’s terrible,” Rabbi Kamenetsky told The Jewish Star. “They said it has a lot of lashon hora,”"