Thursday, December 30, 2004

Better Pop Music

Mixolydian Mode has a "modest proposal for the improvement of popular music."

From the Jewish Papers...

Michael Wex reviews Yale Strom's new book "A Wandering Feast."
Strom's lust for the exotic occasionally moves him to lose respect for the day to day. When the sexton of the synagogue in Kosice, Slovakia, tells Strom that he won't be allowed to take pictures at [cap shaleshides, the third meal of the Sabbath, Strom hides a tape recorder on his person and tapes the shaleshides anyway. Let's ignore Hillel's unmusical Jewish dictum, "Don't do to others what you hate having done to you"; there is still a question of politeness, of respect for the culture of your hosts, whose songs are now being taken against their will. Time and again, Strom tells us that he is a vegetarian; would the discovery that his food had been laced with lard have elicited the same unconcern as his violation of the Sabbath in the Kosicer synagogue? More than 20 years after the incident, there's no sense of shame in the telling, no glimmer of awareness that this attitude of klezmer above everything, klezmer ├╝ber Alles, leads to fossils in a display case rather than a living, fully rounded culture.

The Forward also has Seth Rogovoy's 2005 CD recommendations. Unlike Rogovoy, I found the Klezmatics Guthrie CD less than compelling. The first tune, where they blend a Vishnitzer Nigun into the arrangement was the only part that worked for me.

On a roll, The Forward also has this review of Craig Taubman's Hip-Hop compilation and an interesting article on the old Russian tunes Natasha Hirschorn has been introducing at Conservative synagogue Anshe Chesed on the Upper West Side

The Jewish Week has this profile of David Amram and George Robinson's end of year CD round up.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Matisyahu @ B.B Kings review

Here's a report on last night's Matisyahu gig at B.B. Kings Bar & Grill in NYC. According to this attendee,
"The crowd was 70% high school kids and 20% middle-aged New Yorkers."
Update: Here's a video clip of rapper Dres of Black Sheep and Matisyahu kickin' it at the show.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Reviewed Religiously

The Wichita Eagle is listing the best religious CD's of 2004. Number two is "The World is a Narrow Bridge," which was produced by California based Craig Taubman and features various artists like Taubman, Elli Kranzler, Debbie Friedman, and Neshama Carlebach.
Various Jewish artists explore loss from a spiritual perspective in songs that range across musical genres. It's music that speaks to people going through tough transitions, such as the loss of a loved one.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Farbrengiton Review

Here. I like this rabbi:
After the concert was over the rabbi, whose name is Phillip Lefkowitz, pronounced Farbrengiton impeccably Jewish.

"Judaism has no musical genre", he said. "We steal music from everybody.Klezmer music is Eastern European. Any music is a legitimate expression of Judaism." Then like the native New Yorker he is, the rabbi started tummling.

"Do I personally like the way it sounds?" he asked, shrugging. "What they're doing is using the musical medium to express their Judaism. That's how the music speaks to their time. I don't know if I could spend a whole Yom Kippur like that. The loudness is OK. Our God is 2,000 years older than the Christian God. He's hard of hearing. He needs a hearing aid but he won't wear one. He's a stubborn old Jewish man."

Friday, December 24, 2004

Here We Go Again

I've been writing for a while about the responsibilities that JM distributors and promoters have (for example here).

Recently, there's been a lot of speculation on Yahoo JewishMusic about who will be performing at the upcoming HASC benefit concert on Jan. 9th in NYC. One of the names being floated is Matisyahu, who bills himself "the Hassidic Reggae Superstar."

I happened to be in a seforim store yesterday where I noticed that Matisyahu's album is being marketed just like the other typical JM fare. It was on a listening station together with Shimon Craimer's new album, Emes 2, and the like. I think that there is a problem with that, and I think that having Matisyahu perform at HASC, should it happen, would be a hugely irresponsible act by the producers. Matisyahu has chosen to bring his music into the club scene, performing at bars and clubs around the country. Here's his schedule of upcoming performances. I believe that HASC (and, for that matter, any organization or promoter who markets an event to the frum community) has the obligation to ensure that the event is appropriate for the entire community its being sold to. The HASC concert is sold as acceptable kosher entertainment to the NY Jewish community including the Chassidic and Yeshivish segments thereof. This means that the performers ought to be appropriate role models for the entire community.

I want to be clear. I don't think that there's anything objectionable about the style of music Matisyahu performs. I also don't think that his music or any song he'd perform at HASC would be offensive. I have no problem with a Jewish distributor selling his music; what I do object to is selling it as though it's just another flavor of frum Jewish music.

I do think that there is a huge need for hip Jewish performers to be out there performing Jewish music -- especially on college campuses. And I think he made a huge Kiddush Hashem when, on one of his TV appearences, he told comedian Kevin Nealon that he wouldn't perform on Shabbos for any amount of money. Readers of this blog know that I have no problem with secular music per se. However, I do feel that performers need to make a decision on how they're going to market themeslves and where they're going to focus their performing efforts. If a performer chooses to try and make it on the club/bar scene, then I feel that they ought not be marketed to sheltered frum youth, who are ill-prepared for the club scene and all that it means they'd be exposed to.

As I've written before, I believe that parents have the right to expect that a performer put up by a tzedakah organization -- or by anybody for that matter -- and sold to frum families will be a positive role model for their kids. Matisyahu has chosen a career path of performing in bars and with left-wing Israeli rappers as well as with African-American and Palestinian rappers. I respect his right to do so, but I do believe that many parents in the Chareidi community would be outraged, and rightfully so, about his appearance at HASC, if they were aware of all this.

As I wrote about a year ago in regards to another band:
Is it reasonable to assume that a yeshiva kid who buys this CD in Eichler's, for example, might visit the band's website? If he did, a pop-up window informing him of the band's upcoming performance in a NYC bar could greet him. Is it reasonable to assume he might then go? For a teen from a sheltered background, going to such a venue and being introduced to the NYC nightlife scene could easily have a strong negative influence on his religious development, more so than on someone from a more "Modern" background who has the savvy to negotiate in such an environment.

Artists, promoters, and especially distributors need to be sensitive to the values of the community they are marketing to!

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Bnai Brith Radio

Theis week's Forward has an articleon B'nai Brith Radio. The station is allegedly in talks with Sirius XM satellite radio.

You give us twenty-two minutes, we'll give you the Jews.

Jazz Reviews

Here's Fred Kaplan writing for Slate: "All That Jazz - The year's best records." John Zorns "Masada String Trio 50" album and Ben Allison's "Buzz", which features Ron Horton, are among them

Speaking of Israeli Products...

On my recent trip to Israel, I also purchased a stuffed doll dressed as a Chosid holding a saxaphone. About 8" tall, Shloimela is dressed all in black wearing a shtreimel on his head and his tzitzis out. He dances and plays music when his hand is pressed.

Here's the box's description:
Reb Shloimale: Hassidic Singer

In northern Ukraine, in the Jewish shtetl of Barditchev, lived Rabbi Shloimela the saxaphone player. One day, the wealthy baron decided to mingle among the townsfolk and see them at close quarters. Without anyone knowing about this, he went off to stroll around the Jewish market in the streets of the town. Suddenly, his attention was drawn to sensitive and emotional music coming from the saxaphone of Reb Shloimale, who stood at the entrance to the market playing Chassidic tunes for the enjoyment and delight of the passersby.

The music enraptured the wealthy baron and he decided to take Reb Shloimale back with him to the castle. Since that day, Reb Shloimale has been living in elegance and comfort in the castle, and continues to cause the baron and all the inhabitants of the town, joy and emotion with his wonderful music.
In case you're wondering, the song he plays is... a swinging version of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town."

According to the retailer, the Israeli product designers had asked the Asian manufacturer to install a Jewish music chip in the doll. The manufacturer had said that they didn't have a Jewish chip, but could put a jazz chip instead, which is what they did. He was pretty sure that no one involved in the production had any idea that the "jazz" was actually Christmas music.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

In which Dm confesses a guilty pleasure...

Ever since I was in high-school, I've been a collector of Jewish music. It started in high-school when I began purchasing virtually every album that was released on the Brooklyn JM scene. This phase lasted a year or two, after which I came to the realization that, for the most part, I was essentially buying the same album over and over. The tunes were all composed by the same few people, the same three or four arrangers wrote the arrangements, and the same studio musicians played on most of the recordings. So, I stopped buying those albums. I would still occasionally pick up an album in the local seforim stores, but they would usually be the ones by lesser known artists rather than the popular releases.

The summer of my senior year, I spent an extended period of time in Israel and used the opportunity to purchase many recordings that weren't available in the US. Generally, I would have to buy these cassettes with no information other than the album title and whatever other info was included on the cover. The quality varied greatly, but I did discover a lot of interesting artists whose whose recordings were not available in the US. In particular, I discovered a sub-genre of Jewish music, if you will, consisting of Baalei Teshuvah who had composed new Jewish music using their secular influences. I picked up many of these recordings in a shop in the Old City that is no longer in business. Over the years since, whenever I've returned to Israel, I've made a point of picking up albums by artists I haven't heard of before.

Some of the discoveries I'd made those years back included:

Chaim David's first two albums "A New Light" and "Open Up" (I believe those are the titles). They've recently been re-released on CD. I was playing "Yemin Hashem" at simchos before Chaim David started coming over to perform in the states.

Another great find was Yitzchak Attias' album "Gather The Sparks". Yitzchak is a percussionist who is originally from Gibralter and the album features his Latin-jazz settings of Jewish texts. His tune, "Sheker Hachein" ought to be a standard at Jewish weddings. This album was influential in my comceptualization of what Jewish music is and could be. To the best of my knowledge, the album has not been available in the States.

I also picked up recordings by artists like "The Returning Light Band", Yehuda Katz, Yehuda Glantz, Brad (now Moshe) Schachter, Menachem Herman, and lots more.

More recently, I've discovered a sub-genre of Jewish music which I'm going to refer to as "Charedi rock." This is a distinct genre and is not to be confused with" Carlebachian" or "post-Carlebachian" groups or performers like Reva L'Sheva, Soulfarm, Moshav Band, Chaim David, and the like. It ranges from Yosef Karduner on the softer, folkier end of the spectrum to Adi Ran on the punk-edged rock heavy-rock side of the scale. The similarities that tie these artists together include a strong Breslov influence on the music. Many of the lyrics are either actual texts from Likutei Moharan and the like, or else they convey messages that are central to Breslover hashkafa (i.e. Mitzvah Gedolah.) Not all of these artists are Breslover chassidim, although many are. The artists also all seem to be connected by the fact that, for the most part, their music does not follow the simple Carlebachian song forms common with many of the "Carlebach talmidim." And, virtually all of their music is guitar-based.

About a year and a half ago, I purchased a number of interesting CD's in Israel which I've meant to write about for a while now, but just didn't get around to. Recently, I returned from another trip to Israel with still more CD's. I'm going to put up some short descriptions or comments on some of the more interesting ones. The main genre's covered by these CD's are "Chareidi Rock" and Chassidic, but there are a few other odds and ends thrown into the mix.

Here's a quick incomplete list of some of these purchases:

Haosef -- a 2 CD compilation of tracks by various artists released by Mayim (Musika Yehudit Mekorit). I purchased this last year and on a return trip purchased CD's by several of the featured artists. There's a beautiful version of Lev Tahor on there that I liked by Yoel Chaivi (sp?), but neither Gal-Paz nor Noam Hafakot had his CD or knew anything about him. I'd recommend this compilation as a nice introduction to the Charedi rock scene. Note: this was originally released as one CD, and that version is still out at the same price as the 2 CD set. The CD's feature music by artists like Yosef Karduner, Chaim David, Adi Ran, Hamedregot, Heleviim, Yisrael Dagan, Yitzchak Fuchs, Yitzchak Attias, Aaron Razel, Avraham Abitbol, and more. The first CD also has the original version of Dani Maman's "Osim Teshuva" which is a much better representation of the tune than the cover version on the recent Dedi & Yonatan album. The tune works so much better with organ instead of Rhodes. It also works better with Maman's vocals.

Chasdei Hashem -- This album by clarinetist Chilik Frank, obtained on last year's trip, is excellent. Three freilach medleys featuring Frank's exuberant clarinet playing. I liked this one a lot. I picked up some more of his work on my recent trip. One of them,the self-titled "Chilik Frank" was produced by Creative Audio's Jeff Horowitz. The arrangements and mix are a little too commercial for my taste, but the song selection is excellent and the clarinet playing is first rate. The other CD, "Tikun Chatzos", is a beatiful concept album of mostly slow music and has a nice mix of mystical melodies revolving around the theme of tikun chatzos. The clarinet was well-recorded. One peeve... I do wish that they'd used a real piano instead of an electronic one. The CD consists of duo arrangements for clarinet and piano performed by Frank and Israel Edelsohn. I'm also familiar with Edelsohn's work from his Meditations of the Heart album of Breslover nigunim.

Amazon has that one here:

Ateka Kadisha (Vols. 1 & 2) -- This is a production by well-known Belzer singer/composer Yimiya Damen. The recording is a tribute to his father and covers the Ropshitz-Rhozhadover nigunim his father would sing on friday night. The production is somewhat low-budget, with lots of keyboards and drum machine, but the heart comes through; an emotional musical tribute to his father. He sings the melody on the Ropshitzer Eishes Chayil with a variation that I've not heard elsewhere. I wonder if it's accurate, or if he or his father somehow modified/embelleshed the melody. I picked up the second CD in the series -- it's songs from Shabbos day --on my recent trip. It sounds like they rushed to finish this one, but the overall vibe is similar to the first.

Tzamah - A Belzer release. I reviewed this one last year. Unimpressive.

Nachas Ruach - This 1999 release by Menachem Herman and Jeff Horowitz was a disappointment. There are no arrangements to speak of and the music and singing is uninspired. I bought this one because one of the medleys looked interesting, and because I've enjoyed some of Menachem Herman's guitar work in the past. There is virtually no interesting lead guitar on this album and the vocals consist of group singing.

Nigunei Neshama (Breslov) -- This live recording is mainly of value for the melodies on it and not for the quality of the recording or performances. An accurate rendition of many old Breslover melodies.

Adi Ran - I was familiar with his first album "Ha'acharon Sheba'am" so I picked up "Al Takeh Basela" last year and his newest release "Ma Yesh Lachem Lidog" this year. I love this guy. His singing is er, interesting, with a non-conventional singing voice and concept of pitch (imagine Dylan fronting a Led Zep/Clash hybrid), but his music has a lot of soul. To me. it sounds like Adi has a great sense of swing too, in the way he phrases his vocals. His music is quite interesting, and he's written some really sweet tunes. Ran is a Breslover and that is reflected in his lyrics with many of them including "Na, Nach, Nachma..." refrains and texts from Rav Nachman's teachings. The music is is very influenced by punk/classic rock. I find his work compelling. A real guilty pleasure. As a bonus, the new CD comes with a guitar pick featuring a line drawing of Adi Ran. The recording quality on his first one isn't as good as the later ones, with a lot of headphone bleed in the vocal track, and it's noisy in general, but it has a lot of charm. The later albums are better produced and recorded. There's a bonus duet with Yossi Hoffman, "V'shamru", on the newest album that is just great. The two singers voices contrast nicely. I wouldn't have thought it, but it works. If you're looking for heavier Jewish music with soul, be sure to check these out.

Aaron Razel -- I purchased "Hasneh Boer", an early album of his last year and bought "Shir Tzion" this trip. I found the earlier album interesting and his track on the Haosef compilation I mentioned above "Ki Rega B'apo" was interesting enough that I purchased his new CD. I respect what he's trying to do, but the new album just didn't work for me (I've only listened once.) Part of what I enjoy about many of these recordings is the feeling of humanity and realness the lo-fi production (some would call it low-budget production) gives them. Razel's newest release sounds too produced for me, and the music loses much of its spontaneity. Also, he uses session guitarist Avi Singolda on this album, and I usually find his playing to be technically excellent, but sterile and uncompelling. I would note that Danny Zamir contibutes sax on the title track "Shir Tzion" which is named for Razel's son.

Uzi Hitman "Shar" -- This is a CD of Hitman performing many of his hits (most were originally recorded by other artists. I'm always interested to hear songwriters performing the tunes they've written for other people. The production/arrangements are very low-budget '80's, but the disc is a good reference for his music. I hadn't known that he'd composed "Kmo Tsoani." File this one under reference.

"The Hasidic Niggun As Sung By The Hasidim" -- This Hebrew University 2 CD set consists mainly of field recordings of Chasidic nigunim. The selection of tunes seems quite interesting .The included booklet is very informative, and this should be a great reference resource. I haven't listened to this one yet but I'm looking forward to learning some new melodies. Hatikvah Music has it here.

Reva L'Sheva "10 Years Live" -- This is a great 2 CD set that captures the band at a high-energy performance at Club Tzora. The band does basically one thing, but they do it quite well. High energy post-Carlebach rock. The set includes a large number of Carlebach covers. The CD liner notes also include a password to download a free mp3 from the band's website. It's a nice marketing idea, but the track they've chosen, "Mishenichnas" isn't so good. I'm familiar with many of the band members work from albums I purchased years ago like recordings by "The Returning Light Band."

Yitzchak Fuchs "Melech" -- I bought this one after hearing "Achas Shoalti" on "Haosef." The album is just him and his accoustic guitars. Not exactly Karduner-esque, but I like some of it. He has a new release out in Israel which I heard while I was there, but the music is much darker and it doesn't have the same sort of feel this one does. The new one (whose title escapes me) is a heavy, brooding album and not to my taste.

Avi Adrian "From Dust Created: Adrian Interprets Modzitz -- This is a great solo jazz piano recording of Modzitzer tunes. I highly recommend this one. A nice set. Also includes one Adrian original, "Ish Tzadik." The reharms on "Nigun No. 15" are particularly tasty.

Sinai Tor "Tov Kmo Achshav" -- This is slickly produced and well-recorded radio-ready J-rock music produced by Gavriel and Guy Hassoun. The recording quality on this one is commercial, but excellent. You can clearly hear when the drummer is using hot-rods instead of sticks. Most of the music on this doesn't grab me, but there is one beautiful ballad, "B'orcha Nireh Or." The piano sound on that track is stunning. I'm surprised that the NY artists recording in Israel aren't using these guys to produce their albums. Their commmercial production chops are great.

Miki Rosenbaum "Psaypas", "Zeh Hayom" and "Cartis Bikur" -- Miki Rosenbaum is a talented vocalist and I like his sound. His newest release "Psaypas" ("Mosaic") is a nice adult-contemporary sort of release with ethnic overtones. Think Turkish clarinet and chalil. "Hodu Lashem" blends the ethnic and contemporary sounds beautifully. The blend of old and new works quite well there. "Cartis Bikur" is essentially Rosenbaum's demo of the simcha repertoire. It's a little too poppy for my taste, and I definitely don't go for dance-mix versions of Yosef Karduner's "Shir Lama'alos." (There's more than one of those out there.) There are some interesting horn parts though, and the arrangements are quite good, if not wholly to my taste. I haven't yet listened to "Zeh Hayom" which was given to me as a freebie by the retailer when I purchased the other two.

"Yesh Lanu Tayish: Shirei Chayot Layeladim" -- I loved this on cassette so I couldn't pass it up on CD for 10 shek in the discount store. Classic Israeli animal songs. Fun for the whole family!

"Rakevet Arucha" --Classic Israeli songs for kids. Also 10 shek at the discount store. Includes tunes like Bialik's "Nad-Ned" and "Yonatan Hakatan."

Bustan Abraham "Fanar" -- An older album (1997) of Middle-Eastern music that is gorgeous. This Arab & Israeli band is quite good. Standout tracks include "Seven Eleven" and the country-Eastern album closer "Sireen" which sounds like something the Flecktones might have done were they from the Middle-East. The album also features several guest artists -- Indian master percussionist Ustad Zakir Hussein, Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia, Achinoam Nini (Noa) and Gil Dor (who appear on one track only), Emil & Alexander Kroitor and Albert Piamenta.

I am familiar with bassist Emanuel Mann from his work on the Uri Caine/Aaron Bensoussan project Zohar/Keter.

Amazon has that one here:

Eyal Sela & Darma "Call of the Mountain: The mysterious Dances of Mount Meron -- A mix of old and new. Trance music meditations on ancient melodies with old-world instruments like oud and Turkish clarinet blending with synth pads and the like. As someone I know likes to say: "Those who like this sort of thing will like it." I thought it was interesting, but I don't see myself listening to it often.

Avraham Abitbol and Gadi Pogatch "Beit Hekedusha" -- I bought this one because I liked "K'sheadam Nichnas" on the Haosef compilation. This CD seems mostly unfocused though, and the melodies just aren't there. "Ksheadam Nichnas" is the best track on the album.

Avraham Abitbol "Cochavei Or" -- In a pop/rock vein, this recording is an interesting mix of styles. A little over-produced in some ways, overall, it's an interesting effort, and worth checking out. Much more interesting than "Beit Hakedusha". The opening track, "Or Ganuz" is quite catchy. I also liked "Libi Hamar, a waltz in which Abitbol's vocal is accompanied by classical guitar.

Haze Laser "Atitude of Faith -- This recording by former Shlock Rock vocalist Shmuel Laser -- who is now living in Israel -- isn't Jewish music, strictly speaking. It's heartfelt covers of secular tunes like "Go Down Moses" (which was inluded on "Shlock Rock Meets The Prophets"), "Time Waits For No One", "It's Always You", "Sweet Lorraine" and more. Shmuel is a soulful singer, and he sings from his heart. If you like this sort of music, the CD is available through the Shlock Rock website.

Re: Carlebach Jam Bands

Barry Seff writes:
I'm a member of Pey Dalid. Thanks for what you wrote in response to the email you received. Thank Gd people at least feel something when they hear us, either love us or hate us.

Music Merger

YAMAHA is buying Steinberg. (Thanks, Soundscape!) I don't think this will hurt ProTools. Digidesign's had some nice acquisitions lately too.

In Reviews

the KlezmerShack has loads of new reviews up. Go thee and read of them, for they are good.

Ari also links to our recent "Carlebach jam bands" post.

Sax and Violins

Violinist Miri Ben-Ari's upcoming album for Universal Records has a parental advisory sticker for explicit content. It's not being produced by Shelly Lang.

Key Commentary

Here's Terry Teachout:
"D minor, by contrast, is widely thought to be a “demonic” key, threatening and unstable."
We're not taking it personally. Seriously, its an interesting piece on "key quality."

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Some More Links

Biur Chametz professes his love for Christmas carols.

Here's an article you've probably missed, "The Bart Simpsons of the Yeshivah", that references the recent Kol Zimra performance at the White House. (Thanks, E!)

Not again!

Matisyahu's got plans:
"In the back of the club after the concert, Matisyahu talked about his long-term goals -- in music and religion -- and it was clear he has his sights on a future larger than himself.

'In 10 years the Messiah will be here. I'll be singing and dancing in Jerusalem. All the dead will come back, we'll be singing together.'

Here's an articleabout a nice Jewish sax player with a new EP out... of Christmas songs.

Finally, Baltimore's Rabbi Menachem Goldberger has a new CD out.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Did you know that....

Israeli TV has a Karaoke channel?

Update: Esther kvetches.

In Review

Ben Jacobsen writes::
If Dov Shurin is like a twisted experiment that blends Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach with Uncle Jesse from The Dukes of Hazzard, then the C Lanzbom-Noah Solomon duo, both members of Soulfarm, are the wholesome soul-children of Carlebach, Garcia, and Grisman.

Brick Wall

APP reports: Greg Wall plays accordion. I thought that was the Rev. Zevy Zions' instrument.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

And On Defense...

sashinka observes:
To the person who rolled in here searching on Google Search: pey dalid terrible, I want you to know, that if you're into Jewish renewal/Carlebach music, they're not that bad. And they're nice blokes. Good middos.

Taking the bait

Velvel responds to the email we posted yesterday.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Today's link dump

Ari Davidow takes on NPR

Did you know that you can play Pong on the Kurzweil K2600?

Velvel hopes his recent newspaper interview is "good for the Jews."

This is London reports that students who sang on the Pink Floyd classic "Another Brick In The Wall" are suing for royalties.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Beyond the Pale...

A reader writes in about a peeve of his -- Carlebachy jam bands. He caught one such band's recent performance and writes:
I don't know if you caught the Chabad Chanukah telethon last night- if you did you could have seen 1) Marty and Jerry in the section 2) Jordan and Mike C klezing-out and best of all 3) Veroba reading lists of donors. That aside, I was hoping you might find time to Blog about Pey Dalid.I had a hunch that these guys were as terrible as they turned out to be and I was not disappointed last night. Such a performance should have been on the Yom Hashoah Telethon. OK, that might have been hyperbolic but I would love if you could blog in detail what is wrong with their side of JM. We all know about the shiny shoe scandals and shtuyot but rarely do people tear in to what is widely viewed as harmless, cute, hippyish, Carlebach inspired, 'mystical' jam bands. In their case, 'jam band' is more of an excuse than a description of a musical genre. What's more frustrating is that as more and more of these bands proliferate, many end up booking simchas, taking work away from more experienced and qualified musicians who rely on the business for their parnasa. Some of these bands-Soulfarm, Moshav (who are admittedly not on the same rung as Pey Dalid) take weddings begrudgingly to support their bar hopping gigs and do unprofessional work. Their idea of a kabalat panim is playing a CD through one speaker- and that's if they show up on time. These people call me to add a musician to their gigs and offer less than scale even on road trips. When I informed them of my price- they said they were looking for a "college guy to do it for cheap." These practices don't even come close to those decried by my normal employer who will go nameless (think Boro Park). Pey Dalid is a chief offender- under their new aggressive management, they are billing themselves as the "ultimate simcha band." While I realize this description is a matter of opinion- I have to say that the legit JM business should be offended. We are all too aware that because of educational priorities in the frum world, our public knows very little about music other than its volume. When a band like this sets out to convince chatanim that they are providing something different‚ than the played-out wedding orchestra, they will take the bait. Of course, it being an open market, there is nothing wrong with that- all I ask is that a qualified and trusted voice of the JM world takes a few pot shots at these guys who really suck. That's where you come in. I'll look forward to your response and hopefully a post will be forthcoming. If you disagree with me and choose to use my letter to mock me, I will resort to giving you a wedgie next time we play together (kidding). Take care, Chanukah sameach!
I think he's taken care of the rant all by himself. And I ain't afraid of no wedgies either!

In general, these kinds of groups don't bother me. I think that bands of that sort are selling an experience, moreso than a musical performance. As I see it, many of the bands in that style aren't about putting over a technically correct or professional performance. Rather, they're about getting people to feel the moment. It's kind of like a kumzitz where the guitar player only knows a few open position chords and regularly uses wrong open-position chords that do contain the same note as the melody (i.e. using G instead of Dm or Am instead of E). Sometimes the mood or general vibe is more important to a client than sophisticated arrangements, jazzy reharmonizations, or technically perfect or even fluid performance.

An example: I once guested at at a Carlebach Havdala in a private home where the singers sang off-key much of the time, the guitarist played tons of wrong chords, and the dumbek player kept starting, stopping, and losing the beat. From a musical standpoint, it was a disaster. For the participants (which includes the other musicians) though, the event was a tremendous success. They emerged from Havdala feeling spiritually charged. As a guest, I found the experience to be quite enjoyable-- although I'm not in a rush to repeat it -- even though the music was far from my standards. It was about capturing a moment and feeling, and that was succesfully achieved.

I do agree that the fact that the frum community doesn't place a high priority on music education is a large part of the roblem and is also why much of the current JM is what it is. It's sad that people are booking bands that can't play well simply because they're charging a lower rate and the client doesn't hear a noticeable difference. And, as far as price goes, I certainly can relate to the frustrations of losing a gig because someone is undercutting you and the client is focused solely on price. That being said, It is legitimate for people to try to get a band that will do a good job for less. If they will be satisfied with an unprofessional band, then why should they have to spend significantly more on another group when it is all the same to them? We may agree that it shouldn't be the same to them, but the reality is that it frequently is.

I occasionally get inquiries about my band from people who proceed to say things like "you really don't need a band these days; a one-man-band sounds just as good." I've also been told this many times at affairs I've played with Chassidish bands in Williamsburg and Brooklyn. It's really quite insulting for the band to be told this just after finishing a really great set, but these people really don't know any better. I think that in cases where a client can't tell the difference (obvious as it might be to most everyone) it makes sense for them to save the money and hire the cheaper option. Besides, I'd rather play for clients who appreciate what I do.

Culture Clash

American Comedy Network Presents: "My Menorah."

Via Chayyei Sarah

Friday, December 10, 2004

Chanukah music special

Here's JWR's Chanukah music special.

12/10/04 Link Dump

YUTOPIA is playing "Name That Tune."

A reader thinks there'll be some controversy over Shimon Craimer's album cover. (View it here.) Other than the loons who see crucifixes everywhere, I can't see why anyone would have problems with the Union Jack.

White Shabbos has a new Chanukah song.

Here's Greg Sandow on how to talk about music. is offering digital music and sheet music downloads. It will be interesting to see if this model -- there's apparently no copy protection on the songs -- works. Also, some of the sheet music they're selling at $1.50 per sheet is available for free download on the original composer/performer's websites. (i.e. Yehudah!, The Chevra, and Shalsheles.) It'll also be interesting to see if and how the publishing/licensing rights issues raised by this will be worked out.

Finally, those of you who have received iPods as Chanuka gifts will now be able to jam along with the new iKazoo.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

To Grammy's House We Go

Jewschool informs that the Smithsonian Folkways recording Abayudaya: Music from the Jewish People of Uganda has been nominated for a Grammy.

And in other rap news...

Here's the Forward.

I Need A Remedy!

Remedy loves the land. This Jewish Week article 'splains.

This is an interesting approach to releasing a new rap album:
Remedy also made an unusual choice concerning his next album, scheduled for release next month, releasing it in Israel instead of the United States.

“The album will still be available here,” he said. “People will still be able to buy it off the Internet. But I wanted it to be an Israeli hip-hop album to show that there’s such a thing as Jewish hip-hop that’s loud and proud.”

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Battling It Out!

Here's a Commie article on the recent Battle of the Bands at YU.This was funny:
But for Az B'Yachad's Ouriel Hassan, bongo was just the beginning. The finger-tapping wizard also doubled as the evening's comic relief. In what was quite easily the most hysterical introduction offered, Hassan announced that "Ozzy Ozborne and Mordechai Ben David could not be here tonight." In their stead, he offered Az B'Yachad, and the audience couldn't be happier. The band stood out as the most captivating of the competitors. Az B'yachad may have only left with a third place spot, but at least they left with a lot of new fans.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Violinist Update 3

Malki Roth Z"L's mother, Frimet, writes "The Violin and the Guitar." Malki composed Shir Lismoach which was released on the Voices for Israel CD.

Carrots and Jam

Jewschool has the skinny on Matisyahu's contract rider.

Its Hip To Be "Independence Square"!

This sounds cool -- Hip-Hop Protest Song Rocks Ukraine.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

1 Corinthians xiv. 8

He's back....and enjoyed a recent gig.

J-Weekly Roundup

Here's a pair of music articles from the NY J-weeklies.

"Praying at the Temple of Traditional Jazz" and "Interfaith Rock."

The JP website appears to be having server issues, but most likely doesn't have anything music related in any event.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Violinist Update 2

Here's more from Haaretz:
The IDF's probe was based partly on testimony from another Machsom Watch volunteer, Rachel Bar-Or, who witnessed the incident. She told Haaretz yesterday that she gave the IDF her testimony before she learned that Tayam denied playing voluntarily.

She said that until she read the violinist's account of the incident in the press, she was more than prepared to believe the soldiers' version of events.
Whom should Ms. Bar-Or believe... the violinist or her lying eyes? Or, should that be, whom to believe; the lying violinist, or her own eyes? For shame!

Backstreet Boychiks

It's gonna be the little Kinderlach? (29 MB download-- Windows Media Player required)


Via the Yahoo Jewish Music Group

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Only In NY

Passed a homeless guy in the city. He was singing "If I Only Had A Brain" from the "Wizard of Oz"... only he'd changed the words to "If I Only Had Some Change" which he emphasized by rattling a cup of change along with the music.

Violinist Update

Probe clears soldier in violin incident.

I wonder if all of those who were so quick to criticize Israel will report this too.
According to the findings, the soldiers had asked Wassam Tayam to open his violin case for inspection. Tayam then took out his violin and began to play, despite the long line of Palestinians behind him.

The court came to its conclusions after viewing the video clip of the incident filmed by a member of the Machsom Watch human rights group who was at the checkpoint at the time of the incident, reading a letter sent by the group detailing the incident, and interviewing all military personnel who were at the checkpoint that day.

Update: Israellycool has this:
A member of the Israeli human-rights group Machsom Watch who filmed the incident told Reuters last week she did not believe Tayim was coerced into playing.

All For The Money, Not!

Here's Nat Hentoff with "The Re-Emergence of Big Band Jazz?"

Monday, November 29, 2004

Mish-Mosh Review

Elliot Simon reviews Aaron Alexander's "Midrash Mish Mosh" and Shelley Manne's 1962 album, "Steps to the Desert", which has recently been rereleased"

Via the KlezmerShack

Dr. Laz Update

Here's an article about Dr. Laz.
Some of his students can't move, their bodies forever trapped in wheelchairs. Some of them can't speak, the connection lost between their minds and mouths.

But something special happens when teacher David Lazerson walks into a room and plugs in his guitar.

Don't Play That, Play This!

Miriam disagrees with JWR's Binyomin Jolkovsky.

Jolkovsky would like to see Adam Sandler's "Hanukkah Song" replaced with Destiny's 1985 song "Color Candles." Miriam writes:
I've never heard Color Candles, but I daresay there's a reason the Hanukkah Song became a smash hit and it didn't.
Somehow, I don't see this campaign having much success.

Old Peter's Tales

Peter Himmelman tells a" Bubby Maaseh."


At the "Shteeble" (clearly the correct English spelling as evidenced by "Country Yossi"), Reb Lazer answers a letter from a reader:
Dear Rabbi Lazer,

My daughter is at a rebellious age of 16. She learns in an orthodox environment, but lately she's been playing heavy metal rock in her bedroom. I don't know where she picked that up, but it's driving me crazy. When I asked her not to bring those trashy CDs home, she opened up a mouth to me and asked sarcastically, "Since when does music need a kosher certificate?" Unfortunately, I didn't know what to answer. Please give me a helping hand on this issue.

With gratitude, YS from Long Island

More Reviews

The KlezmerShack reviews a host of new recordings including the recent Kleztraphobix release "another bottle of vodka" and Shirim's "Pincus and the Pig: A Klezmer Tale."

Friday, November 26, 2004


Seth Rogovy reviews Shirim's ""Pincus and the Pig: A Klezmer Tale", a klezmerized remake of Prokofiev's classic story "Peter and the Wolf," done in collaboration with author and illustrator Maurice Sendak.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Traffic -- not the band

Dov Bear is complaining about receiving critical comments from musicians.
Oh, yes, I suppose I did make things a bit worse when I said "most Jewish wedding music is bland and boring, in other words generic. And if you've been to the supermarket, you know the generic brands command the lowest prices and the least respect. "But isn't there something true about this, too?
The comments, which all appear to have been written by the same person can be found here.

Found Music

If Dida Bei can be a song lyric, then why not Eilu Mitziyos?:
One of the first tractates of Talmud a new student is taught involves the disposition of lost property. Given the 4,000-year history of loss experienced by the Jewish people, that makes perfect sense. It is also easy to see why passages from Bava Metzia, the tractate in question, are at the heart of the new music theater piece by Bang on a Can, “Lost Objects,” which has its American premiere on Nov. 30.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004


Jewschool has video of Matisyahu on Jimmy Kimmel's show.

And Another.

The Town Crier has the upcoming Yeshiva University Chanukah concert info.

TTC also points us to this December 25th event.
On Saturday, December 25, 2004, the 1st Annual "Fiddler on the Roof" Sing-Along and Kosher Chinese Dinner will be held, starting at 6pm with a Havdalah ceremony, which signifies the end of the Jewish Sabbath. The idea follows in the tradition of the popular "Sound of Music" sing-alongs and the audience-participation phenomenon of "Rocky Horror Picture Show." Complete with costumes, props and lyrics, the audience will have a chance to show off their melodic talents by singing along with an open-captioned version of selected scenes from the 1971 Oscar-winning musical film adaptation based on the stories of Sholom Aleichem about a poor milkman whose love, pride and faith help him face the oppression of turn-of-the-century czarist Russia.
To add to the fun, the audience is encouraged to attend dressed as a favorite Fiddler character - Tevye the milkman, Yenta the matchmaker, Russian dancers, Motel the tailor, the daughters, etc. Props will be provided, as will activities for younger children. The evening will be topped off by a Tevye look-alike contest and live Klezmer music, followed by a Kosher, vegetarian Chinese feast.
Andrew Silow-Carroll addresses NY Post writer Dawn Eden's op-ed "The Grinch Who Stole 'Messiah.'"

Writes AS-C:
I know the writer -- she contributed to the Forward when I was there -- and while she mentions in the piece that she has a "Jewish father" and that when she was a student in Maplewood "it wasn't always easy being a Jewish kid in the chorus," she does not mention, as she one told Gawker, that "I am indeed a Jew who's accepted Jesus as the Messiah."
Does it matter? I think so, in this case: Among the objections some parents might have to school-sponsored religious music is the fear that their children will be influenced by others' religious ideas. In that case, Eden's syncretic beliefs embody these fears. This topic begs for a discussion of those fears, even if to dismiss them; a writer as personally invested in the blending of Christian and Jewish ideas as Eden, and one who brings other biographical information into her essay, is being coy when she leaves her current beliefs out of the mix.
Paul Wieder reviews a number of JM CD's for Jewish World Review's Chanukah wrap-up.

Bradford Pilcher interviews Asher Kahn for Jewsweek in
"Download Asher Kahn."

Jewsweek also has an interesting profile of Or Music.

Monday, November 22, 2004

In Which Dov Bear Finally Gets His Link...

DovBear (who has been trying to get our attention for a bit -- see here, here,here, and here) thinks one of our respondents is an idiot.

A reader comments:
While I find it annoying to audition for people who know my playing well, the client does have a right to know what they are getting. Having done this for a long time, I have the luxury of booking based on my reputation for excellence, but I still have to audition sometimes. But someone booking at $800.00 for two musicians is so far below the normal price, which could be anywhere from $1000.00 to about $1300.00 for a weekday, that any client could reasonably question whether they are dealing with someone reputable. When I book a job, I am paying for health care and pensions for my musicians, which means I have the pick of the professional musicians. I am paying for liability insurance for the band. I am paying for music preparation. i think you get the idea. Be offended if you wish, but don't be surprised.
The original writer responds:
My focus was more on the fact that people spend tremendous amount of money on the wedding, but when it comes to the music, in my experience they are always looking to "cut corners", so that the ice sculptures, and steak dinner and sushi bar and Viennese table can still be presented with class.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Random Conversation

At tonights gig...

Kid: My friend's brother has a Yamaha PSR 2000. Know what that is?

Dm: Shrugs

Kid: Me either.

Friday, November 19, 2004

House of Hock Ethics Updates

The House of Hock has posted its JM ethics updates here and here.

But What Do You Sound Like?

A reader writes:
I got a call today to do a wedding at the end of December from the mother of the bride. I thought traditionally in Jewish Orthodox circles, the grooms side deals with FLOP (Flowers, Liquor, Orchestra, Pictures), but hey everyone is different I guess.
So anyhow, to continue I give her the price quote of $800 for 5 hours. To anyone that has made an affair in the Jewish circle, thats a bargain price. She is getting TWO musicians, me on alto and soprano saxophone, and my partner on keyboards and we both sing. The average orchestra would charge a MINIMUM of $1,500 for the same thing. She says "please give me a reference". So, I did and its actually someone who we played for in recent months in the same hall that this couple is getting married in. Then, I get a call from the bride, she has "questions", I figure she wanted to know what songs she can pick etc., but she asks "where can I hear you?" and "do you have a demo I can hear". I couldn't tell her we dont have anything coming up or a demo, so I guess she will shop around and hopefully realize what we are offering is a bargain.
Well, I'm done ranting. Anyone else agree this is madness the way musicians are treated?
Personally, I think that it's quite reasonable for a prospective client to want to hear a band before booking them. The choice of band can make or break an affair. The decision should never be based solely on price. Unfortunately, it often is.

Ever Seen This?

Shmorg drums.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Tzadik Reviews

George Robinson reviews a slew of Tzadik releases for the Jewish Week.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Link Dump

It's been a while...

Instapundit informs that is partnering with Microsoft and will allow users to ressurect their content.

Jewish rapper Etan G. has posted episodes of the TV show, "The Amazing Race", he appeared in on his website.
On April 25th, 2004, Etan G was ambushed at Canter's Famous Deli on Fairfax in the heart of Los Angeles. Made to believe he was going to a business meeting with music industry colleagues Daniel F. Scherl (President, Group 8 Productions) and Raj Gupta (President, Virtu Music Group), Etan G was in for a lot more than a surprise when Phil Keoghan (creator and host of the Emmy-Award Winning "The Amazing Race") showed up with a full camera and production crew to announce that they had selected to him to try and make his dream come true!
What was that dream?
With only three days and three thousand dollars... to produce and shoot a professional music video for one of his songs, have it reviewed by an A-list Rap Artist or Music Industry Executive, and have his mother present during the meeting so he could prove to her once and for all that his career as a Rap Artist is legitimate.
The House of Hock has a pair of posts, "stealing by any other name"and "Power to the people", addressing one JM distributor's apparent lack of ethics.

The 2004 version of Avremi G's "The Jewish Wedding" book is out. He's posted an index of songs at the above linked site.
This year’s additions include:

A new (old) Cm smorg set. (Thanks to T.R.)
An overhaul of the “Oom-Pah” set.
Some new (old) marches.
Several additions to the Chassidic set.
A totally revamped Dinner section.
Selections from the new albums of Mona, MBD, Shwekey, Yeshiva Boys’ Choir, Chevra 2, Lipa Schmeltzer.
By popular demand; The Lag Baomer Set.
The hit ‘Zochreini Na’ (Note: We've editorialized against playing this one here.)
A revamped Mizrahit section.
And more…..
Here's a YU Commentator article "Stomping Shagitz: Jews in Punk Rock".

Jewschool updates on John Zorn's Masada 2.0

MOChassid has the upcoming concert schedule at Aish Kodesh. See the comments too.

TheKlezmerShack notes that the Klezmatics/Woody Guthrie Chanukkah CD is available in limited edition online.

Friday, November 05, 2004

New Music

Mooshy composes a new "shiny-shoe" song.

"Dilbert", who has apparently read lots of "Brooklynesque" JM PR, has penned a review of Mooshy's best-selling smash-hit in the comments section.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Check out the psycho!

Here's Psycho Toddler about performing with Kesher (they opened for "Country Yossi"), and reflecting on a Yeshivish power trio who are rehearsing "Gelt".

Incidentally, Mark's "Kabbalah" recordings were offically verboten in the Yeshiva High School I attended. Naturally, that's why/how everybody knew about them.

Update: Link was broken. It's fixed now.

Some Reviews

The Forward reviews "Meshugene Mambo", "The Makkabees", and "Meshugga Beach Party".

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Son of Mitzvah Man

The Town Crier thinks this will be a hit... but will Uncle Moishy cover any of the tunes?


Feeling particularly snarky, the Jerusalem Post's Ben Jacobson reviews "Chevra 2" and "Aidan and Dotan."

Here's a taste:
Eli Gerstner spreads his message of Torah in a manner that can be seen as 'cool' by adolescent 'at risk' Jews. Thanks to The Chevra 2, Orthodoxy's youth is now safe from going astray, which we all know might have led to mixed dancing.

Cher-ish Diss!

ABC reports that Cher's version of "Alfie" was dropped from the movie soundtrack "after test audiences laughed at the track."

Thursday, October 28, 2004

No Comment

Received the following email today from someone we don't know and who has never written before.
I am a piano teacher, please forward me sheet music of Abie Rotenber, Yossi Green, etc. Thx in advance!
Would anyone like to suggest a response?

Composing A Letter

Here's Musical Perceptions with "Letters from Camp."

The Watcher

A while back we had a few posts about unknown wedding customs. One of those posts, included the following customs which were submitted by David Bogner of Treppenwitz.
At every affair, there must be at least on designated 'conductor'. This is usually a drunk friend of the chassan who stands in front of the band gesturing wildly for some frenzied volume / tempo that he feels the band is deliberately withholding. His role is distinct, and should not be confused with the obligatory group of starers (see next minhag).
Every Boro Park / Williamsburg affair must have at least three (but preferably a full minyan) men who will stand absolutely still, with mouth partly open, and stare with blank, glassy-eyed expressions at the band throughout the affair. Extra 'schar' is earned for drooling. Olam Habah is earned if one can keep from blinking.
These resonated because any musician whose played these sorts of gigs has experienced this multiple times. Its simply one of the annoying things a club-date musician has to put up with.

Occasionally, though, the band gets a different kind of "conductor" or "watcher". The band had one such spectator at a performance last week. At the beginning of the evening, Eli (not his real name), who looked to be about 18 or so, pulled up a chair and sat down about two feet away facing us. During the cocktail hour, he mostly sat quietly watching us play. When the band took a break, he came over, introduce himself, and asked each musician their name. Speaking to him, it quickly became obvious that he was mentally disabled.

As the evening progressed, and the band began to play dance music, Eli began to jump up out of his seat. Conducting wildly and dancing directly in front of the band, he began to yell out encouragement to the musicians, calling each by their name. When we finished the first dance set, he congratulated us and immidiately began asking us when we were going to start th next dance. He couldn't wait for it to began again.

When we started the second dance, he was even more energetic than before. He spent almost the entire affair in front of us, dancing, conducting, and shouting encouragement, and he really seemed to be enjoying it. When the band finished for the night, he went over to each musician and thanked them by name. He then came over to me, thanked me for leading the band, and gave me a hug.

Sometimes, being watched can be a profoundly moving experience.

Orchestral Klezmer

This could be interesting ... Symphonic Klezmatics

Refluxive Defense

A reader (whose email inbox is full) writes in response to this post:
I wouldn't necessarily be too hard on Ashlee Simpson. It sounds like a joke, but acid reflux can be a very real problem for those who rely on their voices to make a living. A bad attack can indeed cause someone to lose their voice. Lesser attacks can cause the voice to be distorted, as well as making it very difficult to sing smoothly and in tune. (As a periodic sufferer of reflux, I can attest to this.) I would give Ashlee the benefit of the doubt. Whether she should have relied on lip-synching instead of cancelling the performance altogether is another question.

Play It Again, Not!

Nick Rogers has penned an anti-encore column. An old essay, but true.

It Takes More Than That! (Jewish Linkage)

Meet The Sparklifters. The late Allman Bros./Gov't Mule bassist Alan Woody guests on two tracks. Relix Magazine reviewed the album here. (Its review #6)

Psycho Toddler junior quits piano lessons.

House of Hock pays tribute to the Chevra in "Boy Bands, Ob'm."

Life in the Ghetto writes on why they only listen to Jewish music.

The Klezmer Shack reviews Andy Statman's latest recording of Chabad nigunim.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Chavroh Chevra Isa Lei

Here's a thread on the Chevra lawsuit that includes the full text of last week's NY Sun article.

Asked and Answered...

... at Kashrut.Org.

Um, Tehillim???

Excuses, We've Heard A Few

If you're caught lip-synching... blame it on acid reflux.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Ignorance is Diss!

The Yada Blog's post about Uzi Hitman's passing is entitled "One hit(man) wonder." Benyamin Cohen's comment is:
Uzi Hitman, the guy who came up with that really fast tune to Adon Olam passed away this week.
In reality, in addition to Adon Olam, Uzi composed many other popular melodies including Todah, Ka'an, and Noladiti Lashalom.

Daniel Pearl Music Day

Hillels Celebrate Daniel Pearl Music Day
"Through journalism and music, Danny communicated friendship, understanding and respect for differences wherever his journeys took him. Whether he was interviewing ordinary people or world leaders, performing with orchestras, teaching violin to disadvantaged children, playing fiddle or mandolin with folk and bluegrass bands, or simply jamming and singing with friends and strangers, Danny recognized the power of music to bridge differences among people, and he used it to make friends and inspire understanding," Pearl's family wrote on the Daniel Pearl Foundation Web site.
Thanks, E!

Takana Update

Blog in Dm's Waldorf-Astoria correspondent reports:
In terms of the edict from the Rebbe - tonight's 'band' had 20 strings, 4 singers, and 19 or 20 non-string musicians.
Clearly, the takanos have been a smashing success.

Incidentally, Blog in Dm's Satmar correspondent is reporting that new and more draconian takanos are rumored to be coming down the pike in that community.



How to get caught lip-syncing... play the wrong song.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

From the emailbag:

A reader writes in to ask for our comments on this subscription-only NY Sun article, 'Boychik' Band of Boro Park Hits Sour Note With Lawsuit.which appeared last Wednesday. It speaks for itself, although the original complaint (18555/04 in Kings County Supreme Court) makes for fun reading and is inadvertently hilarious.

We will reserve comment, except for quoting two excerpts from the Sun article, each of interest for different reasons.
The Chevra topped the charts of a local magazine, Country Yossi, which performs a periodic survey of Jewish music sales at stores in New York, a magazine spokesman said. The Chevra became the "hottest group around," the spokesman said.
Michael Dorf, executive producer of the New York Jewish Music and Heritage Festival, said he was not familiar with The Chevra. But he said that many new Jewish bands, including Orthodox ones, are cropping up.
Another reader wants to know what Andy Statman's been up to. Here's Andy's website which has his performance schedule as well as audio clips of his recent recording of Lubavitch nigunim.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Hakol Kol Isha

Psych Toddler writes about his Kol Isha conflict in"My Daughter's Voice."

Burning Issue

Here's Biur Chametz:
'From when is Shma recited in the evening? From the time the priests enter to eat their terumah.' (Berachot 1:1)
Those words are the opening to the first chapter of the Mishna, the Talmudic code of Jewish law. But now they're also the lyrics to a chassidic song I first heard on the radio this morning.
Maybe this isn't new and I've just been out of the loop. I didn't catch the name of the group. From the sound of it, they're Israelis who sing with an Ashkenazi accent. The tune is lively and danceable - though I can't imagine why anyone would dance to such words.
I can't recall ever hearing legal texts sung chassidic-style. Psalms, yes; the Song of Songs, of course; inspirational sayings, naturally. But legal teachings? They must finally be running out of traditional texts to use for lyrics.
He's suggesting other texts for use as song lyrics.Reminds me of the time a friend and I set "ein machnisin mei raglayim ba'azara" to Sonny Rollins' tune "St. Thomas."

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Bruce Barth - Klezmer Pianist?

The Jewish Week profiles pianist Bruce Barth.

I loved his work on Andy Statman's "The Hidden Light" album... especially the reharms on "Lecha Dodi."

Good Punk/Bluegrass Shabbos!

White Shabbos has released their debut CD.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Now That's Customer Service

The Klezmer Connection's promise to you...
We will not explore the outer fringes of Klezmer on your time.
We will not give your Aunt Ida a heart attack by doing an ode to heroin in Yiddish.
You will never hear us fuse Klezmer with new wave Japanese hard rock.

Remembering Uzi Hitman

Here's Miriam at Bloghead.

This is Scary - William Shatner Update

William Shatner sings again!

Concert Reports

Dilbert attended a Piamenta concert this summer and describes his feeling about men and women being asked to sit separately.

Velvel attended a Blue Fringe concert. He wants to see them perform w/o 12-14 year-old girls in attendance.

Baruch Dayan Emet

Uzi Hitman 1952-2004

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Kahane Live

17 year old Gavriel Kahane has released his debut album of original music, "Guide Us Home."

He'll be performing at the upcoming Nefesh B'nefesh fundraising concert in Englewood, NJ.

Here's the info:

Congregation Ahavath Torah Proudly Presents
“Remembering Reb Shlomo”
An Evening of Music and Remembrance on the 10th Yahrtzeit of
Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach
To Benefit “Nefesh B’Nefesh”
Revitalizing and Expanding North American Aliyah
Featuring the Legendary Israeli Jam Band
Reva L’Sheva
as featured in the Jerusalem Report and the Jewish Week
with special guests
Gavriel Kahane and Eastbound
WHEN: Saturday Night, Oct. 30th, 9:00 P.M.
WHERE: Cong. Ahavath Torah 240 Broad Ave. Englewood, N.J. 07631
TICKETS: $20/ $15 (18 and under) in advance
$25/$20 (18 and under) at the door
Make checks payable to “Congregation Ahavath Torah”

Digital Accordion

Here's Instapundit on the new Roland digital accordion.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Karduner Concerts.

Yosef Karduner tour schedule here. Three shows over the next three days.

If you haven't seen him, or even if you have, it's a powerful experience. One man and his guitar in tefila and hisbodedus.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

For D.K.

Here's Dewey Decibel's FlipOut Guitar So what if you won't be able to reach the upper frets... it'll still get recognition from the yeshiva crowd. For much of that crowd, looks trumps technique.

Via Chromatic Musings

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Give The Drummer Some!

Frequently at weddings and other simchas, guests will come over and ask to sit in with the band. Most of the time, although not always, they are (or claim to be) drummers. In my experience, they are usually not good. They can't keep time, don't play well, and even in the rare cases where they have some chops, they either rush or drag the beat. What is the point of this exercise? At best, the guest and band manage to get through it without any major trainwrecks, but more often than not, the band simply sounds bad while this is going on.

I'm not talking about the chassan sitting in with the band for a few minutes if he happens to play an instrument. (I have some great stories about those cases too, but not for now.) I'm referring to guests who, whether in the immediate families or not, feel compelled to impose their musical skills --or lack thereof-- on the captive audience.

A few examples:

Recently, I played one wedding where two of the bride's brothers and one of the groom's brothers all played drums. And, of course, they all needed to play during the wedding. One of them, who has had some experience playing with a live band sounded OK. Not great, OK. IOW, no trainwrecks. The other two, who had never before played with a live band were rushing the beat so badly that it was messing up the dancing. Even with relatively quick turns, this ate up 15-20 minutes of the dance set. It wasn't pleasant for the band or the vast majority of the guests who were not watching the brothers play.

At another event, the guest vocalist brought along a yeshiva bachur as his shlepper/sidekick (why he needed a roadie for a microphone is beyond me) and asked if he could sit in. The roadie was terrible. He couldn't keep time and played so loud it was painful to be on stage with him.

A few months back, I attended a wedding where one of the guests took over on drums during the second dance set. The fellow simply couldn't keep the beat. I don't know why the drummer, who was standing next to him, didn't immediately step back in and take over. It was painful to hear. And, everyone who was dancing had to have noticed. The family had spent thousands on the band, but got a sub-par second dance set because one of the guests felt compelled to indulge himself.

There are some bands or bandleaders who allow guests to sit in with them at weddings. Others have (or try to have) a "no sitting in" policy with regard to amateur musicians. I understand both sides. It's hard to say no to someone, especially if they're a family member of the chassan or kallah or if they are persistent. At the same time, no band wants to be in a situation that makes them look/sound bad.

The simplest solution would be if people stopped asking to sit in with bands at simchas. The music will almost always sound better if people would just let the professionals do what they were hired to do. Even if the guest is a good drummer, they should still let the person who was hired play the job. In many cases, the bands have arrangements of the tunes that the amateur simply isn't familiar with, and even when the band isn't playing set arrangements, it will usually sound "tighter" when the regular drummer is behind the drum kit. Obviously, not everyone will listen to this suggestion, but if an awareness helps to mitigate the problem even somewhat, it's an improvement.

I've hedged slightly in the previous 'graph ("usually" and "almost always") because there are occasions where the hired drummer is incompetent and the guest will do a better job. In my experience, this occurs in three different scenarios. The first is when a pickup band is put together for a busy date. Sometimes, the band owner has a hard time finding an available drummer and hires someone who isn't so good because he doesn't feel that he has a choice. (This is mistaken logic. There is always a choice in the NYC area.) This also sometimes occurs with the largest band, when they overextend themselves on a busy date (i.e. Sundays in June).

The second is when the "bad" drummer is the person putting the band together which happens occasionally. I call such gigs "International Date Line gigs" because the drummer is in a different time zone than the rest of the band.

The third is when a singer puts together a pick-up band for a concert. These shows are distinct from the full concerts where the musicians are all either extremely well-rehearsed or reading arrangements off of charts (although the client may not be aware of this). In some cases I've seen, the singers have put unqualified drummers --usually yeshiva kids-- on these shows for a variety of reasons. Often it's because they'll work for less money, sometimes it's because they're friends, and occasionally it's because the drummer's parent/relative is in the booking/promoting business and they're trying to curry favor with them. Needless to say, regardless of the reason, this is unfair to the organization promoting the show and to the people who have purchased tickets to the concert. It's also unfair to the musicians earning a living in the business who have their prices undercut by kids.

At one such concert, the drummer had no idea of how to end a song with a band. As a result, every song ended in a train-wreck as the singer tried to slow the song down to end it and the drummer kept playing at tempo. At the beginning of the show, the singer confessed to me that he knew the drummer wasn't good, but he was hoping that using him would get him preference from the boy's mother who is a concert promoter.

At another concert, the singer as a favor to a friend, put him on drums. I knew it was going to be a rough gig when the sax player pointed out that the bass drum was backwards. The drummer had a rack for his toms, and he'd mounted his kick pedal to the back of the bass drum and had it facing backwards (with the anti-skid spikes pointing towards him). The sax player earned double duty on that gig, in my opinion, because he had to conduct the drummer, who apparently couldn't count to three, throughout the performance.

Incidentally, the problem with guests wanting to sing with the band is also a huge one... perhaps later.

Lubavitcher Beatboxing

Here's a video clip ofMatisyahu Beatboxing

Via JewschooL

Analyze This!

Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" B'iyun.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Oy Vey, Mateys!

The Telegraph Online reports on a wedding "pirate shtick" gone wrong:
The bride’s uncle pulled a pistol on the groom and best man, who were role-playing as pirates during a wedding reception at the Bounty Lounge late Saturday night, police said.
Gerard Moccia, 55, of Medford, Mass., was arrested about 45 minutes later on two felony counts of criminal threatening, Detective Sgt. Andrew Lavoie said. Moccia was a guest at the wedding, which was followed by a pirate-themed reception at the Bounty Lounge at the Holiday Inn on Northeastern Boulevard, Lavoie said.
As part of the reception, the groom and best man were to burst into the lounge and “take over” the large-scale pirate ship model that graces the lounge, a former nightclub now used as a function room, Lavoie said. The bride was on or near the ship at the time, he said.
The two men wore tuxedos, but they had put on eye patches and wielded plastic toy swords to play their part as pirates, Lavoie said.

eBay item

This eBay item didn't get any bids.

Monday, October 11, 2004

That's What It's All About

Here's guest hocker Dilbert:
This year, my 3 year old was old enough to have some understanding of what when on. He insisted on kissing every Torah, sang as loud as he could, and everytime the singing stopped(new Hakafah, new song) he looked at me and said, 'more music? more singing?'. On Shabbat and today you can hear him playing with his toys, singing 'aneinu, aneinu, be'yom koreinu'. Of course, he doesn't get the words exactly right, but you know what he means, and the tune is right on. I saw Simchat Torah through his eyes, and all of a sudden, all the people talking, not paying attention, leaving early, eating early, it didn't matter and didn't bother me. It was the best Simchat Torah for me in years.
I've got nothing to add.

Another Jewish Press Review

In contrast to the lifted review we mentioned earlier, here's Menachem Wecker's J-Press review of Seth Nadel's release, "Achas Shoalti" form the same issue.

Lo Talin cont...

This post on Lo Talin triggered a lot of email. Here are some of them.

MoC emails:
An interesting question: who is the ba'al habayis, the band leader or the ba'al simcha? If it's the ba'al simcha, I think he's patur because the band leader is his agent and agency suspends the requirement of immediate payment.
Also lo tallin applies only to the immediate day of work. As long as there is an understanding by the band members that it is customary NOT to get paid the night of the gig, the issur of lo tallin is suspended and it just becomes like any other debt obligation of the band leader.
Obviously you are right that it is inappropriate to string the band members along but I don't think it's lo tallin if the customary practice is to not get paid the night of the gig. On the other hand there is also a mitzvas aseh to pay someone on the day of the work. Band leaders are foregoing that mitzvah.
Treppenwitz's David Bogner writes:
I have to say a few words on this subject because it is one that heavily influenced my decision to play for one band (most of you know which one I'm talking about), and to stop playing for several others altogether (ditto).
Yes, you are correct that all of the main club date offices insist on paying the musicians as freelancers rather than regular employees. This should make them responsible to pay the musicians as 'day laborers' according to the halacha you quoted.
However, there are a few factors that come into play that you did not mention:
1. The club date offices are acting as contractors on behalf of a client who is not obligated to pay until after the end of the affair. In the halacha you quoted, it seems to be assumed that the person doing the hiring is the end user (the owner of the field... the proprietor of the factory, etc.). If I am incorrect and it is not implicitly assumed, then there is at least a lack of ample discussion of how subcontractors should be treated under the applicable halacha.
2. Each affair is booked for a set minimum number of hours, but it can, and often does, go overtime. This makes having checks prepared beforehand problematic. On the few occasions that the gig went 'undertime', the band for which I did most of my work collected the original agreed upon fee and paid me as though we had done the full time.
3. Many musicians have 'special deals' with the offices resulting in sophisticated individual calculations for many of the paychecks that need to be cut. This also makes having pre-made checks impractical. It is worth noting that these 'special deals' also call into question the status of many of the musicians as 'day laborers' (I'm talking about their halachic status, not their status under U.S. Labor law).
4. Many times the bandleader on the bandstand is not a member of management and is not privy to what each person is supposed to be paid (see 'special deals', above). This makes it impractical to have the leader pay the musicians.
5. There are often tips (yes Virgina, there are actually some honest offices that pass tips along to the musicians!). If the musicians pay was computed before the affair, it would create a very confusing situation for delivering this extra compensation.
6. Honesty. As I mentioned before, I stopped working for several club date offices (one in particular) that abused the process in order to gain additional 'float' by holding the musicians pay for weeks or even months after the client has paid for an affair. I cannot place enough emphasis upon this point. If a musician is working for a dishonest / unethical office, no amount of quoted halacha will fix the problem... and if they are working for an honest office, no amount of quoted halacha should be necessary.
7. In 17 years, the office for which I did most of my work miscalculated my pay two or three times; each times in my favor! I never missed a tip... and I know for a fact that they paid me on a few occasions even after being strung along (or even 'stiffed') by clients. When affairs were cancelled, they often placed musicians from the cancelled bands as 'freebees' on other affairs the same night in order to a) enhance the other affairs, and b) keep the musicians working. Even though the office benefited by being seen as giving a 'gift' to the clients on the other affairs... the gift was given entirely at their own expense!
8. The halacha as you quoted it should protect the interest of the workers. But the honesty and ethical behavior of the offices (which would indicate their acceptance of halacha in the first place) is a necessary ingredient for a positive result.
So I guess my message to musicians concerned with this aspect of Jewish law: Quoting halacha to a person who does not follow it may make you feel better, but it won't help in 'Olam haZeh' (this world). Part of having free will is being selective about with whom you do business... and in whose fields you toil!
I’m reasonably certain that in most cases it is the band owner that is considered to be the ba’al habayis, as it were, and not the ba’al simcha. My understanding is that generally freelance musicians view themselves as working for the band and not the client. In most cases, the musicians don’t even have an idea of whom -- other than the band owner — they’d collect payment from... The chosson?... His father?... The kallah’s family?... Somebody’s uncle???

In Hilchos Schirus 11:4, the Rambam addresses the case of shlichus and writes: “omar lahem scharchem al ba’al habayis, shneyhem einam ovrin mishum bal talin, zeh l’fi shelo sachran, v’zeh l’fi shein peulasan etzlo. V’im lo amar lahem scharchem al ba’al habayis, hashliach over” IOW, it seems clear that Rambam holds that unless the contractor explicitly tells them that the ba’al habayis will pay them, the agent is obligated to pay them on that day and violates the prohibition if he doesn’t.

The Shulchan Aruch in Choshen Mishpat 339:7 is even clearer: “v’im lo amar lahem scherchem al ba’al habayis, afilu lo amar lahem scharchem alai ela sachram stam, hu chayav b’scharam, l’fichach hu over mishum bal talin. The Rema adds that if the workers know that “ain hamelacha shelo”, then the shliach isn’t over b’stam. This may apply in the case of a larger office where the contractor is not an owner, but it would rarely apply in the case of smaller bands where the contractor is the band owner.

Interestingly, the Pischei Teshuvah quotes the Ma’amar Kaddishin who says that the reason the mechaber writes “Haomer l’shlucho” instead of “omer adam l’shlucho” is to teach that even in a case of agency, although b’dieved the ba’al habayis isn’t over, l’chatchila he’s over on ba’al t’shahe.

My impression is that if a client doesn’t pay, the musicians have no legal recourse to sue directly. Rather, the band has to sue the client, and the musician’s claim would be against the band.

This is the perspective I’ve always taken; that the bandleader is NOT a shaliach for the ba’al simcha and that Lo Talin generally does apply. I always pay the musicians at the end of the gig. I’ve only once forgotten to bring my checkbook on a gig and the check went out first thing the next morning. I consider myself obligated to my musicians even when the client has stiffed me. (Thankfully this doesn’t happen too often, although, I’ve had to lay out money for months on several occasions when clients were late with payment.) I don’t believe that it is customary not to get paid the night of the gig, except in the case of larger offices where it MAY be so depending on their agreement with a given musician and/or contingent on whether or not the client pays in cash. (A whole ‘nother discussion, incidentally.)

In the case of a large office, where the contractor is not one of the owners, the p’tur of agency may apply – although it is certainly not in the spirit of the halacha as I’ve indicated above. The issues of potential overtime fees as well as the special arrangements these offices have with some musicians are additional reasons why in the case of a larger office it is logistically difficult to pay at the end of the gig and this may be implicit in the arrangement they have with their musicians. If so, then there is no violation of lo talin, although I believe there still would be a bittul aseh.

I’m not sure why the amount a musician is supposed to get paid would affect his status as a day laborer, though. My impression has been that it’s based on the length of time a worker is hired for.

For the sake of completeness, I should point out that the employee has to ask for payment in order for the obligation to kick in. Also, if the employee is aware that the employer only has money on certain days, then the obligation doesn’t kick in either. (This point may also be relevant to the following email from Uncertain Trumpet.) For a better understanding of the relevant halachos, I strongly recommend reading the entire Siman in Shulchan Aruch and the entire perek in Rambam’s Hilchos S’chirus.

I agree with David that quoting halacha to people who have clearly demonstrated a lack of concern with following it is usually pointless, but I do feel that there are some who act inappropriately out of ignorance. These people, who simply haven’t thought about what they’re doing and most likely are merely copying what they’ve seen others do, may change their behavior when made aware of these issues.

Incidentally, the band David refers to, Neshoma Orchestra, has a well-deserved reputation for always trying to take care of their musicians and do right by them. This should be standard operating procedure in any Jewish industry.

I couldn’t agree more with David’s final point. If more musicians would refuse to work for unethical contractors the industry would be in a much better state. When I started out in the biz and was looking for work, I didn’t work hard to get into the big band that is the logical first stop for musicians in our end of the business because most of the musicians I respected wouldn’t work for them. I have done a few gigs for them over the years, but only on last minute notice — I won’t hold a date for them — and I charge them a premium. And, there are many bands/performers I turn down when they call me because they’re not ethical or honest.

Finally, Uncertain Trumpet emails:
One of the problems compounding this issue is that bands are waiting longer and longer to get paid by some clients. Unfortunately, because of the bottom feeding tendencies of our business, even larger bands work on much narrower margins than they used to.
This has two direct results. One is that they may not be able to afford the staffing required to process payment properly. Another is that the money is simply not available to lay out for what could be dozens of musicians on a given date. Having said that, bands could be better about paying on time. So could Yeshivas. And Jobbers. And wholesalers. And retailers. And clients.
As I noted above, this may be a valid reason, but the employee needs to be made aware of the situation going in.

In summation, I believe that Lo Talin applies much of the time, especially in the case of smaller bands, and in situations where freelance musicians are used by larger bands. There may be some exceptions due to the "agency loophole", but even in those cases, it's only b'dieved, there is most likely a bittul aseh, and the spirit of the halacha is violated.

Lenny Solomon/Kesher Update

Via the Shlock Rock newsletter:
Here is the latest update on the new album. The new Lenny Solomon album will be called Tnu Lanu Siman or Give us a Sign. The album will be released on October 28 in Israel and November 1 in the USA . There are 13 songs on this album which is all in Hebrew. As mentioned before in this newsletter there are lots of surprises on this CD like four Kesher songs re-released to satisfy the fans who have been asking for years. For those not familiar - in the 1980's Lenny's first band was called Kesher which means Connection. They released 3 recordings in 1984, 1985 and 1986. Lenny wrote 13 songs on those 3 albums and people are always wanting to know when they will be re-released on CD. It could be that will happen in the near future but in the meantime, Lenny re-recorded four of the songs that he wrote for the band and they are on this new CD. So Kesher fans, you can now hear four of your favorite songs on this album.
It's past time Kesher rereleased their CD's or a greatest hits compilation, and did a reunion tour.

Easy Listening Punk Classics

CNN reports on punk rock yoga.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Jewish Press "Review"

The current edition of the Jewish Press includes a "Top Chai Review" of "Shabbos Comes Alive" by guest reviewer Alan Jay Gerber. (No link because it's not posted on their site.) We're pointing this one out because Mr. Garber apparently writes reviews by lifting verbatim from the liner notes. Virtually his entire "review" is a word-for-word version of portions of the liner notes. It even looks like he may have written this piece without listening to the album. There is almost no specific description of the music on this album and what there is could have been gleaned from the liner notes. Those of you with a hard copy of the J-Press can easily check this by comparing the review to the liner notes which are posted on the "Shabbas Comes Alive" website here.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

On the other hand...

Stopping in at Sam Ash does have one advantage. They're the only music store that consistently has those cheesy free mags/newletters covering the LI and NJ metal scenes. You know... the ones in which the highest praise a band can receive for a performance is that they kicked ***.

These are the only place you get to read reviews like this (from Paragon music magazine's review of W.A.S.P. in Sayreville on July 31st, 2004):
Blackie had an awesome custom-made mic stand which looked like a giant spine with a skull and cross-bones at the top of it. He was able to jump on it and rock back and forth, and I must say, watching a guy near his '50's move around that much is VERY entertaining.
And, they've got pictures. Music journalism at its finest!

Dm Goes Shopping

I had to make a quick stop at Sam Ash today, and the experience reminded me of why I usually avoid shopping there.

Today's agenda was to replace a mic cable for tonight's gig. Simple enough. It generally takes me 1-2 minutes to order one online, but since I needed it today and I was passing Sam Ash anyway, I decided to buy it there. Here's how I think the transaction should have gone:

Step one) Enter store
Step two) Select mic cable from display rack which is located in easy-to-find and well-marked area.
Step three) check out

Assuming there's no line for the cashier, the entire procedure shouldn't take more than five minutes.

Here's what happens in "Sam Ash world."

Step one) Enter store
Step two) Wander into potential "mic cable section" of store.
Step three) Make eye contact with Sam Ash employees who are happily ignoring the only customer in their department.
Step four) Browse section looking for mic cables with no success.
Step five) Tell employee who finally deigns to offer help that I need a mic cable... with an on/off switch.
Step six) Try to explain to uncomprehending employee what "mic cable with on/off switch" means.
Step seven) Follow employee to another department where mic cables are located.
Step eight) Wait for said employee to give you mic cable.
Step nine) Ask said employee, who is seemingly just hanging around, for mic cable.
Step ten) Listen to employee explain that it's not his department.
Step eleven) Employee calls for assistance.
Step twelve) Another Sam Ash employee shows up and locates mic cable.
Step thirteen) Sam Ash employee locates "grabber" tool and takes cable down from hook on wall near ceiling.
Step fourteen) Original Sam Ash employee is wowed by concept of switch on cable and takes a moment to "check it out."
Step fifteen) Employees discuss who should get the credit for the sale. (They're paid on comission.)
Step sixteen) Employee enters item into computer.
Step seventeen) Employee manually fills out paper slip listing items purchased
Step eighteen) Employee instructs me to take said paper and the mic cable to the cashier.
Step nineteen) Cashier rings up sale on old-fashioned credit card unit, manually taking imprint of credit card.
Step twenty) Security guard -- who has watched checkout from about three feet away -- checks receipt to verify payment.
Step twenty one) Finally leave store, further commited to shopping elsewhere in the future.