Friday, April 30, 2004

More on Boro Park Rock!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The lady doth protest too much, methinks!

Splish, Splash!

treppenwitz on "Song of a Clean Nation."

Boro Park Rocks!

Heimishtown writes:
I’ve emailed a number of people in the past several months asking them to reflect on their choice of using a specific frum community as an example of something disparaging.
A few thoughts:
Community-level rechilus or hotza'as shem ra is very problematic, and I don't think we want to go there. I would like to believe that it is usually not an entire frum community we mean to condemn, rather the behavior of specific individuals within that community.
In the case of the Boro Park rock term, it is just interesting to note that waddaya know, they're from everywhere but Boro Park. Perhaps the implication is that "this is what sells in Boro Park." I imagine that they sell all around the frum circuit (to be honest, most JM productions don't attract me). I don't get this "holy aura" feeling in Lakewood or Boro Park or Williamsburg or Monsey (all places I've asked people to take a step back and think about how they've written or spoken of, and all places where I can find at least ten families I'm close to). I sometimes feel that people are quick to paint an entire diverse frum community with one black brushstroke, and it's time to reevaluate the integrity of such assessments.

I don't know about the other cases she's talking about, but in this case, this is just silly. First, I think that her interpretation of “Boro Park rock” as being a putdown of a community is incorrect. In its common usage, its more of a descriptive term that differentiates the style from other Jewish music like that of the “Carlebachesque” bands or groups like Safam or Diaspora who have a unique sound. It’s the same as describing something as having a Nashville or Motown sound even though the artist being described may not be from that area.

The fact that many people who use the term happen not to like that style of music doesn’t make the term itself a pejorative.

Second, much as “Cookie” may not like to admit it, there is a clearly distinguishable Boro Park sound. And, even though many of the singers don’t currently live there currently, much of the industry is based there, so it’s fair to describe it that way. For instance, the big record label/distributors are based in Boro Park, several of the big producers in that end of the industry live there. Yisroel Lamm, of Neginah writes a lot of the BP rock arrangements, and helped to pioneer the style. Neginah Orchestra is based in BP – they’ve done a lot over the years to create and promote this sound to the community. The big music stores, Mostly Music and Gal Paz are located there as well. Country Yossi magazine, the JM industry’s fave advertising circular – er, Jewish interest magazine -- is based in BP. Etc, etc, etc.

The reality is that almost all of the music that is typically referred to as “Boro Park Rock” is either composed, arranged, produced, performed, or distributed by a Boro Park based entity. And, even in cases where it’s not, there’s a strong overlap with the BP scene in terms of arrangers, composers, studio musicians, etc. The same people are for the most part involved in producing this stuff.

Alomg these lines, Velvel points out:
There has been some hullabaloo about some Jewish musical terminology which may be offensive to people who aren't directly involved in the music scene.
On some sheet music, in the area where it's noted what the beat is (eg - "disco"), I have seen a label "Crown Heights Rock" actually printed on the sheet. We all know exactly what that means
Maybe Heimish is offended, but the fact is in the JM industry, this is a common nomenclature. And I would venture to say, that although they may be different neighborhoods, "Crown Heights Rock" and "Boro Park Rock" mean the same thing. I feel comfortable using either term, although I enjoy using "Hassidisco," a term I learned from BlogInDm.
Maybe the residents of Boro Park or Crown Heights don't actually make the music, but as far as I know, it's widely enjoyed there.
I can certainly say that I think Disco sucks just as easily as I can say that "Boro Park Rock" sucks.

To give credit where its due… I first saw the term “Hassidisco” used by Henry Sapoznik in his introduction to “The Compleat Klezmer”, a great collection of klezmer transcriptions that Amazon has here:

Pete Sokolow’s introductory essay on the theory and performance of klezmer is a must-read, and the tunes are great too.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

High School Music Tastes

The Jewish Journal Of Greater Los Angeles had an article on a then upcoming Blue Fringe concert on April 26th.This 'graph was funny.
"We’re sold in Lakewood, [N.J.], which is a yeshiva community," Rosenblatt said. "And then we get e-mails from kids who say they don’t listen to Jewish music at all, but they like us. There’s no reason why high school kids can’t have in their CD book Nirvana, Guns N’ Roses and all of us."
Nirvana and G'nR'? That dates him.

And The Beat Goes On...

Continued madness in this week's Jewish Press Letters to the Editor section.

Dr. Robert Solomon responds to Rabbi Moshe Shochet's letter responding to his letter about Rabbi Goldwasser's article on music.
So, at least according to reader Moshe Shochet, it is not musical notes that threaten to corrupt, but rather "the beat" (Letters, April 23).
In responding to my earlier letter to the editor, Rabbi Shochet sounds the alarm: The pulsation of a “rock beat” will so craze us that our very souls will become corrupted. But what really stands out in his letter was that rather than address the facts, he resorts to name calling and then retreats behind what he perceives to be the invincible wall of claiming to speak for “Daas Torah.” (Kind of like in yeshiva when you’d ask a sincere question that the melamed couldn`t handle and he`d throw you out of class and call you a chatzuf.)
Sorry, Rabbi Shochet, but much as you might wish it to be, you as an individual are not infallible, nor is the right-wing community you presume to speak for.
As far as my alleged chutzpah is concerned, I welcome the charge. Better that than being a purveyor of skewed spiritual theory, a declarer of fatwah-like pronouncements, and an instigator of needless anxiety and guilt among innocent music lovers.
As for that "rock beat," I guess the good rabbi hasn’t been to any Mordechai ben David concerts lately, or joined the men contorting themselves to the "rock beat" at frum weddings.
Dr. Robert M. Solomon, Brooklyn, NY

Kafar and the Case of the Minor Diva.

I hate it when this happens. It's a shame because they're a really great band to hear live. When people play games like this, though, then they deserve the rep they get.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Music on Yom Ha'atzmaut

Hirhurim addresses the issue of having live music on Yom Ha'atzmaut here and here.

MO Chassid comments on the issue here.

Jewish Music for Yom Ha'atzmaut

Here. Check out "Eatin' Kosher Chicken!"

All Safam! All The Time!

JMWC announces a SAFAM FEST on 24/7 Radio. The burning question is... which version of "Jerusalem" will it feature?

Yossi Piamenta - Interview

Yossi Piamenta ispeaks to Cleveland Jewish Radio.

Lo Yilmidu Od...

treppenwitz on Yom Ha'atzmaut:
You can tell a lot about a country by the songs that become popular during times of war. If there is one reason I am here, and nowhere else in the world, it is because of a song that became popular after the Yom Kippur war in 1973. The words of the song contain the hopeful chorus, “I promise you my little daughter that this will be the last war”.

The Return of Evan and Jaron

Jewsweek writes about Evan and Jaron.
The new pricing experiment isn't the only the aspect of their careers the Lowensteins are hoping to change. Despite promises otherwise, Columbia touted Evan and Jaron not on their musical talents -- a soulful modern-day Simon and Garfunkel -- but on their religious observance and their teen heartthrob status. "We kept Shabbos. Like Shabbos is really sexy," Evan says sarcastically. "We don't have a problem talking about the fact that we don't play on Friday nights, but it was the underbelly. We never even discussed it. It was never an issue until Columbia Records used it as a platform for publicity."

Friday, April 23, 2004

The Power of Music

With regard to the Rabbi Goldwasser article referenced in previous posts, there are many sources that take a contrary approach and either hold that all music is, or can be, spiritually uplifting and is permissible. I hope at some point to post more on both sides of the issue.

Here’s one thought on the subject from the other side.

In an essay “Omek Simchas Purim – Zamru Maskil” that was published in “Mevakshei Torah”, Rabbi Matisyahu Salomon quotes R’Shlomo Alkavitz, the author of Lecha Dodi, who conveys this idea beautifully. (Sorry, I don’t have the volume/publication info here. It’s in the Purim edition from a few years back.) In Manos Levi on Megillah, R' Alkavetz asks: Why didn’t Achashveirosh provide any temptations for the sense of hearing at the party described in the beginning of Megilas Esther? He provided temptations for all of the other senses; smell – scents from the garden; sight – beautiful tapestries to see; touch; luxurious gold and silver beds; and taste – “Yayn malchus rav.” Why didn’t he provide music to tempt the sense of hearing?

R' Shlomo Alkavetz explains that a nigun is tremendously powerful. It can raise man’s soul to dveykus. He writes that the angels communicate through shira; the nigun is the language of heaven. In fact, he writes that that’s why babies feel comfortable when we sing to them, because it reminds their neshamos of shamayim where they were just recently listening to the angel’s shira.

Based on this, he answers that Achashveirosh’s intention at the party was to use the senses to entice the Jews to sin, and he was afraid to have music at the party because then they might have been spiritually uplifted by the music, enabling them to transcend their surroundings and avoid succumbing to temptation.

R' Salomon asks: The Nesivos (in Megilas Sesarim) explains that Achashveirosh’s intent was that each thing would incur a direct violation, for example, he had prostitutes there to tempt the people, so why didn’t he have musician’s playing erotic music? We all know the power of music in being moshech people to ta’avah.

To answer, he quotes “Zaken Echad” (based on Radak) who says that we’ll never totally understand Tehillim until we understand the musical instructions and instruments assigned to each piece. The power of a nigun is to add “hesber v’havana b’dakus hadevarim.” To this point, the Meiri explains the pasuk of “Zamru maskil”; that singing gives insight. However, it only gives insight, or is meorer that which is hidden in our hearts and souls. In other words, R' Salomon feels, a nigun is neither tameh or kadosh, rather the tune is meorer what’s in one's heart. Even if a given tune is meorer some to ta’avah, nevertheless, the same tune can bring an Ish Kodesh to dveykus.

This answers R' Salomon’s question. Achashveirosh didn’t have music at the party because he knew that its possible to find the kedusha in any melody, so the music might actually have had the opposite effect of inspiring the Jews to do teshuva.

The obvious conclusion – even coarse secular music – presumably what Achashveirosh would have had playing – can be used to grow spiritually.

Incidentally, in this essay, R” Salomon protests today’s Jewish pop music. He says that it’s commercial—designed to hook people and get them into it. He says that the “star” mentality of promoting the individual entertainers is abhorrent and that certainly most of them aren’t worthy of being role models

Letters to the Jewish Press

The Letters to the Editor section of this week's Jewish Press contains some responses to the letters we noted here.

Here they are:
More On Non-Jewish Melodies (I)
I wish to protest the tremendous chutzpah exhibited by reader Robert M. Solomon in his April 2 letter to the editor responding to Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser’s earlier criticism of non-Jewish music being appropriated by frum Jews.
I have no problem with debating the issue in a respectful manner (see reader Kalman Fischer’s letter in the same issue), but what Mr. Solomon did was to attack a beloved rabbinical figure and insult Daas Torah.
I’m sure that Rabbi Goldwasser in his column was not referring to simple and harmless melodies that our holy tzaddikim and rebbes adopted and to which they added genuine Jewish ruach and taam.
What Rabbi Goldwasser was no doubt warning against is the type of rock or rap music distinguished by wild and provocative beats (and whose original lyrics celebrate immorality and sinful lifestyles). L’havdil bein kodosh l’chol, bein Yisrael l’amim.
Rabbi Moshe Shochet, Brooklyn, NY
More On Non-Jewish Melodies (II)
Re the recent discussion in your news paper regarding non-Jewish songs being utilized for Jewish purposes:
In chassidus it is stated that song is a pen of the soul, meaning that a composer puts his inner essence into the songs he composes.This leads to the logical conclusion that a song composed by a person whose inner essence is unholy will contain that dimension in the song.
In most cases we are not on the spiritual level necessary to discern the negative dimension of a song. It is true that Chabad rebbes have made chassidic songs out of non-Jewish songs. But it is generally accepted in Chabad that the only ones who can do such a thing are rebbes — tzaddikim who, because of their great spiritual powers, can raise the song from the mundane to the holy.
Rabbi Pesach Scheiner, Boulder, CO

First, about Rabbi Shochet’s letter. The point about the Solomon letter being disrespectful is obvious. It was gratuitous and uncalled for, in my opinion and I should have noted as much in my original link. He asserts that Rabbi Goldwasser only meant to warn about rock or rap music with wild beats and inappropriate lyrics, but would have no problem with “simple and harmless melodies” adapted by Tzadikim, A look at Rabbi Goldwasser's article shows that at best this is speculation, since Rabbi Goldwasser makes no such distinction in his essay.

With regard to Rabbi Scheiner’s argument that only Rebbes can adapt secular tunes, this is a line of argument that is given frequently. It implies that not all secular tunes are forbidden, just that we aren’t able to determine which are/aren’t acceptable without rabbinic guidance. This line of reasoning (which Rabbi Schochet also adopted) stands in opposition to the idea that all secular tunes are inherently forbidden, which is clearly the way the original letter writers understood Rabbi Goldwasser’s column.

The end of his letter seems to imply that the Rebbe’s role is not just determining which secular melodies are acceptable, but also “elevating” them. I’m curious to know what the sources for that idea are. If anyone has any familiarity with them, please pass the info along.

Hat tip, E!

Thursday, April 22, 2004

No Kidding!

CNN reports: "Former Jackson adviser: 'Michael's life is in serious decline.'"

Via The Town Crier

Email Problem

Blog in Dm has been having email issues (thanks, Microsoft!). If you've emailed us over the last few days and we haven't responded, please resend.


Monday, April 19, 2004

Again with Britney

That "Kosher Sex" rabbi pens an essay on the importance of the father-daughter realtionship called "The Britney syndrome."

Sample 'graphs:
Where you do read about a father's central involvement in his daughter's career, it usually leads to respectable women like Steffi Graff and the Williams sisters, who have resisted the offers for provocative photo spreads even after they became famous as tennis stars. This is not because mothers don't love their daughters but because men are much more successful at protecting their daughters from other men. And when a daughter receives strong masculine validation from a loving and caring father, she is usually not desperate for sexual attention from manipulative and hormonal men.
As for the criticisms that too close a relationship with your daughter will impede her ability to later form close connections with romantic partners, exactly the opposite is true. A young woman with an involved and loving father gains the confidence in herself to sever the childhood ties with her father and begin a loving relationship with a man precisely because she has learned to trust men. She has no fear of being vulnerable -- a prerequisite for romantic love -- because her father has shown her an example of a man who can be trusted and relied upon.
But if she feels betrayed by her own father, she will often run to another man more to escape pain than to find love, which is what usually makes her a prime candidate for that revealing photo spread.
I wonder what lessons a man's daughters will learn from a father who allows his writings to be serialized in Playboy, whose books and financial dealings stand in direct contrast to the values and ideals he claims to espouse, and
who is a self-acknowledged publicity hound whose preferred social set includes many of the Hollywood elites like those whose behaviour he condemns in this column.

People who live in glass houses should get undressed in the basement!

Adi Ran Ran

Velvel was at Shalos Seudos this past Shabbos.
The rule is: If you are going to lead the congregation in a song that may not be their normal fare, only use a tune that you feel comfortable singing in its entirety by yourself. Do not depend on members of the congregation to join in.
I picked the slow Carlebach tune, Shifchi KaMayim, and I did not know it as well as I thought I did. The tune did not come to me. I tried in vain to sing it for a few painful minutes, while some brave souls occasionally tried to help me. I'm sure there were a few people there who would be able to sing along on this simple melody, myself included, if there was only one capable person who both knew the melody and could carry a tune. Being familiar with the melody is not knowing it.
Another caveat: the second part (also called "the high part") of a Jewish song is usually catchy. The first part might not be. You have to get through the first part to get to the second part. Make sure you know both parts.
He's pledging to learn three tunes solidly for the next go round.

Our suggestion:try a different melody for Shifchi, like the one that can be heard here.

Friday, April 16, 2004

Jewish Singer Tops Japanese Charts

The Forward reports on musician Scott Jacoby who has hit the top of the charts in Japan.
"It's fluke central. I'm not the best singer; in fact, I'm probably closer to the worst singer.

Sense and Responsibility (Sorry, Jane!)

The Jewish Journal Of Greater Los Angeles interviews popsters Evan and Jaron.
"Having established ourselves as the ‘Orthodox guys,’ we’re Modern Orthodox," Jaron says, although Evan is more religious than he is. Single and about to start touring next week, Jaron says he thinks twice about his behavior because he’s become a role model to the Jewish community. In the last four years, Jaron says they’ve received tens of thousands of letters from Jews across the denominational spectrum. "And that’s great. But it also comes with a lot of responsibilities to maintain."

Thursday, April 15, 2004

The Chesed Symphony

Received a magazine from the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation in the mail. Titled "Chesed", the current issue features an article by Rabbi Yosef C. Golding called "The Chesed Symphony" and subtitled "Jewish Music: Weaving Melodies of Unlimited Kindness." The article primarily focuses on the activities of "Simchas Chava", a project launched by David Nachman Golding, better known as Ding, that arranges for well-known Jewish singers to visit and perform for homebound and hospitalized children. Ding founded Simchas Chava in memory of his mother, Mrs. Chava Golding, a"h, who was very involved in Bikur Cholim.

The article includes the following disclaimer:
This article offers just a sampling of the many singers and musicians who give of their time and talent to help others.
For the most part, this article is a rewrite of previously published material in the Jewish Observer.

There is one noticeable omission, though. While the tone the article takes is that of a report by an outside observer, the author fails to mention the fact that the organization he's writing about, Simchas Chava, was founded in memory of his mother, and that he is Ding's brother. Curious!

On Sefirah Albums

MO Chassid is complaining about the "sefirah album" phenomenon of recent years.

I may post my own thoughts on the issue as time permits.

He does have an interesting typo where he writes:
What often seems to be the case these days is that when a JM composer's bank account is no longer overflowing, he sits down, turns on some rock and roll radio station and then puts some pasuking (Biblical verses) to a tune that resembles the rock song.
Pasuking! On reflection though, perhaps that isn't a bad way to describe the genre.

Update: MO emails that the typo has been corrected.

US Military Bugler Shortage


More than a few trumpeters are not going to be pleased with this one.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

More Memories of Ira Silber Z"L

Rabbi Daniel Wasserman adds his thoughts over on the Discussion Board.


The following was included in a recent email sent out over Pesach.
THE CHEVRA (Shulamis girls cant keep their elbows covered when it comes to
how hot this boy band is) ROCKS OUT Edward R. Murrow H.S. When: Saturday
Night, April 10th @ 9:45pm Where: Edward Murrow HS Details: Also, Saturday
Night, April 10th @ 9:30 pmAlso, Saturday Night, April 10th @ 9:30pm The
Chevra, Eli Gerstner, and Michoel Pruzansky @ Edward R. Murrow H.S. Avenue
L and E. 17th Street in Brooklyn. Tickets: $20, $25, $29. For information
and tickets:= Contact: 718-627-1386
I know that the concert has already happened, but I thought the description was, er, unique.

Cuts Like A Knife

Fox News reports on surgeons listening to music in the operating room.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

Bedikas Chametz

An Open Letter To My Friends In The Jewish Music Industry.

My dear colleagues,

As part of his Shabbos Hagadol drasha, the Rav of our shul raised the question of why we do not make a bracha of "Shehecheyanu" on "Bedikas Chametz". He offered up a number of different answers including the following philosophical approach. He explained that one of the ideas behind "Bedikas Chametz" is that in addition to the search for physical "chametz", it reflects the search for – and removal of – spiritual leaven as well. The search for sin and evil, although an important cause, is a sad one that therefore doesn't warrant a bracha of Shecheyanu.

As a proof, he cited the famous Midrash about Kriyas Yam Suf where the angels wanted to sing shira, and Hashem told them to stop;"masei yadai tovim bayam v'atem omrim shira?" Confronting sin, although it is crucial, is not something we are pleased to do, and so we do not recite a bracha thanking Hashem for bringing us to that point.

The following post is one that I had hoped not to have to write.

Several months ago I posted with regard to a scandal involving one of the JM singers which had occurred about six weeks prior in Israel. The full text of that post, "A Dilemma", can be found here. In that post, I wrote the following:
The industry's response to this scandal is even more important than the individual artists. To date, there has been no public response by the industry, and perhaps there shouldn't be, but privately there should be some deep introspection on the part of those who produce and promote Jewish music.
It is my hope that people in the industry take this message to heart, rise to the challenge, and help to make our community better. If not, know this… people are watching and the truth will out!
I had hoped that the matter would end there. Sadly, I was wrong.

Over the last few months, I've watched as this artist has continued to be built up by the JM industry. He did drop out of sight for a short time, but he's already back and getting "star" billing at an upcoming concert. Additionally, over the past few months, his picture has been featured on the redesigned homepage of one Jewish Music website, and a song of his was released on a "best of" compilation CD. The song had been a hit, but there were many other songs that could have just as easily been included on the CD in its place.

It seems clear that some people in the JM field have no problem with promoting this individual. I was forwarded copies of an email exchange in which the promoter of the upcoming concert was challenged about his choosing to promote this individual. His response:
"I know what he did, I also know what he allegedly did, he is a good guy, I know him well. Imagine girls throwing themselves at your feet day in day out? Like I say you can't judge until you've been in his shoes (you should be so lucky!!! :)"
Is there no shame? Why must we promote an artist who behaves like this? And let us be honest, we all know about his behavior. The response of those in the industry to the reports of his arrest in Israel last September was one of "so 'X' got caught", and not one of surprise or shock that he would have been engaged in such activities at all.

In December, one respondent wrote in response to my original post:
"Where I do agree that some kind of exclusion should take place is on the concert and recording circuit. Let's be realistic. No one is hiring him any time soon. And keep in mind that a person can always do T'shuva."
It's only a few months later, and already, it's as if nothing ever happened. We as an industry – and as frum Jews for that matter – cannot allow this to go on. We are obligated to protest. And, if we don't confront the issue now, then others will do it for us, and the" Chillul Hashem" will be that much greater. The Lanner episode should have taught us all about the futility of attempting to cover up such behavior. The story is out there – it's already been covered on several websites that I'm aware of – and we do our industry and image grave harm if we don't condemn this behavior. Our lack of response not only reflects on us as individuals, it also causes our profession to be viewed in a very negative light.

There are those who will argue that we are required to be "dan l'kaf zechus" and that even if the charges are true, we should allow for the fact that this performer has done teshuva. Although we are certainly required to do just that, taking this approach without addressing what has been happening is simply wrong. It's not just my personal opinion that I'm expressing here. I have consulted with Rabbonim who have experience addressing these issues and they feel the same way. (Indeed, this post has been vetted by one of them.)

Others will argue that Jewish music performers aren't meant to be role models. The fact that some of these performers don't want to accept the responsibility doesn't change the fact that JM performers are looked up to by many of the youth in our community. I wish that it were not the case, but the reality is that our children admire these "stars" and are influenced by what they say and do.

What then is to be done? It has become clear that the singer and his family have no sense of shame and no intention of allowing morality to stand in the way of making some money.

That being the case, it is incumbent on us to address these issues ourselves.

Here's a list of steps that those in the industry should take:

1) We should try to influence those in the business who are promoting this singer to stop. Many of us have personal or business relationships with some of them and presumably could have an influence here.

2) Those of us in the "simcha band" side of the industry should not introduce any more of his music into our repertoires. The songs that have already become popular needn't be banned, but we shouldn't be "pushing" his new material in any way. (I'm not addressing those cases where a client requests a specific song, rather, I'm speaking to the bandleaders who are deciding which new tunes to add to their repertoire.)

3) We should not be promoting this singer for concerts, or even as a featured singer at "simchos" with our bands.

4) We should write the sponsors of events featuring this singer, or use behind the scenes influence in those cases where we have it, to ensure that he is not presented to the public as "kosher" entertainment.

5) Many artists engage in essentially harmless cross-promotion. At concerts and in their liner notes, singers frequently name-drop about other performers. This should be stopped with regard to this performer.

6) Perhaps most importantly, we need to make it clear that such behavior has consequences within our profession.

It is my fervent hope that this entertainer has in fact done teshuva. My heart goes out to him and especially to his family during this trying time. But, the fact that he and his family may be hurt does not mitigate the obligation we have to ensure that our youth are not exposed to inappropriate role models, or chas v'shalom taken advantage of.

It is not pleasant to have to write this. But not addressing this will only result in greater unpleasantness down the road, for if we don't clean our own house, others will do it for us. Must we wait until the story hits the press before we act?

Wishing you all a Chag Kasher V'samech!

We Have A Winner!

Best Air Guitarist
Air Guitars roared for the eighth time in Oulu Finland - ideology of world peace and air guitar will be spread during the coming year by American actor David 'C-Diddy' Jung. Jung won the title of Air Guitar World Champion in the night spectacle of Oulu Music Video Festival on Friday 29 August.
As usual after the competition, the air guitarists in Kuusisaari invited the whole world to join in Air Guitar playing to Neil Young's Keep on Rocking in the Free World. According to the ideology of Air Guitar, all bad things would disappear from the world, if everybody played the Air Guitar.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

JM PR Watch

Here are some excerpts from the April '04 edition of Country Yossi magazine. These all come from the Miami 27 supplement promoting the upcoming concert featuring Miami Boys Choir, Yaakov Shwekey, The Alumni, and Aidan and Dotan.

About Yerachmiel Begun:
Regardless of the venue or theme, each Miami Boys Choir concert is a celebratory event, a testimony to the unsurpassed musical acuity of Yerachmiel Begun.
The essence of a ben Torah, Yerachmiel takes great care to infuse each song with a sense of spirituality, transcending it to a loftier level. The music may be contemporary, the beat may be "catchy", but there is always a distinct element of kedusha.
About last year's concert:
Consider the record crowd who made Miami 26, last year's milestone event that united Yerachmiel and Dedi, Jewish Music's two powerhouses, the phenomenal success that it was, bringing down the house every time that the two superstars broke out into song and dance.
Never before had anything of this nature transpired. A musical milestone bringing together the monumental talents of this dynamic duo. Anyone in the audience that night would surely have marveled at the mere thought of anyone attempting to surpass the magnitude of Miami 26, but Yerachmiel was certainly up to the challenge.
About this year's show:
We personally know of several families who are driving back to Brooklyn on Thursday from hotels in order to attend Miami 27, and we have heard from reliable sources that many other individuals and families are making similar plans, so be forewarned!

Is Klezmer Old Hat?

The Jewish Week has an article that makes some interesting statements about the current state of enthusiasm for klezmer.

Is He For Real?

Protocols has a pic of Michael Jackson waving an Israeli flag.

A Notable Lawsuit

Here's a funny Fox News report

Orchestra Musicians Want to Tie Salaries to Notes Played
BERLIN (AP) — Violinists at a German orchestra are suing for a pay raise on the grounds that they play many more notes per concert than their colleagues do — litigation that the orchestra's director on Tuesday called "absurd."
The 16 violinists at the Beethoven Orchestra (search ) in Bonn argue that they work more than their fellow musicians who play instruments like the flute, oboe and trombone, and also say a collective bargaining agreement that gives bonuses to soloists is unjust.
But Bonn orchestra director Laurentius Bonitz said it was unreasonable to compare playing a musical instrument with other jobs.
"The suit is ridiculous," Bonitz said. "It's absurd."
He also argued that soloists and musicians in other leading roles — like the orchestra's two oboe players — should make more money.
"Maybe it's an interesting legal question, but musically, it's very clear to everyone," Bonitz said.
The case is scheduled in a labor court during May.
Here's an Op-Ed addressing the issue.

Here's a report that says that the musicians are suing because they play more pieces than the woodwind and brass sections, not because they play more notes per musical selection.