Friday, July 30, 2004

This is outrageous!

The Jerusalem Post reports:
When Jerusalem-born Daniel Cohen was 15-years-old, he wanted to become a professional drummer. So when a friend told him about free drum lessons at The Jamm he went straight to the Russian Compound to check it out.
'At first, the people at The Jamm were really nice to me. They even started to teach me how to play the drums,' says Cohen.
After two months of hanging out at the coffee bar/youth center, one of Cohen's newfound friends gave him a copy of the New Testament in Hebrew and began to initiate discussions on the subject of Christ. An additional two months passed before Cohen was invited to participate in a youth trip to the Sea of Galilee, where he could join other Jamm youth in a mikveh ceremony.
'He asked me if I knew what Baptism is,' recalls Cohen, who is now 17. 'He said it wasn't a Christian thing, but a Jewish thing for Jews who knew the 'right way.''
'I was shocked,' he continues. 'I was born a Jew and I want to be a Jew and I am not interested in converting away from Judaism. It is horrible when you think you have friends and then you find out that they are actually your enemies.'
Cohen isn't alone. The Jamm (Jerusalem Artists, Musicians and Media) Center has been trapping Jewish teens in its messianic web since it was established in 1998. With open mike nights on Wednesdays and Punk concerts on Thursdays, including free coffee, chai tea and snacks, the non-smoking, alcohol-free Jamm provides a clean and tempting atmosphere for Jerusalem youth.
The lack of response by public officals is shocking.
Article 368 of the Israeli Penal Code awards a maximum six-month incarceration for attempting to convert minors under the age of 18. Article 174(A) prohibits the offering and receiving of material benefits as an inducement to conversion of anyone, including those above and below the age of 18. Anyone who gives material benefits in exchange for a commitment to change one's religion can be sentenced up to 5 years in prison and fined a maximum of NIS 50,000.
Perhaps some publicity will help.


Safam, or Artscroll... which would you choose?

Thursday, July 29, 2004


Here's a Gershon Veroba composition performed by Reva L'Sheva and Mevaseret Alumni.

Put On A Happy (Guitar) Face!

Win a Les Paul "Black Beauty" electric guitar and hard case from Epiphone in the Guitar Face Contest!

Strange Dreams Are Made Of This

In which Psycho Toddler convinces Sting the West Bank wall is needed...

Classical Questions

Greg Sandow has a thought-provoking post on Elvis Costello's classical debut. Many of his questions/comments are equally applicable to some in the JM field. A worthwhile read, particularly for composers and arrangers, although would-be "stars" would benefit from thinking these questions through before they begin production.

Target Marketing

Madonna influenced "Kabbalah Red String" from Kever Rachel is now for sale at Target.
A centuries-old spiritual tool used by Kabbalists, this red string is believed to protect against the evil eye, a negative energy source. What makes this particular piece of string so special is, in part, the fact that it has traveled to Israel, to the ancient tomb of Rachel the Matriarch, and returned, imbued with the essence of protection. The string is tied to the left wrist—the left being the body and soul's receiving side—and worn to essentially deflect the negative energy brought forth by unfriendly and envious stares, unkind glances and looks of ill will. A feeling we've all experienced, the evil eye is considered by Kabbalah to be a powerful force and an influential factor in regards to achieving goals and everyday well-being. The string draws upon the connection to and awareness of Rachel and must be tied on by a loved one and sealed with Rachel's protective energy by reciting the Ben Porat prayer (included on a card).
Since she's singing in Yiddish these days, will Target also start selling Klezmer CD's?

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

More JM Chesed

David Bogner writes:
Like many of my JM colleagues, I was asked to play 'tzedakah jobs' from time to time. Nursing homes were the most common gig of this sort, and I usually came away feeling I got much more from the experience than the audience. Seeing tears of joy standing in aged eyes as we played their favorite Yiddish or Hebrew songs was payment beyond rubies (at least for me).
However, occasionally I would get a call to play a wedding for a needy family, and these gigs were always handled with the utmost modesty.
One that stands out in my mind (I am slightly changing a couple of details so as not to perfectly identify the affair) was a wedding I once played in Queens. The bride was an orphan, and the groom had only his father (having previously lost his mother). A week before the wedding, the groom's father was on his way to a 'Gamach' to borrow some of the funds necessary to pay for the wedding when he dropped dead of a heart attack.
The tzaddikim, who always seem to be waiting in the wings in such a case, swept into action and made arrangements for the musicians, the caterer, the photographers, and even the hall, to forgo their fees. I was called a few days before the affair to augment the modest sized band.
In the groom's family, the tradition was to visit the grave at the end of Shiva, so he ended up coming directly from the cemetery to his wedding. Needless to say, as this young couple tearfully walked down the aisle, there wasn't a dry eye in the hall.
The band played its heart out that night, and the guests were not aware from any aspect of the beautiful affair that services had been donated. It was one of the few affairs that I can honestly say none of the musicians looked at their watches!
After desert had been served and one last set of 'ladies dances' had started to peter out, the appropriate time came for Benching and Sheva Brachot, so we began to play the 'Shir Hamalot vamp' under the usual announcement for people to bring their chairs to the head table.
Within seconds, several ladies approached us loudly complaining that we should continue playing dance music. The leader gently explained that the time had come for benching, and asked that they join the rest of the guests for benching. Since I was sitting up front in the horn section, I was able to hear the unbelievable response from one of these guests:
"You musicians...always looking at the clock! Don't you ever think about anything but money???"
We all just sat there smiling... but were somewhat frustrated that we couldn't tell this boor how wrong she was. However, over the years, as I've looked back on that affair, I realize that just as our happiness shouldn't be complete until the Temple is rebuilt... neither should our sense of satisfaction at our level of chasadim.
For this I suppose I should have thanked that lady.
I've always loved the nursing home gigs myself. I remember one volunteer nursing home gig where one old lady sang along with us for the entire set with tears in her eyes. Afterwards, some of the nurses approached us and told us that this was the first time in two years that the woman, a dementia patient, had been aware of what was going on around her. For that short time, she was again a little girl sitting on her father or grandfather's lap singing with them. It was a simply beautiful moment.

I also remember one gig in which I had to hold my tongue in the face of similar rude comments. This happened soon after I entered the JM field. One Thursday in June, I received a call from a friend who needed some help. A bandleader, he'd booked two gis for the following Sunday. The first one ended at 4 PM and the second was scheduled to start at 7 PM about an hour and a half drive from the first. He'd just gotten off the phone with the groom who'd hired him for the second gig. Apparently the groom, who was from the Syrian Jewish community as was his bride, had decided that since everyone knows that Sephardic weddings run on "SY time", he could book the band for later than the invite time -- 7PM instead of 4 PM. My friend had no idea that the invite time was earlier than the band's start time.

When the groom's family found out about this "bright idea" only days before the wedding, they told him it was unacceptable and he called the bandleader in a panic saying that he needed the music to start at 4 PM. As you can imagine, my friend was unable to be there by 4, so he called a few musicians to cover the beginning of the gig until the band could get there. Being that it was a Sunday in June, a tough slot to fill at the last minute, we wound up with two musicians playing a rather large cocktail party.

Things went quite smoothly until the badekin, at which point, the bride's father -- who'd been told an eight piece band had been hired -- came over to say hi. When he noticed that there were only two musicians there, at an hour and a half into the affair, he blew up. Not wanting to tell him what his son-in-law had done, we sat there quietly assuring him that the rest of the band was on their way and would be there soon. They made it for the chupa, but it was quite close, and I'll never forget how this guy kept coming over to berate us for something that was not our fault.

More Reader email

One reader asks:
Any particular songs you recommend for Nachamu?
Apart from the obvious Nachamu songs by Carlebach and Safam, I like songs from the liturgy like " Rina V'yeshua" and "Ki Nicham." Songs about Yerusholayim appeal too. But, it also depends on the audience.

Another reader asks:
Would you play this chupa?
I try not to book weddings when it seems quite likely that they will not happen.

Another reader wants my opinion on one of the acapella recordings. I've been over this before. The autotune these acts have been using and abusing is audible and contributes to the "lame, processed, electronic" sound this respondent is hearing.

Here's an explanation of how autotune works, courtesy of Instapundit. It is possible to use pitch correction juduciously, so that it's almost transparent, but that's not how the engineers on these projects are using it. The irony is that some of these guys actually can sing, and would probably sound much better without the pitch correction. They seem to have the notion that every note must be perfectly in tune,but to my ears, the natural variances in intonation are a key part of a vocal's charm. In either case, I'd think that they should "pitch" only the problem parts, instead of the entire vocal track. It would help the vocals sound more natural and less "synthy" even in cases where a pitch shifter was used.

In response to this post about "Fiddler" Jordan Hirsch observes:
It's amazing what kind of myths we are willing to accept about ourselves.

In response to this post, David Bogner observes:
Always a wise marketing move in the shiny shoe music business: Diss the Rabbinic establishment. Nice.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

JM Chesed Stories

This afternoon I watched the OU Tisha B'Av video presentation on chesed. In that spirit, I'd like to focus on aspects of JM chesed that the public is not aware of.

Many people know that many Jewish performers regularly volunteer their time to perform for sick people who are homebound or in the hospital. Some are also aware of musicians volunteering their services in cases of financial need. These both occur quite frequently.

Personally, I've asked numerous musicians to volunteer their time over the years,and the response has been amazing. Not only have almost all the musicians I've contacted agreed to perform for free; many have even spent money out of pocket to do so. And, there are many musicians who, whenever I see them, remind me to be sure and call them again for these performances.

There's more, though.

On aspect of chesed in the JM community which many people aren't aware of is the way musicians help out other musicians in need. I am aware of instances where an extra musician was added to a band by the bandleader as a way of secretly directing money towards a musician in need. In the cases that I know of , the cost was directly absorbed by the bandleader/band and not the client. One of the highest levels of tzedaka is giving someone without them being aware that they are the recepient of charity. I even know musicians who do this knowing that when other musician gets a call for his own gig, he won't reciprocate by calling them for the job.

In a similar vein, I am aware of bandleaders who have chosen to call one musician over another for a given gig because that person is having a hard time financially. And, I know musicians who will accept jobs they'd never take from another office, from a bandleader who is struggling, just to enable him to have a good gig and book more work.

Another way that many JM musicans do chesed is way they relate towards those with mental or emotional disabilities. There are many such people who are very into music and appreciate being on "first name terms" with Jewish music singers and musicians. In many cases, they'll call or email quite frequently to keep in contact with their JM friends. It has aways been inspiring to me to see how many in the JM community interact with these individuals. They find time to shmooze with them on the phone or IM/e-mail them on line. Many send free copies of their latest CD's to these people, and some even thank them in their liner notes. Also, many JM entertainers have sent free sheet music to someone who can't really read it... just because it makes him feel good.

There's a lot more... but I'll stop here for now.

If anyone has any chesed stories to contribute, we'll be glad to post them here.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

All The Music That's Fit To Print?

Is That Legal? has a nice response to New York Times public editor Daniel Okrent; who is turning out to be quite a disappointment.
The truth is that the New York Times (in its cultural, fashion, and social coverage) is a newspaper that is an unashamed product of a segment of the city whose name it bears.

That doesn't make it a bad paper, to be sure (though occasionally it would be nice if the paper wrote about bands that I've actually heard of rather than nightclub singers who play the bar at the Algonquin). But in a confessional column like Okrent's of today, a bit more introspection would have been nice.

Klez In An Elevator!

The Plain Dealer talks with clarinetist Bert Stratton of the "Yiddishe Cup Klezmer Band."
'Colleges and museums always have nice padded seats, so it's tougher to get people to get up and dance,' says Stratton. 'As for funerals, the comedy shtick never seems to go over as well.'
Still, yukking it up at a funeral is easier than cramming into an elevator.
'One time we were hired to play elevator music for this party,' says Stratton. 'So they actually squeezed us into an elevator and had us play.'
I thought that was Kenny G.'s turf!

Ari Davidow reviews their recent release "Meshugeneh Mambo at the Klezmer Shack. Sounds interesting.

Amazon has it here:

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Shiru Lanu Mishir Tziyon

The Forward reports that the Conservative movement has added Naomi Shemer's "Yerusholayim Shel Zahav" as a "kinah" to be recited on Tisha B'Av at mincha.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

I'm Not Mekubal!

Amid recent reports that Madonna is planning to record in Yiddish, "Something Jewish" offers up some possible songs, musicians and producers for consideration.

Personally, I think she should cover Lipa Schmeltzer's song "Gelt!"

But Did They Love It?

From the The Jerusalem Report:
After a recent Broadway matinee performance of "Fiddler on the Roof," a small group of Orthodox matrons clustered outside the Minskoff Theater on 46th Street. I asked them what they thought of the show. "That was our world until it was destroyed," lamented one, a survivor from Hungary. "I wept," added another quickly, rolling up a sleeve to reveal an Auschwitz tattoo.
Via Lammpost

It's The New Math!

Shmuel Klaver writes in response to the Kurt Bjorling quote in the previous post and points out that three plus three equals six, not five.
LET'S ALL ADD, SHAll WE: 1,2,3,1,2,3 -Sorry, but I hear 6 beat phrase, which explains why this rhythm is commonly called- by EVERYBODY-a slow 6/8. Remember, class: RESTS are counted but not played."
Sure you COULD look at it as 5 beats- providing you change the downbeat every measure.
My impression was that Bjorling is thinking in five beat units, NOT in 5/8 time signature. Kurt’s a clarinet player, and I imagine that playing five beat phrases over the 3/8 rhythm would make for some nice polyrhythms.

Incidentally, all of the klezmer people I know would notate the “zhok” in 3/8, not 6/8. Many of them would play two-bar patterns over the music, though.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Fiddler On The Move

Recently, I’ve been reading Mark Slobin’s “Fiddler On The Move: Exploring The Klezmer World.”

Amazon has it here:

There are lots of interesting nuggets, but you have to wade through a lot of sociological writing to find them. I find that there is a lot of duplication of information in many of the books on klezmer. It’s almost as if the author, in this case Slobin, is operating under the assumption that his readers know nothing about the genre.

There are some great quotes from Max Epstien like:
“Never play it the same way twice – never!
“Don’t follow with the same thing!” (Referring to modern bands’ lack of interest in sequencing.)
“It’s the melody – you’ve got everything there – and you’re filling in the empty spots.”
Some good advice for bandleaders and soloists...

The book comes with a CD featuring multiple versions of “Dem Trisker Rebns Khosid”, “Gas-Nign”, and “Araber Tantz”. Quite fascinating!

Slobin's analysis of the “Gas-nign” in particular is quite interesting. Slobin has transcribed two bars of the melody as played by 10 different soloists including Max Epstein, Howie Lees, Alicia Svigals, Dave Tarras, and Max Weissman. No two versions are alike, and it’s interesting to see how the different players embellished the melody.

This bit about the hora or “zhok” caught me:
What captures listeners today about the slow hora is the basic insistent, redolent rhythm… perceived as ONE-rest-THREE ONE-rest-THREE, or simply NOTE-silence-NOTE NOTE-silence, and so on. Kurt Bjorling and his colleagues in the band Brave Old World use this “Gas-nign” as a teaching piece for their transatlantic workshops; Bjorling thinks of the rhythm as forming a five-beat unit. In any case, it is the silence, the hesitation that most players bring to the pause between pitches, that gives the slow hora its charm.
I’ve never thought of viewing the music as five-beat units, but it seems like an interesting approach, and it might make for some interesting phrasing choices. Food for thought…

Slobin also compares sonograms of the “krekhtz” (THE klezmer embelleshment) as played by Abe Schwartz, Max Liebowitz, Deborah Strauss, and Alicia Svigals. His tentative conclusion... the contemporary "krekhts" is a cousin, not a twin, of it's older relative.

Anyhow, just thought I’d share a few quick thoughts on an interesting volume.

eBay News

eBay is running a six month test to decide if it wants to get into selling downloadable music, according to this report.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

New Takanah

Coming soon:Gershon Veroba's new concert band, "Takanah!"
"The rules have changed!"

Dissing the Shadchan Song

Eric Olsen on "Mrs. Brown, You've Got A Lovely Daughter."

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Not Exactly Artscroll

Mixolydian Mode links to Mizmor L'David hip-hop style.
The Lord is all that, I need
For nothing
He allows me to chill.
He keeps me from being heated
And allows me to breathe easy.
He guides my life so that
I can represent and give
Shouts out in his Name.
And even though I walk through
The Hood of death,
I don't back down
For you have my back.
The fact that you have me covered
Allows me to chill.
He provides me with back-up
In front of my player-haters
And I know that I am a baler
And life will be phat
I fall back in the Lord's crib
For the rest of my life

Name That Street

Neshama Carlebach is leading an effort to rename 79th Street in Manhattan "Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach way."

Via Steven I. Weiss.

And Who Else?

So now we're "everyone else?"

The Jerusalem Post on Shlomo Katz.
'I always tried to stay away from becoming a musician, because I didn't want to be like everyone else,' says the 24-year-old guitarist, who has gathered quite a following in recent years.
For the record, MOChassid was there first!

Jdub Mix has a report and video clip about the unity performances featuring chassidic reggae singer Matisyahu and human beatbox Kenny Mohammed.

JDub record label head Aaron Bisman is interviewed too.

It seems Bisman's view of inclusion includes anti-Israel Palestinian rappers, but not any right-of-center Israelis. I can't remember where I saw it, hence no link, but I remember seeing Bisman quoted as saying that the reason he didn't invite Subliminal to participate was because of his right-wing views.

In general, that's something about these "unity" or tolerance programs that seems to stand out. There are always left-wing Israeli and Palestinian performers at these events, but never any right-wing musicians. And even centrist Israelis rarely seem to appear.

Incidentally, you can read some reactions from people who attended the Unity Sessions event here.

Thanks, E!

Update: I found that Bisman quote I referenced above (it's from a New York Times article) on of all places.
One of the biggest Israeli rap stars, Subliminal (né Kobi Shimoni), was not invited to the concert. Striking a gangsta pose with heavy jewelry, including his signature bejeweled Star of David, Subliminal represents the right wing of Israeli rap. His latest album has gone platinum in Israel (more than 40,000 copies) on the strength of catchy anthems and incendiary nationalist imagery, as in "Divide and Conquer," where he says: "The country is shaking like a cigarette in the mouth of Yasir Arafat."
Subliminal has already created a divide in the hip-hop community. Aaron Bisman, the founder of JDub Records and one of the promoters of the Prospect Park concert, said he did not invite Subliminal because he did not think the concert's message of openness and peace would be of interest to him.
So nationalism is good... as long as it's not Jewish nationalism.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Speaking of Barry Manilow....

The Smoking Gun has a copy of his tour rider.

"Barry's fan club shows up at 11Am to decorate his dressing room." Oy!

Have Some Faith!

Musings on music from a member of the original Miami Boys Choir.

The times they are a changin'

You've seen the Real Book... here's The Vanilla Book!

This book attempts to uncover the basic ("Vanilla") chord changes to over 400 of the most commonly played jazz standards.

Listen brothers, listen friends...

Chayyei Sarah on the recent Unity Sessions concert here in NY featuring Jewish and Muslim musicians/rappers.

You can read promoter Aaron Bisman's take on the event here.

"Kulam medabrim al shalom.... af echad medaber al tzedek....


Israel's Eurovision representative, singer David Da'or wins an injunction, the Jerusalem Post reports.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Kenny G. and Joe Satriani???

The Kaplan Nation on "goyish music."

Makes 4'33" Look Good!

No comment!

Not Just Against Israel

Greg Sandow says that NPR's ombudsman just doesn't get it.

50 Best Rock Intros

Sick of Baker Street and The Final Countdown? Check out the50 best rock intros!

DIY Record Distribution

Interesting article on musicians self-distributing their music via the net. For an additional fee, you can also get printed scores, lessons, and in Maria Schneider's case, a two-hour audio stream of the composer analyzing several of her scores. Neat!

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

No-frills CD's

Dumb idea!

Joni Yourish

Last week's terror attack on an Israeli army outpost in Israel has inspired Meryl Yourish to write a song parody.

They craved paradise but blew up a parking lot
With a lot of sweat, and a bomb, but they missed the right spot
It's too bad, Allah is mad
Their tunnel ran a few meters short
They craved paradise but blew up a parking lot

See You Later

Klezmer Shack reviews Greg Wall's "Later Prophets."

Friday, July 02, 2004

Judaism on the Roof

Hocking on "Fiddler."

More Remembering Ira Silber Z"L...

Yitz Fuchs wites:
Late as it is, after grieving for a number of months now, I too have some thoughts on the beloved memory of Ira Silber, Z"L. I was a very big fan of Ira's from the time I was a kid in the '70s and Ira and Shmoo and Myron, Steve and even Dov were in their prime as Ruach, the glory days of Ruach, were a major inspiration in my music and becoming a keyboard player and singer myself. Ira will live on in my memory forever.
First and foremost, Ira was a mentch. Too achieve mentchlichkeit is greater than to achieve musicianship. Especially in the Jewish Music world today. Ira was not selfish. Everything that was said at his levaya was true. If we all lived our lives and conducted ourselves by the following credo: What will be said about me at my levaya? What will I have to say about myself when I get upstairs and I'm at the gates of shomayim? We would be better people. There aren't too many things which count for anything in both this world and also the world to come. Chessed is one of them, and how we treated one another is another.
Ira always had a smile and greeted people b'sayver panim yafos, the way one is supposed to. I had the honor of being his roadie in the early '90s. As a keyboard player and singer myself, I wanted to help him and hang with him during his gigs just to absorb as much of his talent as possible. Even back then his health was waning, and still he smiled and put people in a real simchadikeh mood with his smile as well as his music. Years later when my wife and I walked into a shmorg and we saw Ira on keys he would smile and say an enthusiastic mid- song "Yitzy how are you?" No one else in Jewish music ever cared enough to even say hello. Ira was special. If only we could all take something with us from his funeral, and start conducting ourselves with proper mentchlachkeit to each other we'd all be better people for that. Is it possible for us to help each other out every now and then with a smile, in Ira's memory? Kol yisroel arayvim zeh lozeh.

Speaking of Sheet Music

Here are some links:

The Chevra have added the lead sheets to the songs from Chevra 2 to their website.

Shloime Dachs has added the lead sheets to the music from all of his albums to his site.

Yumi has the sheet music for the songs on his recently released debut album on his site. (They're also included on the CD itself as a data file -- an interesting idea.)

Yossie Rose has sheet music for some of his songs on his website.

Avremi G. is dishing out free ice cream on his site here and here.

Here is sheet music. for the themes from popular video games.

For those guitarists who can't read sheet music, here's the guitar tablature for mmusic from Mario Bros.

Finally, for those looking for something with more sophisticated harmonies, here are a bunch of jazz charts. These appear to primarily consist of scans from the "Real Book."

Still Going Strong

The Jewish Press on Voices For Israel.

Speaking of Voices for Israel, the site now has lead sheets for the songs Chazak Amenu and Shir Lismoach.