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