Friday, August 26, 2005

Another Jewish Link Dump

Menachem Butler comments on the context of "Hinei Yamim Baim."

The Town Crier has a pair of posts on JM hypocrisy.

L-O-R has some thoughtson the Shwekey CD giveaway.

The Peeps Keep On Coming

Naftali emails:
I was chatting with a fellow musician today, and we came up with a few more peeps that all us JM musicians experience.

The Hand Shaker - This genius approaches the keyboard player and sticks out his hand expecting a warm sholom aleichem hand shake. Did you think I have three hands, or should I use my chin?!

The Yomim Director - This fellow is at every wedding. He comes up to the bandleader; "The Rosh Yeshiva is in the middle play yomim! We play Yomim. Finally we switch songs...He comes running back, 'The mashgiach is in the middle, play yomim!" Back to Yomim. Switch songs...back to yomim, and so on. This fellow is not to be confused with the Keitzad guy.

The Keitzad Guy - The Kalla comes to the men and we start playing Keitzad. 3 minutes later The Keitzad Guy comes up and yells "The Kalla is here"! "So what should we play"? "Keitzad"! "What do you call the song we are presently playing?" "Oh".

The Inquiring Kids - How much is your "Casio"? How much is that mic? What does that pedal do? Can I press this button?
We'd noted some similar characters like the Rosh Yeshiva's chamberlain courtesy of Jordan Hirsch and Psachya Septimus' accountant

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Jewish link dump

The Jewish Week adresses Michael Brecker's need for a stem cell/bone marrow transplant in "The Marrow of Tradition."

There will be a donor drive at Temple Beth El in Hastings-on-Hudson (740 North Broadway) on Sept. 11 from 2-6 p.m. For more information, call the synagogue at (914) 478-3833 or the Gift of Life Registry at (561) 988-0100, or visit their website

Mima'amakim reports on Yidstock:
While I was unable to attend myself, I got a blow-by-blow account of Yidstock, Sunday night. Apparently, instead of the thousands hoped to arrive, about 1,500 people actually came. And while I'm not privy to the exact numbers, an involved member told me that the show is 20 grand in the whole [sic]. Plus, between the marijuana, the grinding, and the hardcore act that played the show (really!) it looks like we skipped over the original Woodstock and skipped straight to Woodstock '96. Ouch. Though I've been told the performances were generally good, except for a mishap with Blue Fringe and faulty circuits. Can anyone who was there add to this?
The conflicting adverts about who would be appearing can't have helped either.

Speaking of Yidstock performers, LIFE-of-RUBIN asks: "Is this the future of Jewish Music?"

Here's Menachem Butler on Dov Shurin.

The Jerusalem Post reviews Sameach Sephardic Dance Mix:
Sameach Sephardic Dance Mix might be slightly behind the global trends, and its creators might have been better off with their tongues closer to their cheeks, but the ethnic remix grooves heard here are probably infectious enough to satisfy most of the listeners in Sameach and GalPaz's target market - as well as many Israeli taxi drivers.
Finally, Chestblog has a Shwekey Update. Free CD with purchase of new car.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Ban, Baby, Ban!

FOX reports: Turkmenistan has banned lip synching performances citing "a negative effect on the development of singing and musical art." In related news, one JM producer/promoter has cancelled his Turkmenistan tour.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Shir L'Shalom, Not!

In the spirit of the season, here are the lyrics to Egyptian singer Sha'ban Abd Al-Rahim's song, "Oh, Mr. Arab" as translated by MEMRI.

Via Middle East and Morality.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

From the mailbag...

Eman writes in response to "Love Hurts, Love Bleeds!":
My son got dehydrated at his vort. He needed an IV afterwards.

Believe it or not, despite our best efforts, he got dehydrated at his wedding. Luckily, we had prepared an IV and one of our doctor friends infused him during a break in sets. BH, he was fine and did not spend the night in the hospital.

(We learned later that it was actually a depletion of electrolytes which is different from dehydration. Indeed, if you are not taking in salts, drinking water can be counterproductive).
Pinny writes in response to "Al Tashlicheini L'es Zikna":
I wanted to comment on the post "Al Tashlicheini Leis Zikna". I strongly agree with the writer that older musicians are just not really revered and hired anymore due to "appearance". Never mind the fact that most of these "older" musicians are very well-versed in everything from Classical to the current Jewish pop music.

My father has been one of these musicians, who since the early 60's has been a composer, musician, teacher, and performer. He was one of the first one-man bands to premier in the NYC area, and is still "on the scene" albeit fewer gigs due to the fact that the "younger" crowd has seemed to have been able to corner the market. I too am a musician as part of the "younger" crowd, and I feel there is tremendous competitiveness for gigs, and spending hundreds of dollars a year on marketing can only take you soo far. Basically, don't depend on music as your mainstream job, think of it more as a "sideline".

My advice is just to keep plugging away, young or old and with Hashem's help, He should be able to give us all the parnassah we need.

8/9/05 Link Dump

Here's some advice from Hans Zimmer:
"Never let your wife prevent you from buying equipment. A house will not buy a synthesizer, but a synthesizer can buy a house."
Yahoo! News reports that singer Marc Cohn, who composed "Walking in Memphis", survived being shot in the head by a would-be carjacker.

Here's a pair of articles on simcha planning:

My Daughter's Bat Mitzvah: What we lose when we try to keep up with the Joneses" and "Simcha Inflation."

Heichal HaNegina notes some audio clips of nigunnim being sung by the late Lubavitcher Rebbe.

Cross-Currents has a close-minded post on Jewish arts.
Today’s Jewish drum bangers, rap singers and modern dancers are all doing the newest, hippest activities—as a pale imitation of what the non-Jews are doing, and everyone knows it. The activities may have changed, but the underlying behavior hasn’t moved an inch. They are trying nothing new—they are following the trends of American culture, which is part of how they got into the problem. Drum groups are part of the problem, not part of the solution.
Lipa Shmelczer makes the Mima'amakim Blog in a post about Simcha dancing.

Finally, here's The Upstate Life:
Matisyahu, the Hassidic reggae artist that's been garnering mainstream buzz as of late (dude had a slot at this year's SXSW and is currently opening for Trey Anastasio), will be performing at Sixth and I right here in DC on Saturday, October 9. And ladies, don't worry if you're dressed inappropriately for the show. Matisyahu doesn't wear his glasses while performing onstage, so feel free to arrive hooched up for shul to your heart's content!

Monday, August 08, 2005

Though Shalt Comment Still More

Ruby Harris writes in response to Though Shalt Not:
If a musician is a mentch and a guest is a slob, the musician will be welcome and the guest will be rejected. If the musician is a slob then bureaus like this will write a set of rules, and thereby, be justified.

Unfortunately, you have to have rules as guidelines for those musicians who don’t have such great etiquette, so that the slobs are generally hidden, thereby avoiding embarrassment and a loss of future gigs. We’re not all Einsteins who could get away with unkempt haircuts.

Girls Night Out

The New York edition of the Jewish week had an interesting article by Esther D. Kustanowitz (not available online) about a recent "Girls' Night On" event at Makor for women only. The event allowed women who won't perform in front of mixed audiences the opportunity to play out. (Some of the performers that night also perform in front of mixed crowds.) Here's a taste:
Chana Leah Schwartz, 25, proclaimed her acceptance of this rule ,[ed. Kol Isha], even as it limits her opportunity for artistic expression." I do the things I want to do in a way I feel [halachically] comfortable," she explains. "I ran the marathon in a skirt." On stage, she belted out a spoof of Bonnie Tyler's "Holdin' Out for a Hero," with new lyrics proclaiming, "I Need a Shidduch" ("It's gotta be soon, and he's gotta be taller than me...")

Nummy Kimmel offered her original song called "Bitter," a tale of a sister whose youger brother gets married before her: "If I'm missing during the chupah, check the window ledge," she sang cheerily.
There's another event scheduled for November first and event promoter Leslie Ginsparg says that they're looking to put out a CD and produce larger concerts as well.

A Tale of Two Cities

There's a Workman's Circle event upstate this month called Yidstock from Fri. August 19th through Sunday August 21st.

Performances include:
Frank London with MC Micheal Wex
Zalmen Mlotek
Adrienne Cooper
Joanne Borts
Strauss/Warschauer Duo
Henry Sapoznik and the Youngers of Zion

Not to be confused with Yidstock occuring the same weekend at Monticello Raceway on the 21st.

Friday, August 05, 2005


Ben Chorin has an excellent post today. Here's the music part:
There were some memorable moments. Natan Sharansky was so moved that he was put in mind of occasions in Soviet prisons when he'd sing hinei mah tov umah na'im to keep up morale. He asked the crowd to sing it and then suddenly realized that they were waiting for him to lead the singing (he had the mike, after all). Faced with no choice, he began to sing. What can I say? In Soviet prisons, you do what you have to do but the other prisoners must have begged to be put into solitary. Conveniently, Ariel Zilber was on hand to take over the singing. Unfortunately, Rav Druckman spoke shortly after Sharansky and came to the very not-inevitable conclusion that every speaker had to sing. Suffice it to say that compared to Rav Druckman, Sharansky is Freddy Mercury.

Is Yidden Originally a Jewish Song?

Benyamin Bresky forwards an email from a German listener to his radio program on Israel National Radio.
Interesting by the way: you had a show with "The Klezmatics" with a very interesting wedding-song. The basis of this song was a song from Germany which was called "Dshingis Khan." So the first I heard this wedding song on a MBD-CD, I thought I was in a wrong movie. But now I Know the story. But what is so interesting. The music producer, Ralph Siegel, which created the song is Jewish. So if we define jewish music as music which is made by Jews, it is 100% a Jewish song.

Ben forwards a correction:
I'm very sorry, but I have to correct my last mail. The composer and songwriter Ralph Siegel isn't Jewish probably I mixed up the names. A good friend of mine gave me the information in the past. After my mail I checked the information in the internet (German and English sites) and there wasn‚t any connection to Judaism, but it was too late. So I felt bad about it and wrote in the next minute this mail to correct the mistake.

Love Hurts, Love Bleeds!

Yonah Lloyd emailed this story a while back:
I played a wedding once with Gary Wallin and the groom's choice of expensive leather Bruno Magli's was a poor one - he slams into the glass under the chupah, which promptly penetrates his $299 sole and slices right up through and into his foot - the scream was something not to be forgotten. Hatzolah came, patched him up temporarily so he could "enjoy" his wedding, and the happy new couple spent the night in the hospital. Lovely.
I once played a dinner where the guest of honor stood up to speak and had a heart attack. I also once played a wedding where the kallah got dehydrated and had to go to the emergency room after Sheva Brachos. I also played an engagement party at which the Kallah fractured her ankle while dancing.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Harry Potter and the Carnival of Music

Scott Spiegelberg is channeling J.K. Rowling over at Musical Perceptions where he is hosting this week's "Carnival of Music".

Scaling Masada

Fred Kaplan writes about John Zorn's Masada in this week's Forward. His description of the "Jewish scales" is incorrect. "Ahava Raba" (also called "freygish") has a flatted second and sixth. The seventh can be major or minor depending on the melody. "Misheberakh" has a raised fourth, but the sixth is natural.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Al Tashlicheini L'es Zikna

I'm sure this is nothing new, but over the past few years I've become more aware of a number of older musicians -- who used to be mainstays of the simcha circuit -- who are no longer getting calls for gigs. I'm not certain why this is, although I have a few guesses. I suspect that the reasons include image, weaknesses in their playing due to age, bandleaders wanting a more contemporary sound which is often more easily obtained from younger musicians.

I'm not sure how the industry should be addressing the situation. As a bandleader, I understand the image problem of having, say, an 80 year old sax player on the bandstand. I also see the need to have players with a more contemporary sound on many gigs. And, it wouldn't be fair to the client to use a musician who is no longer at the top of his game.

But, as a musician who respects and has learned much from these musicians, I'm perturbed by the way the industry seems to have simply lost these people's phone numbers. Are there really almost no gigs where a musician with an encyclopedic repertoire of Klezmer/ Jazz/the Great American Songbook/traditional Jewish music (choose one or more of these) fits in? Shouldn't bands owe some loyalty to musicians who have played for them for years?

I don't know if there are any easy answers, but I thought I'd share these thoughts.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Though Shalt Comment More!

Here are some more reader comments on "Though Shalt Not..."

J writes:
I for one, was outraged: I am usually one of the better attired and groomed musicians I play with, but I am also the most ardent believers in being fed/eating/stealing food at gigs. The rest of the stuff I do my best with just as a courteous person, I hope.
H Maryles writes:
As an LA band leader, I have to say that while a bit extreme, there's not much in there that should be taken out. A couple of points:

- There are all kinds of gigs. Here in LA we get some very "upper-class" gigs where a crooked (or missing) bow-tie could be a problem, and a musician wandering across the wide-open, empty dance floor during a speech could make a hostess angry. So having a list of "expectations" which precludes problems is probably a good idea, especially when you hire musicians who are more accustomed to "casual" casuals.

- I have worked with musicians who tend to imbibe too much, so I know why that's on the list.
I've also worked with musicians who don't understand the difference between "blending in" with a crowd of guests while scooping some cashew-beef, and sauntering in to a still-empty smorgasbord room and taking a large first scoop of the chopped liver that was designed by an artist to look like the bar-mitzvah boy. So I can empathize with the rule about eating with the guests. Usually, however, the members of the band are "mentchen" and there's no need for enforcement of such strict rules.

- Expecting musicians to be early enough for adequate set-up and sound-check is reasonable, as anyone who has waited for a late drummer to arrive knows (it's hard to set up the rest of the band without him since he's usually the back-center position). Demanding they be early in case they need to start early is not right without getting paid for the time (regardless of an early start), since musicians' time is more the issue than the time they actually play (if there were a 15 minute break, wouldn't they get paid for it?).
A vocalist who uses too many online ID's to keep them straight writes:
RE:We expect singers and rhythm section to be on site 45 minutes before start time and horn and string players 30 minutes before start time.

This just doesn't sound right to me. Why would a singer have to be earlier than the horn section? Singers many times have later starting times. Even if they don't they certainly are no different than the horn players. Singers don't have any equipment to set up. Not sure I understand this rule.

5. Glasses are not permitted on the stage.

I understand the reason for this but I'm wondering how they expect a singer to not drink when singing for 45 min or longer. Are bottles ok just not glasses? Perhaps you could shed some light here. Thanks

Though Shalt Comment!

Here are some comments on yesterday's post, "Though Shalt Not."

Jordan Hirsch writes:
I do not disagree with the rules per se, except for the prohibition against going to the bar even for soft drinks. I am of the belief that people on a gig should limit alcohol consumption, and since it's hard to figure out how much is too much, a ban is not out of bounds.

Union regulations which put limitations on bandleaders do allow for requirements for musicians to be ready before the official start time. So I have no problem there. Quite frankly, there is a union contract between the legit bandleaders and the musicians, and if musicians feel they are being abused, they should avail themselves of collective bargaining.
Avremi G. writes:
Hilarious post today.

Many NYC offices are way too concerned with appearances. If I was a customer, I’d want my band to be courteous and not sloppy. But why would I care if a musician walks through the cocktail area if he’s not on call. I’d be upset if they would not eat during the smorg. Firstly, it does not cost the host extra. (No head count for smorgs). Second, why would I want grumpy, hungry musicians at my affair? I bet if a poll was actually taken asking hosts what they think, they’d be only pleased to let the musicians eat during the smorg. There’s been one or two occasions in my 15 years of doing this that a bandleader has asked me not to eat during the smorg. To which I answered “I’m outta here!” They have always relented and there’s never been a problem. What musicians should not do is to eat from the smorg before the room has opened: destroying the fancy presentation the caterer has worked so hard on to prepare.

On the same subject. I think band members should be fed the same main course the guests are served, and they should be served first, so as to have them eat up and get back to work.

Black cables?
Walking across the dance floor?
Who wrote this nonsense?

I think most customers are more interested in a good band and really don’t give hoot for much of this other stuff

Re Report Time. I’m sick when it comes to time. I’m always the first one there

Service entrances: Every hall is different. I sure as hell am not going lug my stuff up three flights of stairs at the service entrance when there is a perfectly working elevator in the front of the building. After some musician (I forget his name) got mugged after a job at the back of the Atrium, they stopped insisting we use the service entrance
If I remember correctly, it was Jerry Markowitz who was mugged as he was leaving the Atrium.

Quoting Blogger(s)

Orthomom is calling foul on the Jewish Press for quoting from her blog without attribution AND on the Jewish Week for their Blue Fringe article. She writes:
Um, it was not many internet bloggers who made all those comments. Just one. Me. There's really no excuse for their not naming me as the originator of those comments. Not that I care that much, but it isn't exactly ethical. And certainly unoriginal. Not that I expect originality from the great journalistic resource that we call the Jewish Press.

Similarly, that other great journalistic resource that we call the NY Jewish Week published a fawning front page profile of the band Blue Fringe. While I do think they have talent, and certainly do appeal to the Orthodox tween and teen set, I think that in the interest of full disclosure, the reporter might have seen fit to make it known that she was writing the article about her boss's son's band. That's right, Blue Fringe is led by Dov Rosenblatt, the son of none other than Gary Rosenblatt, the illustrious editor of the Jewish Week.
She also notes more criticism of the Jewish Week's failure to disclose here.

Thanks, E!

Monday, August 01, 2005

Though Shalt Not...

Here are some of the rules from the prep sheet one of the NYC-based offices sends its musicians. We're interested in hearing comments from the perspectives of offices, bandleaders, musicians, and clients.
1. Musicians must use employee service entrance at all times.
2. Musicians may not walk through the cocktail hour while guests are present. Instead, please find an alternate route.
3. While in guest areas, please do not wear outdoor coats, do not carry cases of any kind. Men must have bowties fastened and jackets on, and ladies must be fully dressed.

Please be aware of your “courteous report time”. We expect singers and rhythm section to be on site 45 minutes before start time and horn and string players 30 minutes before start time. All cases are to be hidden, equipment is to be neatly placed, wired and tested, microphones sound checked and personnel fully dressed and standing by on or near the stage at 20 minutes before start time. This applies to cocktail hours as well. At any of our events there is a chance we may be required to start 15 minutes early, for which performers will be compensated or we will end earlier. We need to be ready for those unforeseen times when guests arrive early.

1. Musicians are asked not to use any of the guests' bars for getting soft drinks at any time, unless otherwise notified. At each venue, we will notify you how to get soft drinks.
2. Musicians are not permitted to eat at the cocktail hour or at the guests’ buffets.
3. Musicians are NEVER ALLOWED TO CONSUME ALCOHOL at any time on the job.
4. If food is provided, musicians are ABSOLUTELY REQUIRED to dispose of all garbage and tidy the eating area before going back onstage. Your courtesy and responsibility is mandatory in order for this to continue.
5. Glasses are not permitted on the stage.

1. Please remember that only black cables are permitted at our events.
2. Black sneakers are not permitted in lieu of dress shoes.
3. Please do not walk across the dance floor when going to and from the stage.