Monday, January 30, 2006

Girls' Night On - Feb. 1st

Jewlicious has info about some of the performers at the upcoming Girls' Night On event at Makor Feb. 1st.

This is a great event for women only. NYC area readers with two X chromosones should be sure to check this one out.

From The Mailbag... expanded version

Avrumy Ackerman writes:
Dear Dm
Food for thought. ____________ (gentile guitarist in case you didn't know;I'm not sure who you are, hence the description) expressed distaste with the following, "This is the only all religious band with the real rock sound. Period! 'Nuff said!". He brought it up on his own at a gig last night. He was inferring a premise that there is an advantage/preference to having an all religious band and all the more so an all Jewish one. I'm not agreeing or disagreeing with him. My point is if _____ reads you, maybe you need to be ever vigilant about being P.C.
He's referring to this post which quoted Shirei Achim producer Yaakov Radin.
This is the only all religious band with the real rock sound. Period! 'Nuff said!
My response: _______ is one of my favorite guitar players in this end of the business.

I don’t believe in hiding things for the sake of being P.C. I believe that people need to challenge such ideas when they are presented, but to do so, they need to be aware of them. All the more so, in this case, where it’s patently not true. Blue Fringe, for instance is an all religious rock band. There are many others. I included the quote because I’d like to see what people in the industry think.

The question of whether there is an advantage/preference to having an all religious band or all Jewish one might make for an interesting blog topic, if anyone wants to jump in.

Personally, I think that the issue is more one of musicians who understand and respect the tradition behind the music vs. those who don't. There are non-Jewish musicians who play Jewish music with a great deal of respect and feeling and there are "frum", even Chassidish musicians, who disrespect the music and events they're playing at. So, for me, I'd rather have a non-Jewish musician who plays the music respectfully than a "frum" musician whose musical approach is to jam as many secular references as possible into the music. There are also some non-Jewish musicians who don't treat the music -- or the event itself -- respectfully.

As a bandleader, I choose musicians who are respectful of the tradition and respectful of the music. This doesn't mean we play everything as it was played 20, 50, or 100 years ago. But it does mean that we try to approach the music with an understanding of its history and cultural role; where its coming from, as it were.

Anon writes: "If it took him 3 yrs to put that band together, he is in the wrong biz." He also takes issue with the way Shirei Achim Productions, Inc. make it sound that are running a multi million dollar enterprise. I thought that was odd too.

Menachem forwards a link to a video setting Tatu's "All The Things She Said" to Shalshele's Junior's Yevarech.

Anon comments on Matisyahu:
I wish the guy only good. But for me, it sounds so strange for him to mimic the accent of a Jamaican - something very 'pretend' about that. Singing should be an expression of self. Have others expressed this sentiment?
J writes:
In response to the Nordstrom Pianist...

That last line you wrote, "retired Klezmer musician" is perhaps true for this entire thing we call Klezmer.
I believe that, unfortunately, we are watching a part of our music, and yes perhaps even tradition slip away with the demise of Klezmer music. I am not sure of what to label Klezmer as, is it a style? A rhythm? An attitude? Regardless it is a massive collection of compositions, some of them masterpieces, that we no longer hear (or see).

The raw emotion (and I am not talking about the primal fear that some musicians get when they see some of the lines that these songs have) is something that we are lacking in today's Jewish Music.

Yeah sure the Klezmatics are still around, as is Andy Statman, and a handful of other maestros but the art, the joy, the complicated fingering that is Klezmer is no longer mainstream.

What a shame.
J. is a Chassidic musician and is writing from that perspective. Within the Chassidic/Yeshivish community It's true that klezmer is not performed at affairs much these days. (Although, the Chassidic community has preserved some of the klezmer repertoire -- particularly the Meron repertoire -- and does perform it as dance music and not just as a showcase during dinner. Songs like Abu's Khatzer and the like are often performed at these affairs.) However, there's a whole wide world of Jewish music out there. Klezmer is far from dead these days. Check out the list of klezmer bands at the Klezmer Shack's Internet Directory of Jewish Music Bands for an idea of how widely this music is being performed. Not all of these bands define klezmer the the same way, but most of them share a common vocabulary and reference point, even as they stamp the music with their own identity and innovations.

I am familiar with the fear of some klezmer lines that some musicians seem to evince. There's one guitar player I've used who always balks at playing the melody on Brandwein's "Fun Tashlikh" when I put it in front of him. (I've been using the lead sheet from Sy Kushner's book.) This despite the fact that he is a session musician who has no problem sight reading complicated bebop melodies. I suspect that if I told him it was a jazz tune, he'd do just fine.

The melodies are definitely more complicated than the typical lead sheets that are prevalent at these gigs.

J. also forwards a link to a Yiddish Hyde Park thread about Lipa Shmeltzer.

A Chassidish teen in Israel writes:
You are 100% right with what you wrote about Lipa schmeltzers new CD called "bli ein hora", im a Chasidic teen aged boy though not so holly but even so i understand that its not right to bring in the non-Jewish music into the ultra orthodox community songs like "kave" which moshe shmual wrote about or the song that he sings with avrumi roth on "Partish lll " im hachulent and so on which is basically known as the catch up Spanish song, then he has that song bait dir ois of boone bait dir ois of chaiya……… which are all known as non-Jewish music and not only non-Jewish but its rather dirty songs, plus that most of our boys know that his new album is completely full of it, this is what indirectly ruins the good parts of the young holy Jewish souls bringing them a load of "tumah".

From the other side in my point of view for boys like me or anybody in my stage of observance these tapes are quite good coz we listen to him instead of listening to her… so these tapes MUST go off the shelves of observant Jews but surely he should leave it for us to listen to him and not to her.

Yours sincerely,
Somebody that writes about what's hurting him
I think this is as good a time as any to remind readers that just because we publish correspondence does not mean we agree with it. Also, in general, blockquoted text is just that, quoted, and not our own.

1/30/06 Link Dump

Chaptzem Blog is Lipa blogging.

Menachem Butler is Williger blogging.

Here are some things you should know about music critics. (Via Chromatic Musings.)

World Music Central interviews Frank London.
What is the present condition of Jewish music in the United States?

There is more Jewish music of more variety being created and marketed at this point in the USA than ever before. The music ranges from great to execrable, but that is the sign of a living vibrant culture (Baruch HaShem.) What is interesting and perversely annoying is the way unlike musics are compared simply because of the label Jewish Music, which is too large or too general to have any meaning. Thus the subtitle of the new CD: "In the Marketplace All is Subterfuge." Via the KlezmerShack.
Breslov vs. Carlebach

The Carlebach Shul's Rabbi Naftali Citron responds to Rabbi Dovid Sears. It started with a JP column by Rabbi Citron:
There is a lot of joy in both movements, which is perceived in the music of Breslov and Chabad. With some exceptions, Chabad niggunim have a very contemplative aspect while it is easier to access joy in a Breslov niggun. Tanya, Chabad's primary text, describes its form of praying as a "long shorter way." In Breslov and other Chassidic schools, the distance from G-d creates a call of extreme yearning. It emphasizes the value of emotions over intellectual understanding.
Rabbi Sears responds:
It is true that Chabad possesses a rich musical legacy, which includes many contemplative works of a deeply stirring nature. And it is also true that many Breslover niggunim are extremely joyous (as anyone who has ever attended a "Simply Tsfat" concert will attest). However, from Rabbi Citron’s description, one might conclude that Breslover niggunim are little more than happy ditties, the musical equivalent of those pictures of dancing Chassidim that adorn so many Jewish dining room walls. This is easily refuted by anyone who has heard a group of "real life" Breslover Chassidim sing deveykus niggunim, such as those composed by Rabbi Nachman, or the powerful melodies of third-generation Breslover Reb Meir Leib Blecher, or the many bittersweet lyrical gems of anonymous Breslover composers.
An NPR report helps promote Jewish music.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Nordstrom - A Heimishe Gesheft!

So we're in Nordstrom today, and they have a pianist playing in-store on a piano that is amped directly into the house PA. We're not really noticing the music, when we suddenly hear a few bars of "Oifen Pripitchok", which quickly disappear. A few moments later, the same thing happens, only this time it's a few bars of "Tum Balalaika". Intrigued, we locate the pianist who is rounding out his set of mood music with a chorus of "Abi Gezunt" played as a ballad.

We introduced ourselves after the set and commented on the song selection. Turned into a nice shmooze. Turns out that he used to play with famed Klezmer clarinetist, Naftule Brandwein. "He'd walk in and we'd know it was all going to be in D minor" he said. He confessed to playing jazz chords every once in a while just to get a rise out of Naftule.

So there you have it. Nordstrom, the perfect place to catch some Yiddish tunes and talk shop with a retired Klezmer musician.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Psachya Concert Update

I've updated this post, "Psachya Septimus Plugged!" to include a link to some sample mp3's that have been added to the concert site. None of Psachya, though.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Razel Live Reviewed

The Jerusalem Post reviews Aaron Razel's "Live in Jerusalem" album.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Ya Ma Mai (not the cellist)

Following up on the Nigun Ratza Vashov discussion here and here...

So I've compulsively listened to a number of recordings of this tune including two versions of the song as performed by Chaim David and doing so has enabled me to clarify why I orginally liked the song, and why I find the way it is frequently performed at affairs to be unmusical.

My first exposure to the song was Chaim David's original version. Rabbi Lazer Brody has posted a link to it here. In that version, the nigun is played at a slower tempo (approx. 110 bpm) as compared to its typical performance at a simcha these days. The melody is more lyrical and is sung without the rhythmic anticipations that have become common on the simcha circuit. The chords are slightly different too. Instead of the repetitive Cm-Gm-Bb-F pattern that has become standard throughout the B section (including the fourth bar of the B where some modify the melody to match the F chord), Chaim David plays a simpler progression of Cm-Gm-Bb-Cm. The combination of a more lyrical, less agressive approach to the melody and tempo, simpler chords, a key that sits better on the guitar, Bm, (I've transposed all of the examples to Cm for uniformity) and the Dorian modal melody works nicely. Also, Chaim David's chords for the eighth bar of the A section are Bb-Bb-F-F as opposed to the Cm-Cm-F-F or F-F-Bb-Bb on the charts I've seen. I think this song just sounds nicer this way. Oh, yes, there are no horns either. I'm not opposed to horns, per se, but the horn charts I've heard on this tune make me cringe.

In short, here is a great example of a simple sweet melody that is often butchered at simchas. I think the simcha circuit bands and some JM recording artists owe Chaim David an apology.

JM Link Dump 1/24/06

Jewschool posts Matisyahu's flat Letterman appearance. LIFE-of-RUBIN links too. Speaking of M, Cosmic X is providing Matisyahu tab.

Sultan Knish is keeping tabs on Moshe Yess.

Here are some pics and video clips of Sunday night's HASC concert.

And on a serious note, here are two moving posts. In this one, an introspective Fudge reflects on Kol Isha, seriously. i am not trying to insult the reform, the conservative et al. this is one place in which other forms of judiasm inherently differ, and i am too inexperienced and unknowledgable to tackle a heady religious debate. but lately i've been practicing with an all girl band, and kol isha is not just some quaint notion to me. it surprises me how many people here are educated enough to know better who shrug it off. it's inconvenient; it gets in the way of too much. don't you want our band to be serious? how can our band get anywhere if we can't play for guys? we can't get any gigs that way. ok, so you don't have to sing. but if we don't care, what's to stop us from singing? it's their sin anyway! if they get turned on by us singing, that's their problem! they're creeps! kol isha has been seriously exaggerated. the rabayim didn't mean it that way. it's not d'oreisa. recordings are ok. microphones are ok. live performances are ok. you don't even know why you're doing it. if you knew the real halachos behind all of the beis yaakov hype you would see that there's really no issur.

no, maybe i don't understand the halachic basis for why i do it. but one thing i have learned from college is that i am doing it. it's hard, i'm afraid that it may cost me a few friends, and i don't know what i'll do when the band actually finds a co-ed gig they want to play. will i play guitar and not sing and still think i'm fine? will i opt out for that gig? will i opt out entirely? should i do it now, and save myself the trouble? but they're practicing a song that i wrote!

the truth is, i don't know. but if i cede one battle to convenience, there goes the neighborhood.
In this one, Shira writes about increased observance and music.
How far will the music move me? I listen to Neshama Carlebach singing the words of her late father, Shlomo Carlebach, "Return to who you are, return to what you are . . . ," and I'm torn.

Scarier still is this: "Gotta take that first step . . . make that committment . . . move along the path, move along the path . . ."

I'm moving, but I just don't know how far I want to go.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Psachya Septimus Plugged!

Here's some info about an upcoming concert in Brooklyn on Sunday, January 29th.

The event features Psachya Septimus along with two other new artists, David Dardashti and Meir Simcha. Meir's album is already out, but David's and Psachya's releases got bogged down in technical nonsense, and won't be out until a month or so after the show. Needless to say, it's made the show difficult to promote.

Part of the proceeds will benefit the rebuilding of a local mikvah that collapsed.
The Canarsie mikvah, located on Remsen Avenue off Flatlands Avenue, in Canarsie, Brooklyn, has served the Jewish Canarsie community for years. However, earlier this year, the roof of the mikvah collapsed and the heat pipes broke, and now the mikvah stands in total disarray. It is in such bad shape that the rabbanim declared it a "sakanos nefashos" for it to be used at all. This has been a severe blow to the remaining Jews in Canarsie. Unfortunately, the women in Canarsie are unable to perform the mitzvah of mikvah, especially on Friday nights; the nearest one is in Flatbush miles away, way too far to walk. The residents have tried to raise the necessary funds needed to rebuild the mikvah on their own, but they have been unable to do so due to the exorbitant cost.
For those who don't recognize Psachya's name...

If you've attended weddings in the NYC area, the odds are good that you've heard Psachya. He's been freelancing as a keyboardist, vocalist, and bandleader on the NY simcha circuit for years, and is an in-demand player. Virtually every band in the business uses Psachaya, and we're constantly amazed at the number of smaller bandleaders (the ones booking only a handful of jobs a year) who tell us that that Psachya is their "first call." we've booked him too. ( Incidentally, Psachya also plays accordion for the KLEZTRAPHOBIX. You can hear his composition in 7/8, Seven Wise Men of Chelm here.)

I'm not at all familiar with the other performers on this bill. But I'd be interested in hearing Psachya's work.

The website doesn't contain too much information about the music that will performed at this concert. It says that there are mp3's on the site, but they aren't there.

Here's the blurb about Psachya:
Psachya, the well-known keyboardist and wedding singer... introduces his debut album, Shattered Glass. The songs are moving and the sophisticated melodies will mezmerize listeners. Psachya makes his piano sing and dance, and you will too.
If I get any additional information, such as who will be backing up these performers, or if some audio clips are posted, I'll update this post.

UPDATE: 1/23/06

Psachya writes:
Regarding the other performers and the backing band:
Meir Simcha is a young singer-songwriter who has written over a hundred tunes, nine of which are on his album. He has a young, rock-influenced sound, and has the potential to stick around for a while.

David Dardashti comes from a legendary musical family. (An Iranian friend tells me that an entire genre of Judeo-Persian music was named after an ancestor of his.) His music is a blend of Persian, Israeli, Ashkenazic and rock-n-roll styles, and his voice simply has to be heard to be believed - simply tremendous.

We will be joined for a few songs by Eli Chait (I understand he's a cousin of those Chaits), who also has a contemporary rock flavor to his tunes.

Our backing band, informally called the Shirei Achim Band, was put together primarily to back our work. It's a rock band - 2 guitars, keyboard, bass, drums & percussion, with me on piano. It's a solid band, and there will definitely be some jamming at some point.
Yaakov Radin emails:
I have put together the best Jewish Rock band ever!

It has taken me three years to put this together. They are:

The Shirei Achim Band:

Drums: Avi Bernstein
Bass: Norman Madnick
Lead Guitar: Avi Hassan
Rock Guitar: Avi Jaman
Keyboards: Yitz Fuchs
Piano: Psachya Septimus
Percussion: Nechemia Soibelman
Vocals: Meir Simcha, David Dardashti, Psachya, and Eli Chait.
Executive Producer & arranger: Yaakov (Jay) Radin
Producer: Yissi (Stuart) Radin
Produced by: Shirei Achim Productions, Inc.

This is the only all religious band with the real rock sound. Period! 'Nuff said!
UPDATE 1/26/06:

Marc Gottleib emails that he's posted a few audio clips to the site here.

Friday, January 20, 2006

From the mailbag... TWEAKED

Got a number of responses to the Nigun Ratza Vashov aka Ya Ma Mai post including three transcriptions of the tune, only one of which I'd had before. Thanks Avremi and J. This brings the total number of transcriptions to five, excluding mine, and none of them are alike. One of them has a very different secong ending for the A section than the others. And yet, I've heard Chaim David play the song that way too.

It's hard to accurately distill a tune that is varied so greatly in performance into a concise lead sheet. I think the best way to go is to pick a recording of the song and transcribe that. The problem is that people who are used to another version will expect to hear those parts too. Personally, I like the original version linked to in my earlier post. But, that's not how it's most often played these days.

E writes:
the original sounds the best i have the tape and CD of HAYOM which has the original great recording of Nafsheinu and "Yamamai" (which i belive is the same version you linked to) the live Carlebach shul versions pale by comparison. Hayom was released in like 1996 and I have always said that by the time it took all those years for the songs to catch on it was so bastardized by the big orchestras that the original quality was gone - Neginah plays it regularly at simchas as the opener to the hora set.

BTW, at HASC 17 Ari Boiangiu added some new harmony to the song.
Yitz writes:
Regarding the chazanut article you linked [via the Town Crier] from Ha'aretz: I found it interesting, but this part was objectionable to me:

"In the synagogue," continues Malovany. "You can't just sing the prayers any way you feel. Although the cantor has the license to improvise within the original form, and it is even desirable that he do so, today people do whatever they want. Tunes that have nothing to do with the prayers have found their way into the synagogue, partly due to [the late Rabbi] Shlomo Carlebach - who truly was a great melodist, but he composed tunes for the prayers that had nothing to do with the original version. There is therefore a very tough war between those who preserve the form of the prayers, and those who take it lightly, `doing it their way,' and I view myself as a leader in that struggle."

I DON'T UNDERSTAND THIS! What does he mean - "nothing to do with the original version"??? Reb Shlomo's melodies were very carefully set to the words that he used them for... Many of us have found it virtually amazing how well the tune fits - "like a glove" - to the words! And he wasn't "coming out of the blue" either. He based himself a long line of Chassidic tradition that he picked up in Modzitz, Bobov, and Lubavitch.

One wonders what "original version" was he referring to - his own???
When Chazzan Malovany refers to the “original version”, he’s referring to the modes or scales traditionally used for Nusach. His criticism isn’t that Shlomo’s melodies didn’t fit the words, but that they didn’t fit into the traditional modes. Although I don’t have a problem with the use of Shlomo’s nusach, I do understand where he is coming from. Shlomo’s nusach changes the scales used for tefilah and I can understand why someone with a strong sense of tradition wouldn’t be accepting of that break with centuries of tradition.

The Lipa Schmeltzer and Rabbi Nosson Slifkin post also drew some responses with several bloggers linking to it (here's one) and some musicians expressing agreement in person.

I'd like to add one point. Honest criticism should always give one pause for reflection. A truth seeker will accept it from wherever it comes. (My Zaide was fond of explaining the juxtaposition of two pesukim in the Yom for Shabbos: "... bakomim alaei mereim tishmana oznai" and "tzadik katamar yifrach". He'd explain that one who accepted criticism even when it came from his enemies, and didn't ignore it because of it's source, was more likely to improve and become a tzadik.) However, when people aren't honest about their criticisms, asserting X when they mean Y, then it is virtually impossible to expect that the one being criticized will draw anything meaningful out of it. V'hameivin yavin!

Yonah forwards this link and writes:
this is pretty freaky and also really funny - and he does it with such hargasha! y'hey y'hey like you never imagined - turn it up and pass it on!!!!
"Max" forwards this link to an article about Yankee's organist Ed Alstrom. We mentioned Alstrom previously here.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Feeling Gil-ty

Hirhurim tacks this on to a post on Torah Among the Gentiles.
[Let me give a shout-out to Jordan Hirsch and the band playing with him tonight, especially the leibedik drum player. Sorry I left without saying goodbye, but your were busy pretending that the Mazinka is an ancient Jewish custom. My wife was able to identify music from The Last of the Mohicans and Robin Hood. All I was able to identify was the soup as mushroom barley.]

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Notating Nigun Ratza Vashov aka Ya Ma Mai

One of the topics I've been planning to write a series of posts on is on the evolution of melodies. There are many songs that have evolved over the years, and are sung differently now then they were even a few years back. I've not had the time to write these posts, but I hope to get to them eventually.

If any readers would like to get the ball rolling in the meantime...

At any rate, one a somewhat related note, I've recently taken a look at Chaim David's Nigun Ratza Vashov (popularly referred to as Yamamai). A client asked me if I would transcribe the tune for his kid. I'd already transcribed the tune a few years back, so I pulled out my transcription as well as several other transcriptions I have from various places to compare. It was immediately obvious that none of the transcriptions were alike. The melodies were all notated differently, and the chords were different too. In some cases the differences were minor, and in others they were more significant.

A few examples:

Some of the sheets had the ad lib intro while others didn't.

1) The chords in the fourth bar of the A section were different in each version. One version had |F Gm|. Another had |F / Ab Bb|. A third had |Bb Gm|

2) Some of the sheets had the B section rhythm notated with anticipations with beat three being anticipated by a sixteenth note throughout while others had the notes landing directly on the beat.

3) In the fourth bar of the B section, some sheets have the note on beat three as an F accompanied by an F Major chord, while others have it as a G accompanied by a Cm chord.

4) Some of the versions have many bars of 2/4 time added in, while others omit them.

What's interesting is that all of these sheets have been used by bands for years and they all seem to get the job done.

You can find an audio file of Chaim David's original recording linked from this Lazer Beams post.

I have another recording of Chaim David performing this tune, on his live from the Carlebach Shul album, and he plays it differently than the linked audio sample.

One of the limitations of lead sheets as opposed to full scores is that you have to distill the nuances of many repetitions into one condensed "representation" of the tune. This is more difficult with tunes that the composer varies greatly in performance.

I'm interested in hearing from musicians how they perform this tune with regard to the notational differences I pointed out above. How do you play it?

1/18/06 Link Dump

The Town Crier is wondering why this year's HASC Concert is not yet sold out.

He also points us to an interesting Haaretz article about Cantors Joseph Malovany and Chaim Adler.

Checked in at Brian Blum's blog and caught up on his Matisyahu impressions.

From the mailbag...

Got some email on the previous post re: Lipa Shmeltzer.

Michael writes:
More on Lipagate:

In Monsey, the local 'Community Connections' ad book had a 'kol korei' indicating that no household should buy or listen to 'tapes' (that's the yiddish word, too, 'tapes') that have treife influences. It didn't specify which ones. Every subsequent ad for a music recording, though, delineates each track and indicates which 'chasidus' it comes from. Vocalists are described as "chasidish and warm," niggunim are described as "inspiring and heartfelt." There's clearly a move to tout 'authentic' chasidish music as separate from the 'frei' chasidish music.

Which brings me to another point. I recently saw Isaac Honig at a Melava Malka, and he put yiddish words to "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" by the Tokens, and he sang a bunch of other oldies with a yiddish twist. I guess this is what the 'rabbonim' are afraid of. A musician wants to move beyond the 'holy courtyards' of chasidishe compositions and stumbles across goyishe music, and because it's catchy and eminently playable (it's based on the evil rhythms of darkest africa, remember?), he's sucked in. And the treifene culture claims another victim. Another one bites the prust.

In terms of Lipa himself - It doesn't help that a 'gay kiss' rumor started circulating some months ago about an on-stage show of affection between Lipa and another guy. Stories get blown out of proportion, and there's always a vaad somewhere that's read to go with the kol koreis. Nebech.

So what's the deal? How do professional musicians feel about it? Are we of the opinion that 'authentic' chasidish music is 'min hashamayim,' or do we accept that those compositions were influenced by contemporary music the same as current ones are?

What happened to the concept that Velvel Pasternak documented, being "makdish zein a niggun?" Is that practice no longer allowed? Are only rebbes allowed to do it?

I think this is an important topic to explore.
Rhondda writes:
Last time I wrote you, I mentioned I'd ordered Mysterious Creatures. It came. I read it. I had to read it fast because my daughters 12 and 10 were nudgenudgenudging me for it.

Disclaimer:: I'm not really "of" the world affected by its ban....

...I saw in it something very interesting; I saw in it an approach to teaching kids to think about the natural world and the torah in ways that respect both.

I'm gonna buy multiple copies and give them for bar-bat-mitzvah gifts. If any of the tenuously-Jewish-identified kids in Hong Kong who receive it become frum enough to one day discover it was banned, think of the surprise that'll be!
And Shmuel forwards the following picture:

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Lipa Schmeltzer and Rabbi Nosson Slifkin

I linked to the text of an anti-Lipa letter last week, and posted a comment from “J” on the topic this week.

Over the past year, there has been much controversy in the J-blogosphere over the banning of Rabbi Nosson Slifkin's books by Chareidi rabbonim. I'm not going to address this issue here, except to note one point that relates to an issue I’d like to discuss. That is, it seems quite clear that many rabbonim who signed and/or supported the Slifkin ban did so for reasons other than those stated in the actual ban. Many of them have acknowledged as much. I note a similar approach in the way some rabbonim have addressed Chassidic singer Lipa Schmeltzer’s CD’s.

I first heard about the Shmeltzer controversy from some Satmar chassidim at a gig I was playing shortly after the release of his “Lipa Baderech” album. Having backed him up once before, I was surprised to hear that there was any controversy over his music. Intrigued, I bought a copy of the CD.

[A brief digression: it seems pretty clear that these kinds of proclamations and bans have a reverse effect, ensuring that more people listen to the music. When I was in high school, they banned the band Kabbalah. Had they not done so, I’m pretty sure no one in the yeshiva would have ever heard their music. Since it was verboten though, one of the guys had to track down the album and we all listened to it. (Incidentally, you can hear some of those tracks on Moshe Skier’s website here. The band was ahead of its time.)]

At any rate, I listened to the CD and couldn’t figure out what the issue was. The musical arrangements were pretty much the standard Chassidisco flavor and his Yiddish lyrics (for the songs that weren’t just quoting pesukim, midrashim, and the like) had a lot of depth. The messages were positive. Shmeltzer is a badchan, and it comes across in his lyrics, which are full of traditional references and allusions. One quick example would be how in “Gelt”, the line “kesef minalan” references Maseches Kiddushin. If anything, the musical arrangements on some of the tunes were a cut above the usual (i.e. Tefilas Haderech).

In other words, his music was certainly not any more offensive than other similar fare, and many of his original lyrics are well done. Going back to his earlier CD, “Gam Zu Letovah”, my impressions were the same. In my opinion, there is no reason, based on those two albums -- I haven’t yet heard his latest -- for anyone to ban his music exclusive of all others in that style. I think that most people who listen to these albums would reach the same conclusion.

I think that the censoring of Shmeltzer’s music is most likely due to his live shows. I’ve played a few of them, and in concert, there is a certain vibe that one does not get from the albums. I'm finding it hard to put into words, but basically it’s a looser show, where Lipa breaks into free-style Yiddish (and English) rapping and is liable to sing secular pop tunes with his own lyrics. The vibe is definitely less spiritual than the albums. I imagine that one really needs to hear Lipa in context at a “real” mitzvah tanz, by true Chassidim, to appreciate his depth.

I suspect that it is opposition to these performances, and the reputation as “wild” that Shmeltzer has gained from them, that drives the anti-Shmeltzer forces. The humorous HASC videos he appeared in probably don’t help him in this regard either, cementing his image as “hefker.”

At a recent Melave Malka I played in Boro Park for some Bobover Chassidim, I discussed this issue with some of them and they thought my hypothesis was correct. Note: I’m not endorsing the ban, or justifying this reasoning, just speculating as to the motivation behind the opposition.

If I’m correct, this would be yet another example of community leaders (i.e. rabbonim) demonstrating a lack of respect for their communities by treating them as though they can’t handle the truth. We are taught “Chosamo shel HKB”H Emes” (God’s seal is truth). Our leaders ought to bear that in mind.

The Slifkin ban resulted in a huge diminishment of kavod haTorah because even many of those who agree with the ban ideologically are troubled by the unethical way it was implemented without any halachic due process. It is troubling to see something similar happening again.

Monday, January 09, 2006

From the mailbag...

J. writes:
If I might pose a question;
What exactly is it that the Vaad Harabonim is looking for in Jewish music in order to affix their stamp of approval?
I really am a bit confused, what are the guidelines or cutoff points that deem a piece of music "Jezzy" as apposed to "acceptable"?
Is Yossele Rosenblatt considered to be "OK"?
Are they sure that there are no outside influences in his compositions?
Do they really think that today's youth is looking for that kind of music?, and if they don't find it within the "acceptable" guidelines they won't go out and look for something that is more to their taste?
And a quick word about Lipa,
Here is an extremely talented young man, with a flair for the absurd, very original, and very appealing to today's Jewish music fans.
What is the problem of having him as a "role model"?
Are his lyrics teaching his listeners to do anything "not kosher"? , Is he convincing little Moshe to go out and become rebellious?
As far as I see it little Moshe sees a performer that wears the Chasidisher garb, that speaks with the Chasidisher accent, that looks like a Chosid, but is very entertaining to listen to, WHAT'S THE PROBLEM?
What horrible things are being taught to little kids by Lipa?
I've been meaning to address this topic for a while, but haven't had time. Perhaps soon.

1/9/06 JM Link Roundup

Over at Maven Yavin, ADDeRabbi is learning pshat in the Sesame Street song "Put Down The Duckie... if you wanna play the saxaphone".

The Town Crier reviews some recent releases.

On the Main Line's got info about the new Diaspora Yeshiva CD. No, it's not what you think! The ex-Godol Hador comments.

Sarah Nadav writes on Hip Hop violinist Miri Ben-Ari.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Blogger Ba La'ir

Say hello to Nice Jewish Blog. He recommends the new Jewish Entertainment magazine:
I'm reading this new JE Magazine, and they have this interview with the "infamous" Abie Rottenberg.

Yeah, he was part of Pinochet's crew.

I mean, does anybody actually edit these things? They made the same exact mistake in their first mag talking about someone's album.

The rest of the magazine is a hoot as well - get a copy!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Lipa Schmeltzer Banned - Again

On the Main Line posts a letter about the new Lipa Schmeltzer CD by the Va'ad Hachinuch of Yeshiva Torah V'yiro in Kiryas Joel. The letter finds fault with pernicious "Jezzy-Rock-N-Roll".

Here's a very quick translation:

We'd like to raise awareness and let the respected elders know that we should guard our homes from all kinds of Jewish-Yiddish music tapes.

Especially the new fearful (JEZZY-ROCK-N-ROLL) tape "Keneinahora" [Ed. the title of Schmeltzer's new CD] which is very bad for the spirituality of those who hear it.

Hashem should help save us from all bad influences which come cloaked in many different guises, especially during these holy Chanuka days, during which Hashem saved us from the Hellenists and Greeks, and we should all merit to see righteous and blessed future generations without any bad influences in any fashion.

We should all merit the fullfillment of the blessing of one who lights Chanukah candles will be blessed with sons that are Torah scholars, Amen.

UPDATE: In the first line, it should probably read "Goyishe-Yiddish" instead of "Jewish-Yiddish". I'd like to correct another error too. I translated this as a Lipa Schmeltzer ban, when it really is an anti Steely Dan proclamation. The correct translation of "Keineinahora" is "Aja." In truth, the Va'ad Hachinuch has no problem with secular music; they just hate the whole jazz rock thing. I have it on good authority that they are closet fans of Jeff Back and early Clapton.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

1/4/06 Link Dump

Here's a mind-blowing discussion on of the negative impact of Uncle Moishy!
"what do you think of a naked woman telling a beautiful dvar torah about keeping shabbos? the message is beautiful, but the delivery is disgusting!"
What on earth??? Words fail! Via L-o-R

Jewish Blogmeister asks:
What do you do if you have produced albums under your name but they did not do well? No sweat make another one and drop your last name.
He gets the original product wrong, though. The singer he's referring to distributed that album in the States, but didn't sing on it. His previous release was this one. The one JB linked to, Oneg, featured two pseudonymous performers -- I know who both are -- one of whom outed himself when he released his album, Sakrfys.

Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) is noting Andrew Lloyd Webber's Zionist bent. Coincidentally, I performed that song (The ALW version, not the Yiddish rip-off) at last night's performance.

Update: JB has now corrected his post!

From the mailbag...

Yitz from Heichal HaNegina comments on this post.
The word ôùòé can also be read "pish'i" in the singular, NOT in the plural as you assumed, and therefore does indeed rhyme with "shlishi".

The Chasof verse appears like that in many siddurim, etc. According to Rav Aryeh Kaplan's "Laws of Chauka" booklet [p. 79], the version with "Dichei Admon", etc. is from the original source [which he cites in a footnote as Kitzur Shnei Luchot HaBrit, although even from there, there was a change made]. The version of "m'chei pesha, v'gam resha" he says is from "later sources," which he notes is from Rav Yaakov Emden's siddur. He also notes that the popular Barditchev Siddur, Tefilla Yeshara, has both.
I thought of that, but it doesn’t seem to make sense. What “sin” is the paytan referring to? My impression is that the usual usage of that type of language —referring to chatoim and peshaim -- is in the plural. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of a reference in the singular from selichos. Although, I suppose it could be poetic license.

Shalom Septimus writes:
Regarding the recent posts, concerning the "borrowing" of goyish tunes
for Jewish songs...

The original words for "Yidden" are as follows:

>Hu Ha, Hu Ha, Hu Ha, Hu Ha, Hu Ha, Hu Ha, Hu Ha, Hu Ha,
>Huha, Huha, Huha, Huha
>Sie ritten um die Wette mitt dem Steppenwind, tausend Mann.
>Ha Hu Ha
>Und einer ritt voran, dem folgten alle blind Dschingis Kahn.
>Ha Hu Ha
>Die Hufe ihrer Pferde, die peitschten im Sand.
>Sie trugen Angst und Schrecken in jedes Land.
>Und weder Blitz noch Donner hielt sie auf.
>Hu (2) Ha(4)
>Dsching-, Dsching-, Dschingis Kahn
>He Reiter, ho Reiter, he Reiter immer weiter
>Dsching-, Dsching-, Dschingis Kahn
>Auf Brüder, Saufbrüder, Raufbrüder, immer wieder
>laßt doch Wodka holen, Hohohoho
>denn wir sind Mongolen, Hahahaha
>Und der Teufel kriegt uns früh genug.
>Dsching-, Dsching-, Dschingis Kahn
>He Reiter, ho Reiter, he Reiter immer weiter
>Dsching-, Dsching-, Dschingis Kahn
>He Männer, ho Männer, tanzt Männer, so wie immer
>und man hört ihn lachen, Hohohoho
>immer lauter lachen, Hahahaha
>und er leert den Krug in einem Zug.
>Und jedes Weib, das ihm gefiel, das nahm er sich in sein Zelt.
>Ha Hu Ha
>Es hieß, die Frau, die ihn nicht liebte, gab es nicht auf der Welt
>Ha Hu Ha
>Er zeugte sieben Kinder in einer Nacht,
>und über seine Feinde hat er nur gelacht,
>denn seiner Kraft konnt' keiner wiederstehn.
>Hu (2) Ha(4)
>Dsching-, Dsching-, Dschingis Kahn
>He Reiter, ho Reiter, he Reiter immer weiter
>Dsching-, Dsching-, Dschingis Kahn
>Auf Brüder, Saufbrüder, Raufbrüder, immer wieder
>laßt doch Wodka holen, Hohohoho
>denn wir sind Mongolen, Hahahaha
>Und der Teufel kriegt uns früh genug.
>Dsching-, Dsching-, Dschingis Kahn
>He Reiter, ho Reiter, he Reiter immer weiter
>Dsching-, Dsching-, Dschingis Kahn
>He Männer, ho Männer, tanzt Männer, so wie immer
>und man hört ihn lachen, Hohohoho
>immer lauter lachen, Hahahaha
>und er leert den Krug in einem Zug.

Oh, here's another... Yosi Piamenta's Kol Hamesameach, and I hope you
understand Turkish!

>Takmis koluna elin adamini
>Beni orta yerimden catlatiyor
>Agzinda sakizi sisirip sisirip
>Arsiz arsiz patlatiyor
>Biz boyle mi gorduk babamizdan
>ele gune rezil olduk.
>Yeni adet gelmis eski koye bak
>dostlar mahvolduk.
>Seni gidi findik kiran
>Yilani deliginden cikaran
>Kaderim puskullu belam
>Yakalarsam (kiss kiss)!!!!
>Seni gidi findik kiran
>Yilani deliginden cikaran
>Kaderim puskullu belam
>Yakalarsam (kiss kiss)!!!!
>Takmis koluna elin adamini
>Beni orta yerimden catlatiyor
>Agzinda sakizi sisirip sisirip
>Arsiz arsiz patlatiyor
>Biz böylemi görduk babamizdan
>Ele gune rezil olduk
>Yeni adet gelmis eski köye vah
>Dostlar mahvolduk
>Seni gidi findik kiran
>Yilani deliginden cikaran
>Kaderim puskullu belam
>Yakalarsam (kiss kiss)!!!!
>Seni gidi findik kiran
>Yilani deliginden cikaran
>Kaderim puskullu belam
>Yakalarsam (kiss kiss)!!!!
>Ocagina dustum yavru
>Kucagina dustum yavru
>Sicagina dustum yavru
>El aman
>Ocagina dustum yavru
>Kucagina dustum yavru
>Sicagina dustum yavru
>El aman
>... (couplet without music)
>Seni gidi findik kiran
>Yilani deliginden cikaran
>Kaderim puskullu belam
>Yakalarsam (kiss kiss)!!!!
>Seni gidi findik kiran
>Yilani deliginden cikaran
>Kaderim puskullu belam
>Yakalarsam (kiss kiss)!!!!
>Seni gidi findik kiran
>Yilani deliginden cikaran
>Kaderim puskullu belam
>Yakalarsam (kiss kiss)!!!!
>Seni gidi findik kiran
>Yilani deliginden cikaran
>Kaderim puskullu belam
>Yakalarsam (KISS)!!!!

I have found a translation of the above, but I'm not sure you really
want to know what it means.
Actually, at the first gig I played where Turkish Kiss was requested, (it was before Piamenta recorded his version), one of the waiters, who was a Turk, recognized the song, came over and commented that "I'd tell you what it means, but it's rude!" He was quite pleased that we knew it.

Monday, January 02, 2006

1/2/06 Link Dump

Treppenwitz reminisces about an unpleasant episode at a New Year's gig.

The Jewish Federation of Dayton has posted a page of Chanukah Links. Via Shiloh Musings.

Cross-Currents is J-music blogging, again!

Here's a video installation webpage for Jenny Perlin's " Sight Reading".

Fiddling While Candles Burn: A pictorial blog post on the difference as to how Chassidim and Litvaks view lighting the menora. Hat tip, A Simple Jew.

Menachem Butler emails a link to his post, "Chanukah 5766 at Yeshiva University".