Monday, January 30, 2006

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.