Wednesday, March 28, 2007

3/28/07 Link Dump

Here's a great video clip. Austrian pianist "Hans Groiner" (jazz pianist Larry Goldings) has devoted his career to correcting the wrong notes in Thelonius Monk's music, making every tune totally diatonic. Via Casa Valdez.

Rob Tannebaum posts to the Yahoo JM group. Bet the Shwekey fans will be open to his music.

Ta Shmah review's 'U'shmuel B'korei Sh'mo." Shira reviews it as well as albums by Blue Fringe, Diaspora, and Moshav.

PT writes "Too Old for Carlebach?' Shmiel's right. Shmaltz sells on those gigs. The klezmer/Yiddish stuff PT's been playing would go over much better than Carlebach.

David is begging "Please... stop the madness!" Speaking of Andrew Lloyd Webber, here's his Honest Obituary.

MOChassid is writing about Michael Shapiro.

Jazzing-up Ofra Haza.

Dinosaur Gardens has a "Misirlou" roundup.

Jewschool posts "Who is Your Jewish Hero?", a link to the five finalists in Yeshiva University's Center for the Jewish Future's undergrad short film competition. ChaZack is narrated by Avraham Fried.

Cross-Currents has another intolerant post. For a blog that seeks to do Orthodox PR to other Jews, they seem to be remarkably "tone-deaf" at times. As penance, I think they should do a Craig Taubman profile with an emphasis on his "Friday Night Live" service.

According to Shmarya at, the former OU mashgiach being sued for defaming the restaurant he used to work at is Raya Mehemna leader Issac Bitton.

Bitton's allegations are simply not credible. This story is especially sad though, as it appears he's self-destructing publicly.

Shmarya does make an interesting point, contrasting Bitton and Matisyahu. He writes:
Yitzchak Bitton's story is sad. He is one of the very best rock drummers in the world. In France, before becoming Chabad, he led a band, Jackie and the Variations (mentioned in this Wikipedia article simply as the Variations; see 1970s before punk), which kept the Beatles out of the top spot on the French pop charts. He gave up his 'sinful' life and moved to Crown Heights. He learned, and he eventually formed a band Raya Mehemena, which was one of the best live bands I ever heard, religious or not. He played gigs and released an album that included a version of Lecha Dodi that is perhaps the single most beautiful contemporary religious song I have ever heard.

But the haredi and Chabad worlds (apart from BTs) were not ready for real musical talent. Bookings were not frequent enough to pay the rent, and the Rebbe would not give his blessing for the type of shows Matisyahu now does, surfing mosh pits and dancing in front of and sometimes with women. (This is a problem many BT musicians faced in the 1980s and early 90s.) So Yitzchak Bitton sold cameras for a living. He apparently went from that to serving as a mashgiach. Last I heard he still played gigs, as well....

But this I do know – Yitzchak Bitton is a victim. He is part of system that cast aside his special talents and left him without a viable career. At the same time, he's had to watch poseurs like Matisyahu benefit from a Chabad PR machine and leniencies in Jewish law no one would have allowed Yitzchak Bitton, or Avi Piamenta, Peter Himmelman, or many others. In other words, Bitton's stridency may be a result of this treatment, and the years of financial and emotional deprivation it surely caused.

A very wise rabbi, Yizchok Berkowitz, who was at one time the posek of Aish HaTorah, spoke at a Jerusalem conference for budding and current kiruv workers sponsored by Heritage House. Among the things he said was that if you Rabbi Kiruv Worker are going to make a person frum, you have to worry about his/her income and talents. Is she an actress? Be prepared to promote women only plays. A singer? Women only concerts. Is he an artist, a musician, a poet, a writer? If his job cannot be continued because it is incompatible with Orthodoxy, you Rabbi Kiruv Worker must find a way for him to use his talents and keep his profession, but within Yiddishkeit.

The vast majority of kiruv workers present objected. Why? To them, even a frum life of poverty is better than a non-Orthodox lifestyle. The money, the creativity – that doesn't really matter. Rav Berkowitz would have none of it, and told these kiruv workers in no uncertain terms that this was their responsibility, whether they accepted it or not.

By and large, the kiruv-outreach world, including Chabad, even including Aish HaTorah itself, does not follow Rav Berkowitz. But Rav Berkowitz is a wise man; beyond that, a very caring man. And he knew the truth, even if they did not. If you bring someone to Orthodoxy like Yitzchak Bitton, and you rob him of what makes him special, makes him what he is, you have done deep and lasting damage.
I don't know if Shmarya's speculation is correct in this case, but the larger point stands. Frum Jews need to be sensitive towards artists. Those within the community and those joining the community. Art is a gift that must be channelled, not an evil impulse that must be stifled.

As the alumnus of a yeshivah high school where playing a musical instrument was forbidden, except for Friday afternoon (and in the winter, when there was a study period after Shabbos, for the hour or so between Havdallah and night seder), I have firsthand experience with this attitude.

This is also part of why the Cross Currents post linked above strikes me as being so negative. Craig Taubman has done a great deal towards increasing Jewish spirituality as well as an appreciation for Jewish music. Sure, as an Orthodox Jew, I wouldn't advocate some of what he does, but I respect the underlying sentiment and I feel that it is important that such options exist for Jews who are not Orthodox. The apparent lack of respect for a musician who is trying to increase Jewish spirituality, albeit in a manner unnacceptable to the Orthodox, strikes me as wrong and counter-productive.

From the mailbag...

Jonathan Steinberg writes:
I came across your blog and thought you might be interested in these two Rabbonim from Manchester UK who are playing amazing new music. Some video footage from a recent event can be found here and here.
Anon comments on " The Shwekey Shrug"::
I guess that reminds me of the Fried Shrug ("So, can you play Mi Ma?"), the Dedi Shrug ("So, can you play Od Yishama Sound-Off?" (Remember that one? Repeat after me: KOL sa-SON v'KOL sim-CHAAA...)), the Dachs Shrug ("So, can you play Im Eshkachech - no, not the Shwekey one...") and the Wald Shrug ("So, can you play..." come to think of it, did Wald have a hit after Sameach?...) Usually, the only ones who recover from Shrug Albums are MBD (because he's MBD), or guys who develop niches - think Fried's Chabad albums, or Williger's Carlebach Nusach albums, or Lipa being Lipa. Truth is, Yaakov Shwekey is young, is very personable, and has a great set of pipes, so he's probably far from done. Also, in my opinion, Ma Ma Ma is far from the best cut on the new album - some of the slow tunes are gorgeous, particularly his remake of "Tatte Tatte". Still, he might want to explore some niche ideas - a totally Sephardic Shwekey album, for instance, is an intriguing idea. How 'bout it?
I just can't see the point in people asking for music they acknowledge they don't even like!

E. forwards a link to a "more complete poster" of the Moshiach concert. We've been fortunate enough to acquire one of these fine pieces of art for Chateau Dm.

Sruly Meyer writes:
Here are 2 full length songs available for download from Sameach. Yossi and Yerachmiel's Ma Nishtana and a brand new song from Yerachmiel Ziegler called "Yom Shekulo" with keyboard and synths by Gavrial Sacks. It's all available for free from Sameach's podcast site.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Shwekey Shrug

I've been having a sense of déjà vu at the yeshivish gigs I've played over the past two months. I've had virtually the same conversation at many of these gigs.

Here's how it goes:

Yeshiva Bachur:"Can you play some new Shwekey?"

Dm: "Sure."

Yeshiva Bachur: "What do you think of the new Shwekey album?"

Dm: shrugs

Yeshiva Bachur: "Yeah, it's not as good as his other album. No good songs."

Dm: shrugs

Yeshiva Bachur: "So, can you play "Ma, Ma, Ma?"

Monday, March 19, 2007

3/19/07 Link Dump (Messianic Jews edition)

The Town Crier posts about the upcoming concert to greet the late Lubavitcher Rebbe Melech Hamoshiach. This yaer, the annual farce is featuring MBD, Lipa, and Yaakov Shwekey again. Their participation is embarrassing. Altz far gelt!

Here's the concert poster:

Ben Jacobson is reviewing Aviad Cohen's Messianic album "Hooked On The Truth" in the Jerusalem Post. The former "50 Shekel", Cohen is now a Messianic Christian. Disclaimer notwithstanding, I think Jacobson is wrong for highlighting this music in a Jewish music column.

Here's an interesting New York Sun article on music composed by poeple imprisoned in jails and concentration camps during World War Two.

Here's the lede:
A waltz. A tango. A piece of jazz. But they weren't composed in Vienna, Buenos Aires or New Orleans.

Scribbled on diaries, loose pages or even toilet paper, these are the notes left behind by people who lived and died in the prisons and concentration camps of World War II.

Italian researchers hope thousands of nearly forgotten works will find new life as they assemble a library of music composed or played in those dark places between 1933 and 1945.

"We are trying to right a great wrong: These musicians were hoping for a musical life for themselves, and they would have had it if their destiny had been different," said Italian musician Francesco Lotoro.

He has been collecting originals, copies and recordings of everything from operas composed in the depth of the Nazi death machine to jazz pieces written in Japanese POW camps in Asian jungles.

The Jewish Week profiles Heedoosh. Their debut disc is on the Dm review stack.

Also in The Jewish Week, an article about Jake Shulman-Ment's Hungarian-Klez project.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Cherry Pink and Olive Blossom Green

Let's Polka reviews Zevy Zions solo accordion release, "Olive Blossoms."
From the start, Zions’ playing is impeccable, even on the most challenging material. But he’s no robot either; whether it’s the bouncy “Jolly Caballero” or the dreamy “Florette”, Zions handles the dynamics and nuances of each piece with care. The album’s centerpiece is his “Klezmer Suite” arrangement, which builds from a wandering, improvisational Doina to a rollicking Freilach.
You can download a free track at the Let's Polka site. It's a warm sounding recording.

Hat tip, the KlezmerShack.

From the mailbag...

MoC emails:
Could you post that yosef karduner will be playing at the jewish music cafe next motsai shabbos, march 17th.

Jewish Music Cafe
401 9th Street (between 6th & 7th Avenues)
Park Slope Brooklyn 11215

For more info, see the JMC website.
Robert Miller writes:
The "Az der Rebbe.." song was put together by a maskil as a parody. Once I saw the name of its originator; it's not so "traditional". Looks like he swiped some of a Schubert tune to lead it off.

Listen to cut #7 of Schubert: Sonatas Nos. D.845 & D894: Music: Franz Schubert,Radu Lupu
That’s why I find it especially ironic that it was used in an ad for tours to Lizhensk for the Rebbe Elimelech’s yahrtzeit.

Adam Davis of writes:
This week, we bring you a special opportunity to learn about ZOHAR, a world fusion ensemble with an interesting Jewish twist. The Great Britain based group rarely tours the US, and is led by Erran Baron Cohen, brother of Sacha and composer of the Ali G and Borat soundtracks. Don't pass up a rare chance to bring this acclaimed ensemble to your community as they tour the US this July. Also, don't forget that the Lag B'Omer and post-Sfirah concert season are coming, and now's the time to plan 2007-2008 musical events.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

3/13/07 Link Dump

Over at Rootless Cosmopolitan, Rokhl notes that Alicia Svigals is curating April at the Stone. It's a very neat lineup. Check it out!

A Hassidic Musician would be remiss if he didn't note that The Kosove Rebbe, HaRav Mendel Hager, gave a P'sak Halachah that it is muttar to copy CD's for any use, even for distribution, as long as there was no money made from it. The Rebbe is, of course, wrong about IPR, but right on about Aderet's "CD rental" policy. (Biber hat tip, The Town Crier.)

Sruly M. writes "YouTube: But Please Don't." He postes an email he received in response to a request to remove Sameach material from YouTube.

The above two links illustrate the issue the JM industry faces with regard to attitudes about downloading, illegal, copying, and other IP infringements. It's going to take a combination of education and legal efforts to effect change, I think. Mostly education.

THE LIFE-OF-RUBIN BLOG has posted a review of Shloime Gertner's debut album.

Eurovision hypocrites? Say it ain't so.

Some more Joo-ish music... with a Hungarian flavor. Here's "I Will Survive."

Ever hear a one-man-band playing wrong chords or off key? Buy him one of these keyboards. You can even say "Oh, I really studied music."

From the NY Sun: "They Never Lose Their Keys."

Here's SawLady's Blog, the blog of a woman who plays musical saw in the NYC subway.

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Peeps Come Marching In

Yes, we've got more...

The Hotel Guest
The Hotel Guest is an attendee at a weekend or holiday getaway who is staying through Sunday. Think Gateways and the like. She always has requests for "one more song" when the band is finished playing at Melave Malka on Motzei Shabbos. Never mind that it's 1 AM and the musicians have to pack up, at least an hours' drive home, and a gig the next morning. Since she's got nowhere to go, we've got to stay too. Not to be confused with the "just one more song" people at a wedding, the Hotel Guest is bored and wants you to stay just to entertain them, even if the rest of the guests have retired for the night.

The Hatikvah Guy
The Hatikvah Guy is a right-wing yeshivish man teaching at an MO school we occasionally play events for. At this school, assemblies are always closed with the singing of Hatikvah. Needless to say, Hatikvah guy can not sing such a treif song, chas v'shalom, yet, he doesn't want to lose his job over the issue either. So he finds ways to occupy himself constructively while the anthem is sung, urging his students to stand up, be respectful, participate, etc. We're pretty sure the administration has no idea that he won't sing the song on principle. When we play the song, we always make sure to make eye contact with Hatikava guy. He knows we know.

The "One Man Band" Fanatic
The One Man Band Fanatic is the guy who prefers to have a one man band as opposed to a full band at his wedding on musical grounds. He pleads with his father to cancel the band he's already hired so that he can have a "yeshivish" sound at his simcha. It's not about saving money, or complying with wedding takanos; it's about the "yeshivishe sound." Note to parents: if your son is a "one-man-band fanatic", please don't embarrass him by hiring an eight piece Neshoma band. He'll never forgive you for embarrasing him in front of his friends like that. Besides, everyone knows a one-man-band sounds exactly like a killer live ensemble. [/sarcasm]

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Purim Peep - The Purim Jerk

In our continuing series of peeps...

"The Purim Jerk"
The "Purim Jerk" comes in two flavors. Purim Jerk #1 is essentially nice guy with some character flaws. All year long, he tries to overcome them, but on Purim, thanks to the alchohol, he loses the battle. Purim Jerk #2 is a jerk year-round. He uses Purim as an excuse to be exceptionally nasty because he can get away with it.

Here are some illustrations of the differences.

Purim Jerk #1 inadvertently insults the bandleader by saying "play something good" when he wants to hear the Shwekey "hit."
Purim Jerk #2 deliberately insults the bandleader by saying "What the hell are you playing this !@#$ for? Play something good!" when he wants to hear the Shwekey "hit."

Both Purim Jerks come up and ask to sing with the band. If you say no...

Purim Jerk #1 keeps pleading "C'mon", "I'm good", etc.
Purim Jerk #2 namecalls, curses and threatens.

If you let them sing...

Purim Jerk #1 sings a bit loudly at times.
Purim Jerk #2 screams into the mic deliberately instead of singing.

Purim Jerk #1 drops the mic out of carelessness when he's finished singing.
Purim Jerk #2 drums with the mic on the table.

Purim Jerk #1 accidentally stumbles into one of the musicians/instruments as he's entering/leaving the bandstand.
Purim Jerk #2 shoves his way straight through the entire band.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

3/7/07 Link Dump

Srully Meyer is asking for your input on an article he's writing about great CD's that haven't been noticed.

The Klezmer Shack has posted Cantor Sam Weiss' article "Congregational Singing in Hasidic Congregations."

Here's a Dei'ah Vedibbur article: "Noise Meters to be Installed at Bnei Brak Wedding Halls.
The foundation of the regulations is a directive requiring all owners of events halls and outdoor venues to install a noise meter, a microphone near the dance floor and an electrical-current meter connected to the sound system and a warning light.

The regulations call for a system that, following a 30-second warning, automatically cuts off the electricity to the amplification system when the noise level exceeds 85 decibels in the seating areas.
Teruah is plugging Shlock Rock.

Yo, Yenta! blogs about singer/songwriter Beth Schafer.

As Far As The I Can See comments on some JM reviews:
Now, after reading other people's reviews I have this to say. If your problem with a song is that you don't like the way the bass and the drums compliment each other, well good on you, but you shouldn't be regarded as an opinion that people should really care about. And
This is middle eastern meets new age techno. It’ an interesting concept with some digital vocals. It then goes into a straight ahead sephardic feel hora.
is not a review. Just saying what's on the CD doesn't make it a review. Sure we're impressed by your ability to use terms that we ourselves wouldn't use, but so what? If you're writing a review, just write a review. Tell us what you thought about the album.
Finally, the RIAA is trying to kill webcasts.

From the mailbag... Updated

KFAR's Adam Davis writes:
Here's the thing about the fundraising concert tzedaka to cost ratio: its not the artist's problem.

Too many clients tell me during the process of planning their event with them that it can't be too expensive because they have to raise $XX, XXX. I understand that, but as an agent, how is this my concern? As a musician, how is it theirs? We're I the fundraising consultant, I suppose I would understand, but in that case, I'd be handling a retainer and a fee which in all likelihood is more than the band makes anyways. Most often the venue costs as much to rent as the act's fee. Sound and production and advertising are usually more than the act, and I feel that beating up the talent for a fair price" is unethical. Most acts would be scraping by if they were just living off their music, and that's the case with many talented Jewish acts.

You want cheaper talent, fine, I can get you cheaper talent, but don't expect it to be a draw or to impress your big donors. Only in a few cases can one make an arguement that talent fees are too high, and perhaps in the case of these overated, schmaltzy shiney-shoe performers, that's exactly the case. So much of a premium is placed on a big name that its because the rule to depend on their draw rather than the quality or originality of their music. Were that the case, you might hear more instrumental, experimental music at some of these concerts rather than big bands and big names. To me, that all sounds the same anyways.

The fact is that most of the money raise from concert events does NOT come from ticket sales. Or at least it shouldn't. Who cares if the event sells out or not? The real bucks should come from pre-show soliciations, not the concert itself, which is just the excuse to raise money. If the issue is truly expense to tzedaka ration, why have a concert at all? Just ask for a straight up donation. The answer is that the concert is the sizzle, not the steak. And you need that steak to sizzle a bit to sell it the customer. Its up to the sponsoring organization to make the most of their fundraising concert and not rely on the draw of the act or beating up on them to reduce their fee to fund their new social hall. That's just lazy. There's not question that fundraising concerts are expensive, but they also present great opportunities to raise funds. If they expect to raise funds through ticket sales, it should be due to a sense of obligation to the organization, not reliance on the draw of the act.

Maybe its my mistake for not working with any artists that don't too much (the highest and most rarely booked act asks $8000 for a show). For most organizations, even $4K is unbelievably high, though nearly all of them still expect me to be able to "get them Matisyahu" for that amount.... The number of organizations that can afford to produce such events are to few to waste my time on it. I really wish there were better ways to promote some of the talented acts out there to the general populace, so that these organizations would have more acts to pick from when they look for acts with a draw. But at some point its a catch 22.
I don't think we disagree. I actually think the smaller concerts can earn more proportionately, with a lerger percentage of the funds raised going to tzedakah and less of a "draw down", as it were, on available tzedaka funds in general. My point was with regard to the big shows occuring with increasing frequency here in NY. There's going to be a scandal at some point, I suspect.

Chasidi news sends a hilarous "English" translation of their Hebrew email. Here's a taste:
Chaim Yisrael Halperin presents – “Relaxing Moments 2” – a high quailty album of quiet calm music, with the participation of Misha Gutberg “the Jewish of the Violin”, Yoeli Barech the saxophone artist and Tzvi Goldring who is also on the tenor saxophone.

Blue Fringe band are releasing a new third album – “The Whole World Lit Up”. Blue Fringe’s third album, like their first two albums, is exactly what Blue Fringe fans everywhere have been expecting and it presents excellent music and compositions while the current album’s novelty is mainly new arrangements for well-known folk songs in Blue Fringe’s special style. Among the ten songs in the album you’ll find the well-known ‘Etz Chayim’, R’ Shlomo Carlebach’s ‘Yehi Shalom’, the Moshav’s ‘Bereishit’ and others. The band, made up of ten friends who had met at the Yeshiva University, include: Dov Rosenblatt, guitarist and lyricist; Avi Hoffman, also guitarist and the band’s composer; the drummer Dani Zwillenberg who binds beats from various musical sources; and Hayyim Dantzig on the bass while the current album was produced together with C. Lanzbom. Distribution: Sameach Music.

Susan writes:
Thank you so much for taking the time to help all of us who have completely fell in love with the music from this movie! I am so thankful I found your site after being frustrated in the search for this music "sound track." (I would have been searching forever!) I would love it if you could suggest any other Jewish music that is this beautiful. Thanks again for helping!!!
Adi Ran needs better representation/marketing here in the U.S.A. Anyone want to suggest some more artists for her?

Dave Kerner writes:
I was sitting in my kitchen the other night, just me, my ukulele and an Enntenmann's apple pie, and came up with, bezrat Hashem, a Purim song. I finished the pie, whipped out my little Fostex digital recording unit and - wha-la - posted it (the song) on the homepage of my website - Please have a listen when you have a chance.
Hmm, maybe we should ship a case of Entenmann's and a ukelele to Seagate!

Shamol writes:
" Eurovision Song Contest organizers say song by Teapacks seemingly refers indirectly to Iran's nuclear ambitions and its hard-line leader Ahmadinejad. "

In 1931, Fritz Lang was filming a thriller about a serial killer, tentatively entitled "Die Mörder sind unter uns" (The murderer is among us). He received threats from the Nazis, who (having only heard the title, but not seen the screenplay) naturally enough assumed that the title referred to them... it was eventually changed to just "M".

The guilty flee where no man pursueth, eh?
Update: Azriel writes:
If I had a buck for everyone who's called me to see if Chaim Dovid or Shlomo Katz could play for their charity "but I have a very small budget and can't pay much", I could retire.

I agree with Adam. It's hard enough for a Jewish musician (especially one who won't play many types of gigs) to make a parnasah. It's nice that people want to raise money but it shouldn't be on the backs of the musicians. If they think that a musician will be a draw that will distinguish their event, they have to pay up.

L'maisah, the gigs we run at Aish Kodesh are run for the sake of the music. We never make money; we are happy to break even or even lose a little bit. But the costs are a tiny fraction of the shiny shoe mega events.
I agree. I think artists should be paid a fair price for their work. And, I think they can set their own fees. But, there's a difference between an artist asking a reasonable amount of money for a full concert (Adam's most expensive artist gets $8000 for a full show) and a singer being paid in the five digits for singing 45 minutes as part of one of these big shows. Also, there's a difference in venue rental fees and associated costs. From the standpoint of using tzedaka money appropriately, these expenditures are outrageous. The mix of large budgets, producers and event planners that are unaccountable to the public (some with a history of bankruptcy and dishonest dealings) uninvolved (or unaware) board members, etc. all play a part here.

Another update: "Max" forwards some upcoming Ed Alstrom NJ gig info. I've removed the Shabbos gigs.:
Ed Alstrom, (piano, vocals)
March ‘07

Thursday, March 8 - 4:30P - 7P
Ed solo (piano, vocals)
Godwin Ave., Ridgewood, NJ
No cover charge!
Ed plays at an organic supermaket, of course.
Do your healthy shopping while digging the sounds.

Tuesday, March 13 - 6:30-10:30P
No cover charge!!
Ed solo (piano, vocals, guitar)
Walnut St., Montclair, NJ 973-744-2600
Just Ed, no group, at Jersey’s best jazz club; best of all, no cover charge!

Ed Alstrom Home Page
We've mentioned Ed here, here (in a post on tefilah groups), and here. I wonder if the record people are coming!

If you go, you might want to see if Ed still has any copies of "The Record people Are Coming" available. It's a fun album. I can't find any purchase info online.

Amazon has his album "Acid Cabaret" here:

Monday, March 05, 2007

Az Der Noam Elimelech...

In the car tonight I caught a few minutes of Zev Brenner's program. Near the beginning of the show, he ran an ad for a trip to Lizensk featuring direct flights from JFK. The trip is being run by Do-all Travel. The music behind the ad... "Az Der Rebbe Elimelech", natch! Anyone know who produced that spot?

Friday, March 02, 2007

Purim News Headlines

In the spirit of the season, we are pleased to bring you news headlines the J-media will not be bringing you. Besides, Zev Brenner needs some more material for his Purim show. (Hi, Zev!)

Breaking News!!! Hot off the wires...

Agudath Israel Launches Jewish Culture Website

Business News: Blockbuster Acquires Aderet's Rental CD Franchise. Mostly Music to Carry Latest Flicks

Man Buys CD After Listening to Sameach Music Podcast

"Girls' Night On!" Caves to JOFA; Changes Name to "Womyn's Night On!"

Carlebach Musical Update: "Upper West Side Story" A Hit! Wins "Best Theme Song" Tony for "Brother, Can You Spare A Hug!"

Matisyahu Drops Sony, Signs with Aderet

Grammy Voters Attribute Klezmatics Grammy Win to Blog In Dm's "Wonder Wheel" Review

Shirei Shmuel Announces Next Project: Adi Ran Tribute Album

Jimmy Carter Elected President of UJC

JTS Decides to Eliminate Ordination Exams. New Rabbis To Be Elected by Popularity Poll of Rabbinical Students.

Srully Williger Releases Cover of Rabbi Menachem Goldberger's Lecha Dodi

Matisyahu Wins Oscar For Role As Hassidic Rapper in "Youth"

J-Dub Signs Shloimy Gertner to Mega-Million Contract.

Gal Paz Signs German Pop Group Dschingis Khan. Sues MBD for Infringement

New Lipa CD Announced: "Lipa Sings Slifkin." Rabbis Expected to Announce Ban.

Jewish Week Pans New Blue Fringe Album

New Album "Neil Sedaka Sings Matisyahu" Bombs

Punk-Klezmer Band "Golem" Recording Streisand Tribute

Klezmatics Release "Wonder Wheel" Follow Up: "Spin Cycle - Musical Settings of Woody Guthrie's Laundry Lists"

Zeek Does Cover Story on Shloime Dachs

Previous years' Purim headlines can be found here and here.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

3/1/07 Link Dump (mostly Purim edition)

Last night, Israel selected its Eurovision entry for this year: Teapacks -- Push the Button. Naturally, it's controversial. Word is MBD's already writing Yiddish lyrics.

Here's a great bottle-dancing video clip from 7 Adar in Meron.

Fox reports "Sales of Rap Albums Take Stunning Nosedive". I blame Ta Shma and Matisyahu.

Ben Jacobson reviews both Rav Shmuel discs. Did you know there were two? I didn't.

YudelLine posts a link to "Dylan hears a Who!" It's better than Suessical!

The Jerusalem Post reports on a song mourning the demise of Zionism's ideals. Betcha the Eurovision folks would prefer this one.

Jewess profiles Galeet Dardashti of Divahn.

Heichal Hanegina posts "SAVED BY A PURIM SONG."

Amishav writes "Shushanian Rhapsody- A Purim Song."

Teruah posts several Purim videos including one of Shlock Rock playing a Purim medley. (Hi, PT!) The third clip features Jessica Reiner-Harris singing "Beauty and the Beast" Purim Style.

Hachayim V'hamaves B'yad.... Hamenahel

The problem of kids abusing alchohol arises every year at this time. Each Purim season brings more ads and articles like this one urging restraint. Yet, seemingly, the problem continues.

Years ago, I played a Purim seudah at one of the most prestigious charedi yeshivos on the East Coast. Virtually all of the bochurim were drunk, with many throwing up, staggering around, etc. I'll never forget how the sax player, who was standing next to me, kept saying: "This is all the Rabbi's fault. I blame him. If he didn't allow this to happen, it wouldn't." I had no answer at the time, and still don't because he was absolutely right. This Rabbi's talmidim would have listened to him, had he made an unequivocal statement banning the practice. I have no idea why he didn't, but the result was a yearly chillul Hashem.

For the past few years, I've played a Purim event for a black-hat high school. Since the boys are away for Purim, the event has been held a few nights earlier. Essentially, it was a Purim gig, only without the obligations of megillah and mishloach manot. Invariably, the boys, all underage, got plastered and many drank until they were sick.

This year, the menahel decided to put an end to this. Instead of the usual talk about not overdoing things, which the guys don't take seriously, he announced a penalty for drinking. A bochur caught drinking would incur a $500 fine plus additional consequences, including, possibly, expulsion. Since he was serious, and there was a clearly defined consequence, the kids took the warning seriously, and didn't drink. (There was one exception. He got caught and will likely be expelled.)

This approach is brilliant. Obviously, you don't expel a good kid for poor judgement on only one occasion. So the $500 is really a strong deterrent for most kids. As far as the problem kids go; a kid who is expelled won't pay the fee.

I played this year's party yesterday, and it was just as lively as previous years, despite the lack of alcohol. Afterwards, many of the kids came over to say that it had been "as great as last year" and "maybe it's better this way." Later that night, I ran into some other kids from the yeshiva, on my way home from my later gig, and they reiterated the sentiments their friends had expressed.

In short, this illustrates that if the rabbinic leadership at our yeshivos finally decide that the underage drinking has gotten unacceptably out of control and needs to be stopped, they can achieve this with ease. In the past, they've sent mixed messages, by talking about how people need to be appropriate, and then winking at innappropriate behavior by participating in events --chagigot, mesibot, get-togethers, etc.-- with obviously drunk kids.

Having witnessed several near accidents as a result of this behavior -- including a near accident last year, when a drunk high-schooler stepped into oncoming traffic -- I'm convinced that something needs to be done about this. It's one thing for a teenager to have a glass of wine at his family's seudah. It's quite another for teens to get stone drunk. It's past time the roshei yeshiva dealt with this effectively.