Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Klezmer Shack Goes Political - Gets Results

Over at the Klezmer Shack, Ari Davidow goes political and gets results. I'd been planning to link to his post in support, but before I'd managed to, the J-Post reports on ADL head Foxman's change of heart.

They must be kvelling at KlezKanada.

Who appointed Foxman anyway?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Watts Up!

Alexander Gelfand writes about drummer Elaine Hoffman-Watts in "She's Still Got the Beat."

This Post Is Banned!

ADDeRabbi satirizes the Jerusalem concert ban envisioning Uncle Moishy's last recording session.

The underlying point of how bans affect performers and musicians who have not done anything wrong, and are finding their parnassah opportunities taken away, is one that the Rabbis sigining these bans need to publicly address.

It's not just about concerts. The Agudah did the same thing with its takanos on wedding band sizes. The notion that someone can take away a person's legitimate parnassah, let alone an entire industry, without addressing said loss of income and their responsibilities to those affected is bizarre, and creates a huge chilul Hashem.

What did these people expect would happen when they suddenly banned a show (that followed their previously established guidelines) just days before. Who is supposed to assume the financial loss that would have resulted had the ban worked? Simply put, it's rishus, and I don't say this lightly. The people who instigate or support these bans have an obligation to those financially affected by them.

The Bandleader Makes All The Difference

I recently had the experience of playing two gigs with the same band. Only thing was, the sign on the bandstand (and the drummer) was different. It was one freelance gig apiece for two different offices.

It was interesting to see how the musicians responded to the featured vocalists who were leading each gig. The affairs were similiar MO weddings with similar repertoire. One affair was unpleasant to play (from when the singer arrived after the cocktail hour) while the other was a lot of fun the whole time. The other musicians kept contrasting the two gigs. I think the difference comes down to respect. On the first gig, many of the musicians felt the singer didn't respect them. On the second gig, they felt respected and appreciated and it came across in their playing.

Personally, I didn't have issues with with either singer, but I felt the other musicians sentiments were affecting their playing. Obviouly, it's more fun to play a gig here everyone is into it, rather than one where some people are feling disrespected.

Thing is, I'm pretty sure the first vocalist is pleased with how the gig came off and has no idea of how many of the musicians perceive him and his behavior towards them.

Surprise! Its A Machlokes!

In a recent post, we presented Rav Ovadyah Yosef's approach to the issue of using romantic melodies for davening.

Now, the rest of the story...

The Tzitz Eliezer (Vol. 13:12) rules that it's forbidden to sing kaddish/kedusha to shirei agavim. He says its a toevah to put divrei kedusha in begadim tzo'im. He says it's a ma'aseh Satan to get people to sing tunes which bring a loss in the purity of one's kavana both knowingly and unknowingly.

He argues that the melody is the essence of the song (re'ach hashir) and many times conveys the meaning independently of the lyrics. He dismisses the argument some make that it won't affect them as "just words". And, he writes, it certainly causes the hamon am to have improper thoughts.

He explains his ruling: The Rif writes that a shat"z who is meranen b'shirei arev (it doesn't have to be during tefilah) is given a warning. If he doesn't stop, he is removed from his position.

he cites the Rema who rules like the Rif. There is a question as to whether the text of the Rema reads "Shirei Agavim" (romantic songs) or "Shirei Nochrim" (secular songs). The Magen Avraham reads "shirei nochrim." The MA quotes the Sefer Chassidim (238) re:teaching a priest and says the Rema is referring to tunes that are used for Avodah Zara.

The Tzitz Eliezer takes issue with this and says that this is not the Rema's reason. Rather, the Rema holds like the Rif that shirei agavim are always assur and the Sefer Chassidim is adding that shirei avodah zara are assur. He then quotes the Sefer Chassidim (768) re: one who has a good voice, and points out that it doesn't say anything about avodah zara there because 9he claims) it refers to shirei agavim.

He brings the Radvaz says that the Rif (when he writes shirei arev) means shirei agavim and since the Rema is based on the Rif... (this works better if you're gores "shirei agavim" in the Rema.)

He argues that even the Bach and Magen Avraham, who interpret the Rema as referring to shirei avodah zara, would agree that shirei agavim are assur. It's a kal vachomer. (This is Rav Waldenberg's interpretation of the Bach. The pashtus is otherwise.)

He brings the Ma'aseh Rokeach says it's assur and may also be a violation of u'vechukoseyhem lo seyleychu.

Ra Waldenberg then points out that although the Chida critiqued the Ma'aseh Rokeach (re: Maharam Lunzano) he didn't take issue with his psak.

He argues that the chachamim who sang nigunei nochrim didn't know the source so it didn't affect them. (I find this assertion hard to believe. Also, it seems to conflict with his idea of the melody being the "re'ach of the song.) He writes that those who know where the melodies come from are affected by them.

He cites Krach Shel Romi and vehemently disagrees.

He brings the Divrei Chayim, who writes about those who use shirei agavim for tefilah: "oy lahem lepsaim halalu areyley lev, eyn tevunah bahem."

The Tzitz Eliezer quotes Shu'T Ziknei Yehuda (R' Yehuda Aryeh of Modena) who praises professional quality singing by chazzanim and say repeating words during tefilah is permissible. He says to ignore him because he was a kofer and a gambler.

This concludes the summary of the Tzitz Eliezer's responsa.

In a related note, the Yosef Ometz (quoted in Minhag Yisroel Torah) says it's forbidden to use secular tunes for davening, and says we shouldn't try to be smart and say that they stole the tunes from us in the times of the Beis Hamikdash. That's an approach I've seen some in the J-blogosphere take and it strains credulity. At any rate, here's a Chassidic source that doesn't accept that approach.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

You Can't Make This Stuff Up!!!

Today's Hamodia had an article about a convention of "Kiruv activists". Here's a photo of one of the roshei yeshiva addressing the attendees.

Note the text on the banner. Its a pasuk from Yeshaya made popular by Avraham Fried's hit song, "Chazak." The literal translation: Every man would help his friend and tell his brother "be strong". Although this is the literal translation of the text, in context, it clearly refers to Jews helping their fellows worship idols; an odd choice of lyric for a Hassidic dance song. The Artscroll translation includes "worship idols" in brackets, since that's the clear implication.

An ironic choice of banner for a kiruv gathering, dontcha think? Unless missionaries to other faiths were also participating.

This Link Dump Is Also Banned!!!

Mah Rabu goes sleuthing and discovers who the soft jazz musician at Kutz was. I knew it was Bloom. It was either him or else Kenny G, which isn't likely. We'd mentioned Bloom's Shabbat Jazz service back in 2003. Listen to the Barchu clip. I'd never have tried to make that work with teens. Again, what was the Kutz administration thinking?

I learned one of Bloom's tunes, "Standing On The Shoulders" from another musician I took over for on an outreach program. I later found his Tikkun Olam cassette, which has the song on it, in a cutout bin in Chinatown for 25 cents. They had two Jewish cassettes, Bloom's and the HASC musical at Radio City Music Hall. The rest were all heavy metal albums by bands with names like Rigor Mortis.

Sameach Music is looking for composers to submit songs for consideration.

Life of Rubin posts a video of someone, apparently in a church, covering Matisyahu's "King Without A Crown."

He also has more on the recent concert ban in Jerusalem.

Here's a Ha'aretz article on the subject.

The Jewish Worker posts a Hebrew article about the ban. Also some English articles from Chareidi media.

R' Harry Maryles comments.

Greg zings!

Larry Gordon weighs in. The implications for the singers and their families is troubling. This has been a massive chilul Hashem. And, the attempt by some to interfere with the singers family lives --i.e. getting their children expelled from school because their father "doesn't listen to Gedolei Yisroel" is outrageous and should be vigorously condemned by rabbinic leaders. The public silence is troubling!

Cross Currents posts a bizarre guest post attempting to explain the ban. We're not buying it.

R' Harry is also criticizing a Jewish children's educational CD. The state of Jewish children's entertainment...

Go to Hebrew School and learn about Jewish Blues: Out of the Woods.

Over at Orthodox Anarchist, there's a discussion of DJ Handler's Y-Love mixtape and the ethichs, or lack therof, of sampling without permission.

You know, Sweet Home Alabama really needed balalaika.

So now there's another way for some JM entertainers to ride the tzedakah gravy train. Nice!

The Klezmer Shack posts about konosans retro. Christian Dawid recently gave me a copy and a review is forthcoming. The short version. Buy it.

Amazon has it here:

Ari also posts a link to photos from Yiddish Summer Weimar.

Here's some good music news out of Pakistan.

Here's a ample track off of MoC's latest project, featuring previously unrecorded Carlebach tunes.

Khevre reunite for a good cause. If you're in or near Boston, check them out. Tell Garf we sent you!

Here's a great 404 page. Via Music Thing.

No one sets out to be a smooth jazz musician. Except at Kutz.

George Robinson reviews disc by Frank London, Basya Schecther, and more.

Powerline writes about Idan Raichel.

Finally, Soundbrush records is offering a free download of a track from Frank London's "A Night in the Old Marketplace."

Amazon has that album here:

From the mailbag...

Where did George Robinson Crusoe go with Friday on Saturday night? Who knows! But, it was definitely not the smooth-jazz Maariv service.

Jewish Week music critic George Robinson writes:
First of all, I thoroughly enjoy your blog, which is refreshing in its frankness and very well-written.

I feel obliged to offer a couple of comments in regard to the tempest in a glaizele tea at Kutz. (If you should choose to quote any of this, please make it clear that a lot of it is meant to be tongue-in-cheek; I can't write or think any other way, I'm afraid.) As the music critic for Jewish Week, I had nothing to do with the story in question, but I have to say -- and I'm speaking as a Reform Jew, albeit one who has shifted towards more observance, like many of my brothers and sisters in the Reform world -- if someone had played a 'smooth-jazz service" in presence, walking out is the least offensive thing I would do. As anyone who reads my record reviews will tell you, I hate, Hate, HATE smooth jazz and am merciless towards its purveyors in the Jewish music community. (If I had a child, better s/he should eat clams Alentejano, a Portuguese traditional dish that has the best of both treif worlds by combining the aforementioned shellfish with bacon.)

All joking aside, if these kids' parents are anything like the ones in my two congregations -- for that matter, anything like my parents way back in the Jurassic era -- they are probably proud of what the kids did, or should be. I was always encouraged to speak my mind fearlessly but politely and that seems to be exactly what happened in this incident. Was it worth the amount of coverage we gave it? I'm not privy to decisions regarding the front page of Jewish Week, but I have to say that our track record as a reliable and enterprising news-gathering organ is pretty good. I'm a very small cog in the machinery of the newspaper, but quite proud to be a part of it.

Please keep up the great work. I will definitely keep reading.
Thanks for the kind words about the blog. Now, about that front page Blue Fringe spread...

A Simple Jew forwards links to some music posts here, here, here, here,and here.

Adam Davis forwards a KFAR update.

Jordan Hirsch writes:
I will once again be playing with The Kleztraphobix at Barbes on Monday, August 20th at 10 PM. Barbes is at 9th Street and 6th Avenue in Park Slope, Brooklyn.
Brandon Seabrook is sitting in on banjo for this set.

Finally, Craig Taubman emails that the Jewels of Elul postings have begun today. You can find them at

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I Love You, Period. Question Mark?

Hirhurim posts about the use of the melody Erev Shel Shoshanim for kedusha. He's uncomfortable with it because it's a love song. He cites a responsa from R. Yehudah Henkin (Bnei Banim 3:35:10:
It is forbidden to use Non-Jewish songs -- even if they are not love songs or Hebrew folk songs -- as tunes for prayer if the congregation recognizes the songs and will think about the secular words during prayer time.
His conclusion:
Since in my circles I'm probably the only one who knows the words to Israeli love songs, I guess the current practice is permissible according to R. Henkin and I'm out of luck.
Be sure to read the comments to the post as well.

In Yechave Da'as II:5, Rav Ovadya Yosef responds to the question of whether its permissible to set kaddish/kedusha to the melodies of shirei agavim (romantic songs). He quotes the Sefer Chassidim (768) "Viyizaher mi sheyesh lo kol na'im shelo yizamer nigunim nochrim ki aveirah hi, velakach nivra kolo, leshabeach bor'o, velo l'aveira." Rav Yosef quotes Shu'T Rif, Rema, Radvaz, Kol Bo, and Orchos Chayim that this is only referring to the words, and not to the melody.

He points out that although the Ma'aseh Rokeach holds that it's assur and quotes Maharam Di Lunzano as supporting his position, the Chida has noted that Maharam Di Lunzano himself wrote words and set them to Arab melodies.

Rav Yosef rules that it is mutar to do this, and mentions many "Geonei Yisrael" who wrote such songs. They include the author of Shu"T Beit Dino Shel Shlomo, R' Avraham Antebi - the Yosheiv Ohalim, The Nochach Hashulchan, and others.

Rav Yosef then quotes the Sefer Chassidim (148) that when you're davening, you should choose "nigun hana'im vehamatok sheb'aynecha." He connects this to the Rambam in Hilchos Lulav who writes: "kol hamoneya atzmo misimchas mitzvah zos, ra'uy lipara mimenu, tachas asher lo avadita es Hashem Elokecha besimcha u'vetuv levav merov kol.

He also cites the Krach Shel Romi that in Eretz Yisrael the practice was to use Arab tunes, and in Turkey, the practice was to use Turkish melodies. the Kaf Hachaim didn't approve of the use of secular tunes, but those cited above disagree.

Rav Yosef then quotes R Eliyahu Chazzan (Shu"T Ta'alumos Halev): "kol halacha shehi rofefes biyadecha, tzey ur'ey ma hatzibur nohagim unehog ken."

In a footnote to this teshuvah, Rav Yosef adds that all things being equal, ideally it's preferable to use shirei kodesh. He mentions that the Arugos Habosem supports the Kaf Hachaim's position because while the chazzan is singing foreign nigunnim, the hamon am will be thinking of the words to the song instead of the tefilah. So, even though he doesn't hold its prohibited due to this "din", the Arugas Habosem would still be opposed becauses it interferes with kavanah.

Incidentally, the song Erev Shel Shoshanim has become known as Yarus in Arub countries where it is sung with Armenian lyrics. It has been immensely popular among belly dancers for many years as a beautiful song to use for doing veil work.

Suggestion to R' Gil. Buy this disc:

It has different lyrics for the melody, in Arabic, to associate with the tune when the chazzan sings it. And, since I presume R' Gil doesn't speak Arabic, it'll solve the problem of singing kedusha to a romantic song.

You can hear a clip of the Arabic version at the Amazon page linked above. It's the third audio sample titled "Every Morning." Piamenta fans should check out the fourth track, "My Love", as well.

First A Revolt, Now Heads Are A Splode!

Following up on my previous post, "Juveniles Revolt in Reform Camp".....

Over at Jewschool, BZ posts a critique of the Jewish Week and the camp administration. He makes the same point we made about the music chosen. Read the whole thing. It's a well-written, passionate piece, from a Reform perspective. The Kutz camp leadership has not been inspiring, to say the least. And, to the extent that their actions appears to reflect the perspective of many in the Reform movement's leadership, its disturbing.

Here he responds to the article's characterization of Carlebach.
For the first time, song leaders taught the chasidic songs of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach alongside more modern Reform tunes.

“More modern”??? Carlebach was writing his now-classic tunes in the ’70s, at the exact same time that Friedman and Klepper were writing theirs. And they were all doing basically the same thing — setting Jewish prayers to simple melodies influenced by an American folk idiom to enable people to join together in spirited musical prayer. Just because Carlebach had a bigger beard than Klepper and sang with an Ashkenazi accent doesn’t mean that his music is any more “traditional” or less “modern”.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Juveniles Revolt in Reform Camp

So, the Jewish Week has a cover story on "Reform youth flexing their ritual muscle." Here's the lede:
Warwick, N.Y. — The sun was setting at the Reform movement’s teen leadership camp in this picturesque upstate town, and in the dying light of a sweet summer day it was time for the evening prayer service.

In the lakeside pavilion that serves as Kutz Camp’s synagogue, the visiting musician who led the evening service on the Fourth of July, a Wednesday, set the prayers to an easy-listening jazz sound.

It was a musical style, played on an electric keyboard, that almost none of the campers connected with, many said later. But some took their displeasure a step further, doing something unprecedented that night at Kutz that speaks volumes about a generation of Reform teens that is staking a new claim to Jewish ritual and tradition and posing a challenge for movement leaders.

As the musician played a jazzy version of the Barchu, a couple of campers got up and walked out. Over the next several minutes, other pairs of high school-age campers, one after another, got up and quietly left. It took awhile for the adults in the room to realize what was happening, but some 40 campers in all, about a quarter of those in attendance, spontaneously got up and left the service. The service was too untraditional, they later said, offensively so.
Naturally, there's a lot of angst over this. Frankly, aside from outing the camp rabbi as intolerant towards those who are seeking some more meaningful rituals, the article makes much ado out of nothing.

To recap, forty teenagers walked out of an easy-listening jazz service because they didn't connect to the service. This is news? It's impressive that any of them stayed. Who is doing the programming for this camp? Easy-listening jazz? For teens? What where they thinking?

Monday, August 06, 2007

From the mailbag...

Yitz writes:
I know this topic interests many of you. I just purchased a booklet entitled, "Ki Dvar Hashem Baza" ["For they have denigrated the word of G-d"]. It's subtitled: an explanation of the sources & influences of secular music on the "chareidi" pop music idols. Published by "HaVaad LeNegina Yehudit" [committee for Jewish music], its author is one Efraim Luft from Bnei Brak.

He has approbations [haskamos] from a Rav in Tifrach and a Rav in Bnei Brak, quotations from various Chareidi Rabbanim, including a "Kriya Kodesh" from the Beis Din of Rav Wasner [Vosner] in Bnei Brak.

I will try reporting back to you of any interesting items I find here, either via e-mail or my blog. He also mentions that copies IN ENGLISH can be ordered from him at
6 Rechov HaRav Toledano
Bnei Brak

Tel. 03-619-1973; 054-846-0068
[from outside Israel, drop the zero and add the country code, 972].
I haven't seen Luft's book yet, but I've addressed some of his published articles in the past. See here for some links.

KFAR's Adam Davis writes:
Rabbinical School Dropouts @ Empty Bottle Aug 19

Also, planning a fall (debut) tour for Aharit Hayamim. Interesting act and I think has a lot of potential here.
We already are nailing down dates, but interested parties can visit and contact me at

KFAR got a bunch of press for hosting the recent final show at Chicago's Hothouse, featuring Zohar.
Heshy writes:
My cousin- by coincidence named Avi Fried has this Jewish rock group that is trying to gain puhblicity any way, you may be able to a piece on them?
Korrine Fitz writes:
Do you have any ideas of how I can obtain music for a Jewish aerobics class for teens?!
Any help would be appreciated.
I suggest looking at the J-Walking albums to see if they'll work.

PSA: Hold That Thought

One of the things I come across frequently is people who can't "hold that thought." They start off saying something appropriate, but then continue on turning their seemingly nice comment into one of the sort that's makes everyone within earshot cringe.

In the interest of helping people avoid these faux pas, here is a list of actual comments we've heard at events. We've italicized the inappropriate parts, so that the reader can discern what is, and what is not, appropriate.

Scene 1 (At the seudah following a bris. The baby's father has just completed hamotzi.)
Amen! Snip the tip!

Scene 2 (At the end of a wedding.)
Mazal Tov! May you have many, many children! Get started tonight!

Scene 3 (Brother of the Groom speaking at a wedding.)
Bro, you've married a wonderful woman. she's beautiful, sweet and kind. And, you better watch out, because I'm going to be over at your place all the time while you're on call at the hospital, and ...

Scene 4 (Guys talking at a wedding.)
She's quite attractive... for a fat girl.

See how this works people? You're supposed to stop BEFORE you turn your appropriate comment into something cringe-worthy. Got that?

Friday, August 03, 2007

This Link Dump is Banned!!!

So another concert was banned in Israel. naturally, the show sold out.

MoC comments.

Chaim shares his thoughts.

Here's Hirhurim.

On this general topic, Charediation writes "Halacha v'ein morin kein!"

Here's Am Kshe Oref.

R' Harry Maryles addresses the subject.

Dovbear chimes in. A DovBear commentor apologizes.

Mishmar has a question.

Frum Satire opines.

Meanwhile, MBD cancels a concert!

In other news...

Mordechai Shinefield profiles the Sarah Aroeste band.

Ben Jacobson reviews Seeds of Sun's album.

Teruah posts about a punk rock rant.