Thursday, June 26, 2008

6/26/08 Link Dump

The links have been piling up...

The Forward publishes "Taking a Note From ‘American Idol,’ Only With Haredi Contestants and Nicer Judges."

Teruah takes Heeb to school. Ari Davidow comments on the topic too. Amen!

Here's the next big thing. Viral Lipa videos! The footage comes from a video of the Bobover Rebbe on Purim a few years ago. Lipa's music is sped up to match the Rebbe's movements. Heib oyf!

Chaptzem reports on one school's response to Lipa's popularity. They banned his music and encouraged the breaking of a pen he'd signed. (Via Life of Rubin.)

The Jewish Week writes about David Buchbinder in "An Edgy Crossover Sound."

On The Fringe posts "Fightin' words in support of Jewish musicians."

Wolfish Musings posts "The Big Event Cancellation: Lipa Says The Rabbanim Were Lied To."

He also posts about copying media in "How About Just Because It's Not An Ehrlich Thing To Do?"

Vos Iz Neias posts "Lipa To Meet With Fans, As New CD Set To Shatter Decades-Old Sales Record."

Here's a Menachem Daum Religion & Ethics profile/video segment about Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach.

The Jerusalem Post reports about a controversy involving panflutist Zamfir.

Its unbeLIPAble!!!!!!!!!! posts "WHERE ARE THE CHOSSON AND KALLAH???"

The Klezmer Shack posts "The klezmer Golem, revisited" More info at Mark Rubin's blog.

Gruntig posts a video clip of Shlomo Gronich singing Keili Ata.

Dana Friedman writes "Song Parodies—Repurposed brilliance or unlicensed hackery?"

Teruah posts "Carl Dimow's 'klezmerish jam on bass flute.'"

Speaking of Hamodia...

This full page ad also appeared in yesterday's Hamodia.

Personally, I disagree that internet/text-messaging enabled cell phones are "the greatest danger we face today as an "Am Hashem." I think the issues brought to the fore by the Lipa ban process represent a far greater challenge to the Chareidi community. Lipa did a radio interview this morning in which he addressed many of these issues. You can read about it here.

Summer Rock Camp Yeshiva

This ad appeared in yesterday's Hamodia:

Join in a world-class opportunity to study guitar like "a shtickle gemara" and Torah like a piece of beautiful music. Five hours daily of intense study, taught by experts. Theory, Technique and Composition. Lab mentored by recording artist Rav Shmuel.
And you can get college credits!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

From the mailbag...

Yoel writes:
We are a group of Yiddish lovers from Israel, that decided to contribute to Yiddish language by offering private and small groups Yiddish online lessons. For that purpose, we have created last year .

If you could refer us from your blog, that would help us alot.

Moreover, if you are interested to speak Yiddish and help other students practicing it, have a look at our 'Practice Yiddish'.

We thank you in advance.
JoeFlix writes:
Honestly I never knew of your blog... Rubin linked to your Lipa post, I printed it and read it in the gym. I loved your analysis of Lipas subtle and low-profile attack on the establishment.

Also I think what you said about the politics of fear and that its a "one chance and you're out" force - was very well written.
Krum Frum writes:
The following actually happened at a gig I played recently:

I was called last minute to play this gig for some 7th to 9th grade bochurim that were making a Siyum on some pretty significant learning. I agreed to it and showed up on time (= 30 min before the event), only to find that the place was still locked. Surprise, surprise.

Eventually, they came and opened the place up. The guy in charge of the event came over and told me that he wanted some "lebedig music", but could not provide any frame of reference for what he was looking for. He came over numerous times during the event and asked for more lebedig music, but no change in tempo, style, volume, etc. seemed to take care of that consideration.

During the course of the event, this guy made many references in his speeches to Hakoras Hatov for this Rebbi, that Rosh Yeshiva, this Baal Ha'bayis who came and facilitated the learning, and this Rebbi and that Rebbi who didn't make it, and how important Hakoras Hatov is, etc. etc.

The last Hakoras Hatov was the best:

"We must show Hakoras Hatov to Band X (the other one in town) that usually plays all of our events and does a wonderful job. They are the best! Unfortunately, they could not be here this evening, as they are playing a Chasunah, so we had to get someone else. Sorry about that. The next time you see Mr. Band X or his son, etc., please show them your Hakoras Hatov for all they do for us. Thank you all for coming."

...and he sat down.

What about me? They bring me in last minute, then spend their whole time talking about the other band that couldn't make it and how wonderful they are, and they ignore me?

I wonder what lesson about Hakoras Hatov and Mentchlichkeit they taught the large crowd of bochurim who were in attendance...I'm going to guess that the message was loud and clear, and that it was NOT in the spirit of what they should be teaching. It sounded quite reminiscent of your post about the guy who hit your car -- when you consider other statements from people, their actions start to reflect what they REALLY believe, and not what they nominally preach.

I imagined you'd find this amusing.
More sad than amusing.

Psachya writes:
Re Lipa's new album: After the Big Event cancellation, most people I spoke to assumed that it was the end of Lipa's career. "He's done" was the popular sentiment. My reply: "If you really think so, then you don't know Lipa at all." The fact is, despite the buffoonery, Lipa is one of the most intelligent, street-smart performers in the JM scene today, as the album's marketing campaign surely proves. It doesn't surprise me at all that the Big Event cancellation, in the long run, is actually helping Lipa's career - or that Lipa is successfully tapping in to the wellspring of resentment that many frum Jews feel about the current kannaistic environment they find themselves in. Anyone who underestimates this guy had better watch out. (And yes - the album is on my to-buy list.)
He also writes:
Re your "too-high/too low" peep - I had to laugh. I think his grandfather was on my gig last night. He came over before the chupa and told me confidently that he wants to sing Ma Tovu in E major, and will I please give him a chord. I did, and he promptly started singing in C. We tried this a few times, me giving him an E major chord, him singing in C. Finally, I told him, "You know, C major seems to work for you. Why don't we just do it in C?" "OK," he said. Came the actual ceremony, I gave him a nice C major chord, and he promptly started singing in (you saw this coming, didn't you?) E MAJOR! I don't know about the rest of the crowd, but the band thought it was all pretty entertaining. (Thanks, guys!)
Jeremy Monat writes:
Nice blog -- sorry about your car but I love the review of Lipa Schmeltzer's "A Poshiter Yid." Has he been banned from shuls?

As you know there's a renaissance going on in Jewish music and you can find its essential works on Matisyahu fuses Jewish themes with reggae:

Matisyahu: No Place To Be

and SoCalled mixes traditional Jewish samples with rock, funk, and Jazz:

So Called: Ghettoblaster

I hope you like the music we have on and tell your readers about it!
E. forwards a link the a JTA article about "The Jewish (celebrity) Songbook."

Steven I. emails a link to the "Circumcise Me" trailer.

Monday, June 23, 2008

This Review Is Banned! -- Lipa Schmeltzer's "A Poshiter Yid"

Bought the new Lipa CD, "A Poshiter Yid"...

Had an interesting conversation with the Judaica store salesman. He saw me looking at the CD and came over to say "that's brand new. It's great." I told him I was buying it to support Lipa. He asked if it was "because of what they did to him" and when I said it was, he told me he agreed with me. Judging by the comments on other sites, I'm not the only one to do so.

Before I get to my thoughts on the disc, here's a story that happened while I was listening to it...

I bought the CD and took it along in the car for a shopping expedition in Boro Park the other day. I was listening to the CD while parked, waiting for a family member, when my car was bumped by a car backing into the huge parking space in front of me. So, I leaned on the horn. That didn't stop the fellow from backing straight into me again.

Before I got out of my car to check for damage, two people got out of the car and quickly, without turning to apologize or check for damage, went into the yeshiva across the street. I didn't recognize the driver, but the passenger was the Novominsker Rebbe, the Rosh Yeshiva of said yeshiva and the Rosh Agudah. He's also one of the Rabbonim behind the Lipa ban. Rumor is that it was personal for him. It seemed to fit that he'd be driven around by someone who clearly doesn't have much concern for the damage he does to others.

Take a look at the bumper rash on this car. (You can see part of the Yeshiva building across the street.)

That's not someone who parks carefully, being considerate of other's property.

There's no way they didn't notice that they'd bumped me or missed hearing the horn. The impact was hard enough that there easily could have been damage to my car, and in either case, I was obviously there and aware of the impact.

I found it extremely ironic that this would happen while I was listening to the new Lipa disc, as the seeming lack of concern for potential damage done to others is even more evident in the way the Novominsker and some of his peers have treated Lipa. Whether it's the Big Event ban, wedding takanos, or other situations, he's demonstrated a remarkable lack of concern for many. Fortunately, there was no damage to my car, thanks to the placement of the license plate holder, I assume.

Now on to the CD...

I've written about Lipa's music before. I believe he is a very refreshing talent with a lot of depth and very creative ideas. I do enjoy many aspects of his work , although I'm not fond of some of the pop stylings he's been trending towards.

This is a very subversive disc. The graphical elements in the packaging, marketing, and music all work together to set up the theme, Lipa the "Poshiter Yid", the simple Jew. The CD cover shows the simple Jew, Lipa, (who appears to have dropped his last name, although it is on the door of the hut pictured on the cover) learning Torah in front of his hovel.

In a very smart move, Lipa has included a bumper sticker and bookmark in the CD packaging. The bumper sticker reads “I’m A Poshiter Yid” in English and “’kh’ Bin A Poshuter Yid” in Yiddish, both in simple type. The bumper sticker is the perfect means to enable the "amkho" to show their displeasure to rabbinic leadership run amok in a non-confrontational way. It's hard to take issue with the sentiment expressed. Bet you'll see a lot of these around. (You can see one in use here.) They should sell these separately.

The same goes for the bookmark. Think about it. What Yeshiva is going to ban a bookmark with the tefilos said before and after learning Torah? If they try, they look like vindictive fools. And if they don't, all the bochurim will be running around with Lipa ads in their seforim. Beautiful.

Indeed, the marketing is the exact opposite of that for the banned "Big Event." Instead of presenting himself as "the" big star, Lipa is presenting himself as merely a simple Jew, a "Poshiter Yid". Hence the CD title. It's going to be difficult for the rabbonim to argue with that pseudo-modest self-assessment.

This low-key tone extends to the in-store posters too. I passed by Eichler's in Flatbush. They had simple green papers in the window that simply read "Lipa!" in a plain font. I passed another store on Ave. J that had a plain white poster with a small image of the album cover in middle and a lot of blank white space.

There is also some explicit anti-ban imagery in the CD package including a photo giving "A BIG thanks, to BIG people who do BIG things." The image shows Lipa asleep over his seforim and the text underneath reads March 9 '08, which was the date of the banned/cancelled "Big Event."Another panel in the booklet shows an old wooden wall with the remnants of a Kol Koreh and Poshiter Yid bumper sticker that have both been torn down, presumably by people opposed to their respective messages. You can see these images here.

(One gripe about the Digipack design. Whoever manufactured these didn't do a good job gluing them. Mine started coming apart when I opened the CD. Is the booklet is too thick for its pocket? Whatever the reason, it's disappointing that it's already coming apart.)

About the music...

Album opener "Yomam Valaila" is a funky ode to Torah learning, in which Lipa sings various common Gemara phrases, names of topics of Jewish study, and famous commentators like Rashi and Rambam over a slamming drum groove.

One of Lipa's trademarks is his use of original Yiddish lyrics to create "Pop Mussar", if you will, through songs like Gelt and Vos Is Neais, for example. You can call him "Der Alter of Yiddish Pop."

On this album, those songs include "Yener," "A Poshuter Yid," "Wake Up" (the rest of the lyrics are Yiddish), and "Hentelakh".

"Yener" is an ode to individuality. Sample lyric: "Yenem's deye loz geyn, fregt dir aleyn: 'Vu bin ikh? Ver Bin Ikh? Ver Bin Ikh?' Meanwhile, the music sounds like it could fit into a dance set between "Boogie Oogie Oogie" and "Lady Marmalade."

In "A Poshiter Yid," Lipa sings of the challenge of being a simple Jew nowadays to musical accompaniment that evolves from acoustic folk rock to Bossa with a detour or two along the way.

"Wake Up" is a funky song about the importance of getting up in the morning. The tune opens with a recording of Lipa's father leaving a message on his machine urging him to get up because there are just a few minutes left to say Shema before the Zman.

Album closer, "Hentelakh" urges the listener to "heyb oyf dayne hentelakh tzum Tatte in himmel!" It sounds like something C & C Music Factory might have produced if they had been Chassidic. Ale mentshen tants yets!

On Halelu, Lipa trades vocals with composer Yitzchak Fuchs, who sounds here like a cross between Adi Ran and Yosef Karduner. It's nice to see some of the Israeli alternative chassidic musicians getting some exposure here. The recent trend towards including them on US JM releases has positive potential. (It also has the potential to be exploitative, but this collaboration does not feel that way to me.) I reviewed Fuch's Disc "Melech" in 2004 here.

The wayward son sings of faith in "Carry On", the album's English language song. Why do JM singers feel compelled to sing bad Beis Yaakov poetry? IMO, Lipa really doesn't need to do the whole English thing, especially since he didn't even write the lyrics.

"Asher Yotzar" is a catchy number, and the "shtik" in middle of the song is cute. Sounds just like a heymishe wedding. Except, shouldn't it be a one-man-band, instead of trumpet? Come to think of it, it'd been funny if he'd broken the tune down with a "one-man band" breakdown, and then came back in with the whole band!

A number of these songs are going to be in the simcha rotation this season in Brooklyn, I'd guess. My prediction: "Yomam Volayla", "Asher Yotzar", and "Hentelech" will make the second dance set at Brooklyn weddings this season.

About the only thing I can think of that Lipa can do to increase the presence of this music in the community is to post the sheet music on his new website. Yes, he now has one. (Unlike the previous aborted attempt, this one has actual content.) There are also shout-outs to a number of J-blogs in the "My Supporters" section of the CD acknowledgments.

One of the interesting things about the politics of fear in the chareidi community -- the idea of keeping people in line through the threat of shaming-- is that once the shaming is done, the threat is gone, and there's less of an incentive to conform. In other words the threat may work keep people in line, but once someone has been "shamed", there's no longer any incentive for them to hold back.

For example, recently Pravda Ne'eman revived itself. The blogger(s) behind it was/were threatened with outing if they didn't shut down. So, they did. But, they were outed anyway. Guess what happened to that blog! That's right. It's back. Same with the UOJ blog. And now, Lipa. I suppose they can still throw his kids out of school, but it'd be a lot harder to do, given the subversive nature of his marketing campaign, as well as community sentiment.

Incidentally, for another perspective on this CD, here's a new Blog in Dm feature we're going to call "Back Seat Review". Think Pitchfork for toddlers.

At any rate, here's the review:
"I don't like these words. I like the words on Uncle Moishy's songs better!"
As for me, I'm looking forward to seeing ads for the A Poshiter Yid "Not A Concert" summer tour!

Some More Peeps

"Podium Mic Guy"

This peep is the one who discovers that the mic at the podium is live. So, he joins in for the dance set, singing over the band. Of course, said mic is not wired into the band's PA, but rather the house system, so we have no control over the volume. Naturally, he also sings almost, but not quite, a half step below whatever the band is playing.

"The Metronome"

The choral director for a musical presentation during the event, this peep understands only one tempo marking, accelerando. Contrary to their impression, the piece would've sounded more natural without a conductor leading the vocalists in what sounded like a race to the coda. Pretty impressive for a choral arrangement of a ballad. This peep should not drink coffee before the gig.

"The Rock N' Roller"

This peep wants the clarinet/accordion duo to "play some rock n' roll we can dance to" at the simcha they were booked to play Klezmer for. Never mind the instrumentation and the fact that the dance floor is full! Want to heart a rocking version of Der Alter Tsigayner?

"Too High/Too Low Guy"
This peep comes over before the chupa to give us the key he'll be singing in during the ceremony. "What key is this?", he says, singing a few notes. "C#", we tell him. He sings through the piece to himself and says: "that's too high! How about C?" We give him a C and he sings through the piece again. "Too low!", he says. Um....

(For the record, he sings it during the ceremony in D.)

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Friday, June 06, 2008

Lipa Returns

Life-of-Rubin posts the video promo for Lipa Schmeltzer's forthcoming CD, "A Poshete Yid."

It's good to see that the recent contretemps has had an impact on Schmeltzer. Gone is the comedy and the use of secular influences -- especially pop music influences. [/sarcasm]

Let the games begin! Schmeltzer fires the first shot.

More info here.

6/6/08 Link Dump

You knew this was coming... Chareidi Idol!

Gift ideas for the musician in your life:Bucket Drums and a FLASHY T SHIRT

Mordy Shinefield emails a link to his latest article, "Yeshiva Destruction: Disturbed's Unlikeliest Fans."

Do these guys sell gift certificates?

Saul Austerlitz is apparently joining the JM beat.

Here's a taste of his latest:
The Chevra’s third album, cleverly dubbed “Chevra 3,” provides a textbook definition of excess: four singers who sound like *NSYNC wailing over ringing electric solos from a guitarist (Avi Singolda) who dearly misses the glory days of Poison and Mötley Crüe. The result is glorious cheese, where the words (mostly borrowed from the Psalms) take a back seat to the desire to sonically overwhelm. Chevra’s fans may not listen to the radio, but someone involved with the group clearly does.
Love his decription of Miami Boys Choir leader Yerachmiel begun as someone who "can't resist a good metal solo."

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

6/3/08 Link Dump

Yeshiva World blogs the Salute to Israel Parade and the commentors demonstrate their ahavas yisroel (the land and the people) as usual. By their own words shall ye know them. It's just sad. Perhaps these folks should read this "Psak from Rav Steinman."

Rabbi Ari Enkin posts at "Repeating God's Name in Zemirot" at Hirhurim. Minhag Ysroel Torah quotes Shu'T Chaim Shoal (38, 70) that tells of a machlokes chachomim on this issue. One talmid chochom zaken did a shealas chalom (dream quest), and the answer he received was "Rannenu Tzadikim Bashem." R' Ovadya Yosef (Yechave Da'as 5) quotes many sources that hold it's permissible. He notes that the pasuk says "bashem" (with God's name) and not "lashem (to God).

Yood @ Chulent. Call it a base drum?

The Jew Spot profiles "Emunah."

Surgeon General's warning: Writing drug ballads is hazardous to your health!

Brian Blum writes "Grooving at the Sea of Galilee," an article about the Jacob's LAdder festival in Israel.

Here's Its unbeLIPAble!!!!!!!!!! - "The Ultimate Blog to Support Lipa Schmeltzer."

Shmuel Laser has released "Blues for Temima.

Avakesh posts "When cantors reigned..."

Made the mistake of listening to this the other day and can't get it out of my head. Eretz Tropit Yafa from the classic album. Time to revive this one on the simcha circuit. There is a choreographed dance.

Jeff Klepper posts: " The Songs of Israel (Part 2)."

A poster at the yahoo JM board is raising questions about Oorah's auction winners.

From the mailbag...

Shmiel comments on "Letter About Loud Music":
Regarding suggestions #3 and #4.......Hire a full size band, so the room will hear NATURAL MUSIC and then won't require UNNATURAL amplified overboosted sound.

Noam Greenberg writes;
I wanted to let you know about an extremely special celebration of Israel@60 with the African-American community that I think will be of interest to you and your readers.

On Tuesday night, 27 May 2008, Harlem’s historic Apollo Theater welcomed more than 1200 members of New York’s African-American, Jewish, and Israeli communities who came together to celebrate Israel’s 60th birthday. The event, hosted by the Consulate General of Israel in New York, the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, and Gedenk, was entitled “A Night of Harmony” and used music and celebrations to highlight the commonalities between the two communities.

You can read more about the event on our blog, “A Night of Harmony” Celebrating Israel@60 at the Apollo Theater."

Monday, June 02, 2008

A Mostly Horas YouTube Tribute

Here's a tribute to "Mostly Horas", a classic JM album from the '80's. (Not to be confused with "Mostly Horas Vol.2" which was not arranged/produced by the same people.) Here are YouTube clips of many of the traditional Jewish songs featured on this classic recording.

Asher Bara

Halaila Medley: Halaila and Dirladada

Al Chomotayich

Old Timers Medley: Misirlou and Mustapha

Mostly Horas trivia factoid: Jon Faddis played on this record.