Monday, September 15, 2008

From the mailbag...

Cleaning out the backlog...

Chaim comments on "Worlds Are Colliding!"
I know what you are saying about worlds colliding, but this isn't the first we're hearing of it. Srully Williger was one song short on his last album and recorded Niggun Nevo. When he was on Nachum Segal he described going to Israel for a wedding and "discovering this song all the Bochurim were singing." When referencing the composer he said he thought it was composed by "some Israeli guy", lol.

I'm sure Shlomo Katz (born in California I think) is glad he's known as some "Israeli guy." In some cases I think it's more explotation of a more popular style of music among the mainstream. People who would otherwise never even give the time of day to a Shlomo Katz, being forced to acknowledge that style is more popular tofday. Allthough I do think it's also some people who really do appriciate those artists.

So if it takes Chassidic Pop artists to bring Shlomo Katz, Adi Ran, Aaron Razel and Yitzchok Fuchs, then so be it. I look forward to many more of these collabarations.
That's actually a good example of the exploitation side of the equation. To date, Williger has not paid royalties to Shlomo Katz for the use of his song. He didn't ask permission either. The notion that he was unaware that it was a Katz composition strains credulity. And, Williger did not make the song popular. It was already popular when he decided to include it on his album. Classic exploitation. Taking a song that's popular in the YU/NCSY community, and is beginning to be requested/played at Charedi weddings, and releasing it on your own album, without securing permission/paying royalties is simply unethical. Plus, adding insult to injury, the cover version didn't exactly do anything for the song from a musical standpoint either.

Watsky comments:
Thats one big leap to call this stuff Funk "anything". Its about as funky as Mozart. Actually its not "even" as funky as Mozart. Its an insult to funk to call this stuff funk. Funk is a culture. This music is not of that culture, this just ain't funky. Not funky, not even close. I wish is was funk, but it isn't.
It's a good time to reprise Jack's equation: "Funkish = Jewish + Funky - most of the funkiness."

Yossi Zweig emails a flyer for a concert to benefit Project Yes.readers may remember that Project Yes's Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz paid us a visit here. Rabbi Horowitz, the guest post offer stands. Seriously.

Yosef Na Nach comments on the new music ban:
This whole music ban thing really makes me happy, First of all my music gets banned, that's a first, Yeah! Second of all the "Rabbi's" are right to a certain degree, all this music that is with a pop sound to it sounds a little bit prideful (except the Na Nach music of this sort and by the way I hear that "Lipa" is getting more into Na Nach as well as "Leviyatan" and others I suppose that I don't know about). and as far as the Rabbi's turning the youth away from them, this is, in my opinion also good. I don't think that this is their intention, I fear that their intention is really is much worse... to turn kids away from Judaism. By making something asur that really is not by Halaka. Being too strict in one area makes for leniency in another area. I don't want to think what they are being lienent about. But Na Nach will always be here for the kids as an alternative. To follow the way of Rebbe Nachman and listen to great music. Thanks for keeping us updated with all the hot news of the Jewish Music World.
E. has some questions about "Kosher" music:
1) If a cd doesn't have a hechser, does that make it treif?
2) Is a non hecschered cd permissble lefi some deyos?
3) Does a cd need to be officially banned in order for it to be considered treif in contrast to one with a hechsher?
4) What about individual songs on the cd?
Consult your local Orthodox kanoi!

A reader forwards his propsed design for a new music kashrus symbol he calls the "Clef K,"

Personally, I'm makpid to only listen to 2/4 Yisroel, but I'm meikil on stam notebending. Saxophone akum is assur lechol hadeos.

J. writes:
The Shloimy Daskal video should be banned! Made me cringe…
Oy! No compassion for off-the-derech children!

Speaking of... Joe Flix emails a link to his review of the Daskal album.

Finally, Gordon Dale writes:
My name is Gordon Dale; I am an ethnomusicology student in Boston, MA. I'm very interested in the series of bans that have been issued such as the MBD show in Israel and The Big Event, and now the Committee for Jewish music's outline of permissible music. I have looked to your blog for updates on these issues and it has consistently been a great help.

I'm hoping that you can help me to get clarity on a few specific points about which I've been wondering.

1) When the Lipa ban was issued it had the same signatures as the ban on the MBD show in Israel. There was much speculation that the ban was not actually signed by all 33 Rabbis that were named on the ban. Did this turn out to be true?

2) The new Committee for Jewish music just released a series of points outlining what would make music kosher. Do Rabbi Luft and the other people on the committee hold enough clout within the Haredi leadership to enforce these guidelines?

3) Why, in your opinion, are these bans coming out now? Recreational Jewish music has been around for a long time and instruments such as saxophones and electric guitars have never been called into question previously. What is going on in the world that prompted this situation to come about now?

I sincerely appreciate your help with these points and I hope that we can stay in touch as I continue to study this interesting time in Jewish music.
Our response:
1) The 33 rabbis who signed the Lipa ban were not the same rabbis who had signed previous concert bans in Israel. Those bans were signed by some Israeli rabbis. The Lipa ban was signed by American rabbis. The text of the Lipa ban makes reference to the Israeli rabbis disapproval of concerts —in fact, the text was partially lifted from one of those bans — citing it as a basis for the ban. Apparently, all of the rabbis did sign some form of public notice, but some have since gone on the record, either admitting that they were manipulated into signing (Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetzky), or claiming that the text they signed is not the one that was published (Rabbi Yisroel Belsky). You can find this information elsewhere on the blog. I’ve been told that other rabbis who signed have privately disclaimed the ban, or elements therein. I believe I posted a link to the letter Rabbi Belsky wrote about this and I linked to the Jewish Star interview with Rabbi Kamenetzky wherein he made this admission.

2) Rabbi Luft has had some success achieving concert bans in Israel (and at least once in Manchester, England). I don’t know if clout is the right word, but to date, he has successfully manipulated some prominent rabbis into supporting his crusade. He’s been agitating about this for many years. Some of the earliest posts on my blog address his writings on the subject. He may be successful at getting rabbis to sign onto this latest campaign, but it will not be very successful, IMO.

3) There is no ban on saxophones and guitars. Rabbi Luft is attempting to achieve this now. He’s been trying to do this for years. It is important to note that this entire episode fits into a broader pattern of how the Hareidi leadership has been working (or not working) over the recent past. It’s too much to get into right now, although I’m happy to discuss it at some point, but essentially, IMO, the Hareidi leadership in America has abdicated its responsibility to lead and the Hareidi leadership in Israel (and America too) are allowing themselves to be manipulated. As a result, a small group of connected extremists can effect a new prohibition on something previously allowed. This has happened a number of times in other areas of Jewish life over the past few years.

I should add that although Rabbi Luft's proposed ban will not be adhered to, should he succeed in manipulating gedolim into endorsing it, the trickle down effects will make life more difficult for musicians working in the Chareidi community.

Finally, L-o-R forwards a link to a new A.K.A. Pella video.