Monday, July 27, 2009

Exactly How Out of Touch Is Agudas Yisroel? Updated 3x

This much!

The mind boggles! The recent scandals in the frum community do warrant introspection and even an emerdzshency asifeh. However, choosing Rabbi Avremel Schorr, one of the rabbis behind the international chilul Hashem that was the Lipa concert ban, to be the public face of propriety here smacks of tone-deafness at best and hypocrisy at worst. For shame!

UPDATE: And if you thought they couldn't make it any worse...

A writes:
Seeing just a few words about last night's Agudah "asifa", I now rest my case. Everything I have complained about for years, about how Agudah is an enabler by restraining criticism and PR about violators and honoring ex-cons, has been proven true in one fell swoop. Schorr, the Spinker Rebbe, and Brafman on a single bill? Why did they diss Kolko?

Can you even imagine how they would have crowed had YU invited Madoff, Tendler & Boesky to chair an event?

The unmitigated chutzpa of these "shaina yidden" who sit in their shteebels on mizrach with ex-cons, who have the first-class dining room at the Agudah convention, stroking their paunches with self-satifaction while they look down at the "amcha" that actually live Torah lives while they act frum but act like the proverbial "tzaddik in peltz" not dealing with the real world.

For several years now there has been an effort to stop the illegal posting of ads on lightposts, especially since the great majority of violators were Frum organizations.

To spread the word on the very important Agudah meeting combatting illegal behavior, guess where they posted the ads?


You just can't make this stuff up.
A Yeshiva World report and audio of the speeches is here.


The Spinka Rebbe apologized publicly, Nathaniel Popper reports for the Forward's Bintel Blog. he writes:
The most surprising moment of the night came at the very beginning, when the Grand Rabbi of the Spinka sect, Naftali Tzi Weisz, at right, took the stage for an unscheduled appearance. Weisz was arrested in a separate money-laundering case in 2007, and just last week he pleaded guilty, reportedly accepting a jail term. Before heading off to serve that term, Weisz delivered an obviously emotional mea culpa for his wrong-doings, first in Yiddish and then in awkwardly translated English.

“Unfortunately we have to admit in public that things happened that were not supposed to happen,” Weisz told the men in attendance (women were not invited to the forum). “We must have to express our wish that these matters will never happen — we have to commit that in the future this will never happen again.”

Weisz spoke in great detail about the compliance program that the Spinka board has entered with the government and he said, “Our community, baruch hashem, is not lacking in smart experienced lawyers and accountants that are willing to teach the tzibur [community], how to conduct their communal affairs in a manner that is in compliance with the law in all respects.”

I've checked out the video of the Spinka Rebbe's speech and I'm on the fence about this one. I'm leaning towards Tzig's characterization of it. I'm not sure there was a point.

In following up, I've seen people raise two other issues that are relevant to this discussion. These are: 1) the choice of venue and 2) one of the methods for publicizing the event.

With regard to the venue, there is an ongoing battle between the Visnitz Yeshivah's management and the neighbors. (For more on this, see here, for example.) In my opinion, Agudah choose poorly in this regard. Remember, the event took place during the Nine Days, when there are no weddings in the community. There was no shortage of other venue options. The message sent, presumably inadvertently, is unfortunate and undermined the theme of the asifah.

With regard to the illegal posting of flyers on streetlamps... I've commented in the past on this and it's just wrong. Again, the message sent is that laws do not need to be obeyed, which again undermined the ideas the asifah was meant to convey.

In short, Agudah took a worthwhile concept, and through poor handling, turned it into a caricature. For an organization that claims to be politically savvy, this was a huge misjudgment and yet another self-inflicted black-eye.

Friday, July 24, 2009

What Is "Reasonable"?

So the Belz Chasidim have announced new takanos restricting wedding expenditures. I like this one:
For instance, the parents of the groom are instructed to choose between a bracelet and a mixer as a gift for the bride during the engagement period.
This part is troubling, though.
Luckily, the new plan includes not only restrictions, but also some benefits. The document's authors have taken a number of steps to help families lower the cost of the wedding by getting entertainers, photographers and wedding bands to agree to charging reasonable prices for their services.
What is a reasonable price? How is that different from market rates?

Monday, July 13, 2009

A Musician's Revenge

United Breaks Guitars! Awesome!

Art inspires art. Here's "United Breaks Guitars - Northwest Breaks Dulcimers."

From the mailbag...

E. forwards a link to "Michael Jackson sings "Bei Mir Bist Du Shein" with the Jackson 5 and Carol Burnett.

He also emails a link to Gershon Veroba's blog post, "Michael Jackson and us..." Worth reading.

Finally, Bobo Bubalinsky writes:
Apparently I live a sheltered life, having never heard a Disco Hora.  So I did what any modern person does and googled it.  Found many an amusing clip YouTube - Jewish Drumming demo #3 Disco Hora variations so thanks for enlivening my life.

I was however well aware that a large portion of the early NY Punk scene were jews.  Watch End Of The Century  the Ramones biopic. All not so nice jewish boys from queens.  

Like Lenny Kaye I also have kept that cantorial sound somewhere in my world.  For most of the past 25 years I have been involved in instrumental music, and a few years ago I began adding Klezmer tunes to our sets (but in a n almost Ska like way).  We have recently recorded a song written by my great grandfather Israel Isaac Axelrod/Shamfrof/Shaw "Oif Der Fater" .  He wrote it at the end of the 19th century, or the very beginning of the 20th, and I changed it a bit.  Give it a spin if you care to.
That last link doesn't work, but you can hear the song in the player on the right hand side of Bobo's Blog.

7/13/09 Link Dump

Frank London and Lorin Sklamberg's latest Nigun project album is out. Titled Tsuker-Zis, it replaces Uri Caine/Rob Schwimmer's piano with Oud/Guitar/and Indian drums.

Check it out here:

Here's a YouTube clip that gives a good "on the bandstand" perspective of what a musican on the Brookly JM circuit might be sitting next to.

While we're on YouTube, check out the middle of this clip for a Lipa Schmeltzer Yiddish rap badkhones.

Vos Iz neais posts" Acapella Music and the Three Weeks."

Tzig takes on Yehuda Green. He's very wrong about Rabbi Citron.

Here's a J-Post article "Eliyahu: Prefer Jail Over Women Singing."

Finaly, the Jewish Music Report reviews Yisroel Srully Williger's "The Rebbe's Nigun."

This part is odd:
My first reaction after listening to The Rebbe’s Nigun was to pull out my copy of Hakadosh Baruch Hu… Chesed and give a listen. A few of the songs on that CD really blew me away. Pinky Weber’s Yashov is just gorgeous. Williger’s kids join him on Neiros Shabbos. Wow! Where has he been hiding those kids? I would have loved to hear even more of the Williger boys. And Niggun Nevo? It’s worth buying Hakadosh Baruch Hu…Chesed for this song alone. All these years we thought Srully Williger’s trademark song would be Hu Klal, but maybe not. The only fault I can find with this Shlomo Katz composition is that it inspired too many singers to try to come up with a signature niggun of their own. With the possible exception of Eitan Katz’s The Dmin Niggun, none have managed to even come close to emulating Williger’s success with Niggun Nevo.
The author gives Williger credit for Niggun Nevo, which was a dance hit before Williger released the album. The inclusion of that song on that disc is a classic example of a Yeshivish singer jumping on the bandwagon (ouch) of a song that's already a hit on the NCSY MO circuit and is already making inroads into the black hat circuit, and quickly releasing a version of it.

In other words, Williger had nothing to do with the song becoming popular. He chose it because it was one of the new hits on their way in at the time of the album's release.

Over at JMR, a reader pointed out to the review author that the song was written and being publicly performed by Shlomo Katz, and the author demonstrates exactly the lack of knowledge that some artists count on when they pull this sort of unauthorized cover/bandwagon jump. As well, obviously, there is no accounting for taste, and "Kol Isha" is entitled to her opinion that the Williger version took a good song and "blew it out of the water," but personally, I think his cover was lame, and did not do the song justice. I'm also reliably informed that the use of that song was unauthorized and that no royalties have been paid to Shlomo, which is simply not right.

Klezmer Dollars

I've been thinking that there needs to be a term to describe the difference between a low-paying gig that is desirable and one that is not.

In other words, I've been looking for a way to describe the difference in pay necessary to tempt me to accept, for example, a six hour loud Chassidic disco gig with a "banger" drummer and shred guitarist from a local "Bands R' Us" office vs. an acoustic klez gig, or a creative collaboration that is four hours away by car. Typically, I'm more willing to be accommodating in the latter scenario, when the pay is on the low side, compared to the former.

The term I'd use to describe this is "Klezmer Dollars." Think of it as being similar to dog years. Klezmer dollars are worth more than US dollars. So, an appealing gig, say playing with some world-class klezmorim, for instance, although it might not pay the same as hauling a sound system/sub-leading Hassidisco at "Ateres Whatever", would still be comparable, because the pay is effectively equal.

This concept doesn't negate the need for musicians to maximize income, so I wouldn't turn down a Hassidisco gig on the off chance that I'd pick up one of equivalent pay in klezmer dollars. Obviously, I do have to make a living. It does explain why some offers that might not be appealing on a purely financial level, nevertheless are.

The artist buildings in Hell's Kitchen effectively do honor klezmer dollars, BTW, with rent being a percentage of income. I know quite a few musicians who live there. If only I could convince my mortgage holder to accept payment in klezmer dollars!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Going off the Deep End

This link gets its own post. Beis Yakov of Monsey, a frum girls high school, has now banned dancing from it's annual production on tznius grounds.

This is simply nuts! I hope the community expresses its outrage directly to the school. These girls have so few outlets as it is! It's not like they didn't have all sorts of rules/restrictions on the dance movements/music at the annual production before this latest idiocy. Remember, we're talking about a "for women only" performance. This is not Judaism!

7/1/09 link Dump

Vos Iz Neias profiles frum Latin singer Miriam Sandler.

Hirhurim is discussing Torah as music.

Vocal superstar Jo Amar, has died. Baruch Dayan Emet!

Jewish Music Report reviews Shloime Kaufman's "Avodas Tzedakah."

Jewschool posts a Cuban Jewish Jazz davening.


Anon writes:
I had this experience when I was a guest at a wedding last week. I asked the Chosson before the wedding if he has the music taken care of and he said that his friend 'has a band'. At the wedding, I saw familiar musicians (Ron Bertolett, Mike Koon, etc) but I saw a band name I've never heard before. I realized that we can use a lot more bands out there, so I decided with the economy in the shape thats its in, i'm coming out with a new product:

"My Friend Has a Band" kit


1-Full color music stands and business cards with your original band name
2-7 Music books by Avremi G
3-A phone book with 200 musicians's contact info (we'll even throw in Mordechai Ben David's cell phone #- so you can say "I work with MBD")
4-all inclusive guide with topics covering marketing to friends and guys in your Yeshiva ("yes, we have the same musicians as Neginah and Neshoma but we charge much less") and much more!
This has been an ongoing issue for years. Usually, these guys book one or two moderately successful gigs (meaning they got through them without any severe trainwrecks). Then, they spectacularly crash and burn either when the client has specific musical needs other than Shwekey, or on a moderately busy day, when Psachya, Mike Coon, et al, aren't available.