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Ask the Rabbi
News & Call-In with Tamar Yonah
The Israel Beat blog is a place for poetry submission, concert announcemnets, upcoming shows and musings on Jewish music. The Israel Beat Jewish Music Podcast brings you live in-studio performances with up and coming Israeli musicians as well as interviews with the stars of the Jewish music world. Plus your music requests and the free CD give-away air live on the show. Past interviews have included Matisyahu, Avraham Fried, and Miri Ben-Ari. The Beat with Ben Bresky broadcasts live every Sunday from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Israel time on Arutz Sheva - Israel National Radio. For more info email email@example.com.
Eli Gerstner and The Chevra Sing Acapella does not sound like an acapella do-wop group, a Jewish vocal group like Beatachon or a barbershop quartet. They mainly have one guy singing while the other three guys sing back-up with light "ooh ooh". There is one exception on the album where they have a more four-part harmony sound with "da dum da dum". The album sounds more like vocal versions of their other albums, which is to say, sort of pop style vocals. All the songs are composed by the well-known Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. Although there are some slight variations, the melodies should be familiar to Carlebach fans.
The album was released in 2002 making it the follow up to their hit debut album which introduced the Jewish music world to the now prolific Eli Gerstner and a different kind of Jewish singing group. The Chevra is kind of like Mordechai Ben David and Avraham Fried, but there are four of them and the beats and rhythms are a little more pop and a little less cantorial based. At least that's how I hear it.
Once I interviewed hasidic singer Udi Ullmann and he said he saw a huge difference between popular Jewish music in England and in America. He said in America the groups were mostly group like The Chevra and in England it was mostly a single singer.
One of my favorite songs of all time is The Chevra's Shema Hashem from their first album. It starts out acapella and then moves into this driving beat.
You can get The Chevra's acapella album here.
Yosef Karduner's 1999 accapella disc is mostly vocal versions of his hit 1997 album Road Marks. It includes his hit Shir LeMaalot. This particular song is one of the most well known modern Jewish songs, covered by numerous people both secular and religious, including a recent hip-hop / dance version by Itzhik Orlev. Despite the fact that there are no instruments, the songs retain their full flavor with a folk music / ballad feel. It is mostly just Karduner's vocals with light back-up vocals doing an "ai yai yai" in the background.
The original Road Marks album is also fairly minimalist with just Karduner and a guitar and light hand drums or bass. I prefer it to some of the more produced, orchestrated albums which add strings and other instruments. In the same vein, I also prefer Sinai Tor's stripped down, acoustic sounding first album Darashti Kivatecha to his new radio friendly, pop sounding album.
As far as Yosef Karduner is concerned, I tried many times to contact him, but he has no contact information on any kind on his albums. There are no photos of him, no email, or P.R. agent. The only number on his albums if for the artist that did one of the album covers. I called it and the guy told me that he also didn't have Yosef Kaduner's number. I finally tracked down Yosef Karduner last week by calling Rabbi Lazer Brody, the commando rabbi, who sometimes performs with him. So stay tuned in the near future for an interview. You can get the Yosef Kaduner's accapella album here.
My most recent show was fun. The poetry slam worked out great. Thank you to everyone who sent in a poem. Check it out here.
I was working at the radio station minding my own business when suddenly I was called to the on-air studio. The Aliyah Revolution with Go'el and Dovid was in the middle of its live broadcast. I thought maybe there was some kind of technical emergency. I rushed in the studio, only to have Dovid ask me if I ever heard of the group Game Boys. Yes, I replied, I had seen the cover of their 2006 disc Game Boys: The Album, but that was as far as I got. I didn't actually listen to it. Well Dovid had in fact listened to it and excitedly wanted to know my opinion and if I could run to the disc library and grab it for him.
At the risk of being a music snob, I was, shall we say, just a little bit turned off by the name of the band and their photo on the cover. It just seems so easy to make fun of their name and look. I can't actually think of any funny insults right now, but I'm sure some more creative people could. But I shouldn't judge. I have never released a disc. I have never performed on stage. I am here to celebrate Israeli musicians, no mater what they look like, or how much they remind me of music that was popular in America 5 years ago. But that's my problem. No mater how talented or original Israeli musicians are, its hard to like music that sounds too American to me. I started The Beat because I was looking for something that sounded more Israeli, whatever "sounding Israeli" means.
But Dovid decided to replace the usual Aliyah Revolution theme music with Game Boys, the regular theme music being Kumah, a jam-band style rock song by Aspaklaria. As Dovid explained on the show, if you're going to enjoy boy band style music, they might as well be Jewish boy bands from Israel singing in Hebrew. You can listen to sound clips of the Game Boys here on Israel-Music.com and let me know what you think in the comments section. I believe they have some videos on YouTube as well.
As far as musical quality, Game Boys is actually quite good. They sing well, the music is catchy and upbeat. The last song on the album is a nice acoustic ballad about falling in love.
Dovid ended up giving me a ride home and I find it interesting to note what kind of music he has in his car (which is a mini van, which will be relevant later in the story). In the car he had a copy of Journeys, a popular series by Jewish- Canadian composer Abie Rotenberg.
Most of the songs on the Journeys series are in English in a light, easy listening style; some guitar, some piano based ballads. Popular songs include The Place Where I Belong and The Man From Vilna. Song clips can be found here on MostlyMusic.com.
On the way home Dovid picked up every hitchhiker we saw. We had 9 people in the car. Some of them were from Migron, and Dovid excitedly called them true heroes. But my adventure didn't end there. After I got dropped of at the bus stop, a couple of young guys walked by with a guitar and darbuka and sat right down on the side of the road on the curb and started playing and singing.
It was a busy intersection with a lot of cars. These guys didn't even have a guitar case, just the guitar and drum slug across their backs and t-shirts that said "Hashem Hu Ha Melech". I've actually seen this before. It's fairly common to see guys walking around with guitars. I snapped a photo of them.
I recieved an email in response to my blog about depressing Jewish music.
Hi. I was trying to post a comment on your blog, letting people know about Lenny Solomon, one of my all-time favorite Jewish musicians. Please let your readers know about Lenny's music. He lives in Israel, and he's been doing both original and parody Jewish Rock 'N Roll since the 80s. He made Aliyah in the 1990s. I have really enjoyed his music since he started, and think your readers would benefit as well. His website is http://www.shlockrock.com.
Thank you for your letter. My collegue Malkah Fleisher and I have a disagreement about Lenny Solomon. She loves the parody songs and I love the originals. Lenny recently released an album of originals called Osher V'Osher which is very good. I saw him rock them out at the Beit Shemesh music festival. But I personally am turned off by parodies. Once we played "Abarbanel" which is a parody of the Beach Boys song Barbara Ann, and I found it so annoying I took out the CD in the middle of the song. But Lenny Solomon is indeed talented and we have interviewed him many times on Israel National Radio. Several years ago during the expulsion from Gush Katif, we had a special broadcast and were taking a lot of phone calls One of them was Lenny Solomon, just calling up as a regular guy tuning in.
Another anecdote, in America I used to work at Yakov's Kosher Pizza. Saturday night was our busiest time. One Saturday night no one came in. I mean, almost no one, except for Mike and B.J. who came in every day and ordered a small drink, half Coke half Diet Coke. Then finally at about midnight when we were about to close, a couple guys came in for pizza. It was Lenny Solomon and some of the members of Shlock Rock. They had a concert that night and it was as if the entire Jewish community had attended.
I have a new article up on the band Ingathering check it out by clicking here.
In my mp3 player at the moment: Israeli trance DJ Astrix, folk-rock group David "Harpo" Abramson and the Neshamot, and A Shur Thing by Rabbi Moshe Shur and Sons.
For all the people who emailed me poems, thank you. For those who's emails bounced, I believe my email wasn't working for a couple days, so try again. And yet, I would prefer the language to be English and it has to be of Jewish and/or Israeli content of some sort. I will read the poems in a couple weeks when the Three Weeks before Tisha B'Av begin. You can email me your poetry at firstname.lastname@example.org. Someone even sent me an mp3 of him reading his poetry.
So I have a loyal listener named Ed from California. Ed once sent me a CD of his favorite music. It was almost all in Spanish. I don't speak Spanish. Ed's favorite Jewish musician is DJ Hillel, also known as Hillel, also known as Hillel Goldblum. He released two CDs in 2000 and 2001 and then ceased to be heard from. Of all the Jewish musicians out there in the world, I don't know why Ed would choose this guy as his favorite. I do know that Ed, like many outside of Israel, have a very limited selection of Jewish/Israeli music. That makes his choice of the obscure DJ Hillel even more interesting.
Several weeks back I did a trivia question contest. Whomever guessed the audio clip I played won a free CD. The clip was from Transformer: The Movie, originally released in 1986, and purchased by me with all Hebrew overdubs and no subtitles in 2008 at the tiny CD shop in the shuk near the felafel stand. (Note: Transformers in Hebrew is Robotrikim.) Ed guessed it correctly. So Ed told me that his request for his free CD was DJ Hillel, the first album, not the second one. I figured I could easily get a copy easy for pretty cheap at any CD shop. But no one has it anymore. I went to about six different stores including both Tower Records, the Eight Note, and several corner stores but no one had it. I'm sure Gal Paz has it. They have everything. Seriously, Gal Paz has to be the largest CD store in the country. But over by Mea Shearim and I havn't gotten the chance to get by there. So sorry Ed, you CD will have to wait.
As for music, DJ Hillel, is smooth pop dance music with Jewish themed lyrics... soft rock / light electronica / pop with a drum machine. One of my favorite song is B'Ahava, the title track off his 2000 album. It has a catchy "oh oh" chorus.
OK, stay tuned for more great shows including an Israeli klezmer group called Oy Division, Yehuda Kaplan, and more.