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Carlebach Influenced Chanukah Music

By Ben Bresky
12/24/2008, 12:00 AM

Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach has one song in which he opens by telling a story of being at the Western Wall on the fourth night of Chanukah. This is closest to a Carlebach Chanukah song that I can think of right now. It is on a rare album called 6 Million in Heaven, 3 Million in Hell, a reference to the struggle of Jews in the Soviet Union. Most of the songs deal with "our holy brothers" trying to get out of Russia. You can find the lyrics by clicking here.

But there are countless new young musicians whom Shlomo Carlebach influenced with his acoustic guitar style and impassioned Jewish themed vocals. 

One is Zivi Ritchie, the author of many books about Shlomo Carlebach. He used to own a coffee shop called Cafe Carlebach which featured live music, which is where I met him and interviewed him way back in 2004. Zivi Ritchie has a great version of Maoz Tzur with a new original melody which sounds sort of like salsa, except from a guy that grew up on a Moshav in Israel with Shlomo Carlebach. For some Zivi Ritchie books, click here.

Another great and unique song is Niggun Chanuka by Aaron Razel with its throbbing heavy bass and downbeat driving melody. It's from his 1997 album The Burning Bush which is available by clicking here.

Naftali Abramson has his own unique upbeat version of Maoz Tzur also with original music. Its from his 2004 album Seeing the Good. Check it out by clicking here.






There are also some great versions of Maoz Tzur by Marc Cohn, Craig Taubman, Rebbe Soul and Ben Kweller, all of which retain the traditional melody. We have them all in rotation this week on Israel National Radio's streaming audio.