Veteran Jewish singer Avraham Fried is branching out into new territory with a professionally produced, slick music video that is clean and yet meets industry standards still rare in Jewish music.
Avraham Fried, who composed the medley and words for the song, also co-produced and acted in the video which is contained in his latest CD. Light touches of computer animation and special effects are also featured, such as the letters on a page of Gemara flying off into the air. The video was produced by JewishFilms.com.
"It was a lot of work, acting and editing," said Fried in an interview with “The Beat” on Israel National Radio, "but people are enjoying it and that's the bottom line." Fried commented that even children are enjoying the slow, but inspiring song, entitled Father Don't Cry.
"Kids like bouncy songs. This is a very heavy ballad, and many kids are singing it word for word. People are being touched by it, and that's the idea," said Fried.
The rest of Fried's new album, entitled Bein Kach U’Bein Kach, is a mix of fast-paced dance tunes with some other slow ballads, typical of past Fried albums, including blasts of horns and a call and response chorus with plenty of 'ai yai yais'. "I call it Chassidish," said Fried of his genre. "Tanz music at the weddings. Chassidic dance songs. Good energy."
The lyrics are a mix of self-penned words and verses from the Gemara, Psalms and other Jewish sources in Hebrew, Yiddish and English.
Fried is proud of his mixing of modern technology with a traditional sound. "I'm a very strong proponent of keeping the music with a Yiddishe tam (flavor). Even though we're looking for new ideas and trying to be hip and cool, I think once we start losing the Yiddishe tam, then we lose our focus and the reason why we're doing this."
Fried's albums are diverse, but always within a certain structure. For example, his new album incorporates Israeli-style Mizrachi sounds on some tracks, electric guitars or synthesizers on others. But rather than perform in a different style, he incorporates different sounds into his already existing structure.
Another unique sound is the energetic opening track that incorporates a klezmer clarinet performed by Israeli jazz musician Daniel Zamir. Other albums have focused on Yiddish classic and traditional Chassidic niggunim (melodies without words) and cantorial music.
Avraham Fried began his career 26 years ago as one of the first mass-marketed musicians for a Jewish audience. "The technology was different," he told The Beat. "The arrangers were different. We were like a brand new baby looking around saying, 'What's this all about?' We weren't so sophisticated or up-to-date with the latest technology or sound. I think 26 years later, even to the untrained ear, you can hear that the quality has improved tremendously. It's more slick and professional and fresh. And that's a good thing."
Fried grew up in a traditional Chassidic family in Brooklyn, New York. "I learned to sing at my parents’ Shabbos table," he said. "I was blessed with a good voice." Encouragement from the Lubavitcher Rebbe led him to take up a music career at the age of 20, "and then the offers started rolling in for concerts and recording."
Growing up, his musical influences included Ben-Zion Shenker, Yom Tov Erlich, Shlomo Carlebach and David Werdyger. He commented that at the time, albums by these singers were amongst the only Jewish recorded music available. "I want to teach my kids the songs that I grew up with," commented Fried. "I guess I'm living in the past a little bit."
Fried said he is excited about the future of Jewish music. Before the release of his album, he posted a sample of the “Father Don't Cry” video on the internet, created a blog and now sells CDs online as well. Although these things didn't exist when he began his career, he has excelled at incorporating them.
When asked about the possibility of a Jewish MTV, he commented, "Sure, why not? We'll call it Moshiach Television - MTV. I'm not sure how long it will take. We're usually light years behind. But I think this new video clip will introduce a new dimension. More singers will do it now. I think it's wonderful. If you can see and hear, why not use all of the senses?"
"The danger is," continued Fried, "if you try to get too much with the times, and try and imitate the goyishe sounds, you're putting yourself into a dangerous situation. The challenge now is to be fresh and to be creative but still not to lose the focus that this is Jewish music, and that it's meant to inspire and to give chizzuk (strength). I think the combination of the two works wonderfully -- if you keep those two things in mind."
To hear audio excerpts of this interview, click here.
Benyamin Bresky is an audio technician and music journalist living in Jerusalem. He is the host of The Beat on Israel National Radio and maintains a music journal at http://israelbeat.blogspot.com.