Posters for the Maccabeats upcoming concert can be seen all over Jerusalem. The all-male a cappella singing group became a sensation due to its 2010 Hannukah song Candlelight. As of the writing of this article, the YouTube video has 5,500,000 hits.
A member of the group, David Block, spoke to the Israel Beat Jewish Music Podcast on Arutz Sheva Radio about the concert this week, during the period called "The Three Weeks" in Judaism. Traditionally during the three weeks between the fast of the 17th of Tammuz and the fast of Tisha B'Av, from the day in 70 C.E.. that the walls of Jerusalem were breached by the Roman armies to the day the First Temple went up in flames, weddings, live music and concerts do not take place.
Israel National Radio interview with the Maccabeats Can't see player? Click here.
To download the mp3 file click here.
"There are no instruments what so ever. It's totally all our own voices -- all the different sounds, even the drums," states Block, explaining that a cappella music, with no instruments, is considered permissible. Religious Israeli radio stations, such as Kol Chai, play a cappella music throughout the period.
"The drums are done by our vocal percussionists, more colloquially known as beatboxers," explains Block. "We make all the sounds right from our mouths. We'll do it live. We'll show you," says the singer.
Hailing from the New York area, Block, a low tenor, first joined the group when he answered an email from the leader, Michael Greenberg, at Yeshiva University. "I came for a try-out. I was very excited to find out that I got in. That was three years ago. We've worked pretty hard."
In total, there are 14 members of the groups, of which seven or eight will perform at the Jerusalem concert. "In the beginning I didn't know anyone. A few of us knew each other from yeshiva in Israel or around Yeshiva University. We've become very tight friends," comments Block.
The surprise success of the Candlelight video has led the group to be invited to the White House for Jewish American Heritage Month, a United States government-sponsored event. The President of the United States personally thanked the group in a video ,which can be seen on their website.
The Maccabeats have received positive feedback from around the world. "We once found a video of an entire Hillel, [the Foundation for Jewish Campus Life], which is comprised of non-religious students, and we saw a video from Syracuse University of hundreds of students all coming together and singing our song on Hannukah, "stated Block. "We've had emails from people telling us that because of our video, it was the first time they lit Hannukah candles in over 20 years."
The group's first CD came out in 2010 around Passover time. The CD was successful in the religious Jewish American community, but that success was a mere prelude to the sensation created by the Candlelight video. The CD features a mix of different Hebrew songs, and some cover versions of American pop songs with new Jewish lyrics. The group is currently working on a follow-up CD.
Overall, Block says his experience as part of the Maccabeats sensation has been inspiring. "We hope to spread Judaism and spirituality and of course, fun."
The Maccabeats will perform Saturday night, July 30th, at the Gerard Behar Center (Beit HaAm), 11 Betzalel Street in Jerusalem. For ticket information call 02-623- 7000. For more information on the Maccabeats, visit www.maccabeats.com.
Ben Bresky is a music journalist and host of the Israel Beat Jewish Music Podcast on Arutz Sheva - Israel National Radio. For full archives click here: /Radio/Author.aspx/1180.
For a past Arutz 7 video with the Maccabeats click here.