New CD: The Secret of Shabbos

Interview with Jerusalem musicians Aaron Razel and Yerachmiel Ziegler who team up on an upbeat new CD that celebrates Shabbat.

Ben Bresky, | updated: 17:47

The Jerusalem neighborhood of Nachlaot is filled with quaint old buildings, funky musicians, young religious hippies, elderly Sephardic immigrants, black hat yeshivas and a motley mix of everything in-between. Situated near the Mahane Yehuda marketplace, better know as the shuk, it is the home of Aaron Razel, who grew up in the neighborhood, and Yerachmiel "Rocky" Ziegler, who although has only recently made it his home, but seems to fits in perfectly.

Yerachmiel "Rocky" Zeigler on guitar, Aaron Razel on piano, at Aaron's home in Jerusalem. Their new CD is called The Secret of Shabbos.
Photo Credit: Ben Bresky

The two have recently released what Zeigler calls "a collaboration with a colorful vibration." A mix of catchy pop and rock tunes with piano by Razel, guitar by Zeigler, and superbly arranged harmonies courtesy of both.

The driving guitar anthem Day of Rest is the only song in English. The rest of the CD runs through what Razel calls "original music to the same nice, old words of familiar Shabbos songs." Musically, they describe their album as "full of funk and bluegrass and ballads." What started out as a normal interview about a Shabbat-themed CD turned into a true Shabbat experience as Razel and Zeigler served home-made cholent [traditional potato and bean stew] in between chatting with Israel National Radio about their love for Jerusalem and their excitement over their new project.

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Raza De Shabbat means the Secret of Shabbos in Aramaic and the two are also quick to point out that "Raza" is a acronym for both Aaron Razel and Yerachmiel Aaron Zeigler. "I heard a story about this guy who was going to convert out of Judaism," said Razel, over a bowl of hot steaming cholent. "It's a real story told by the Ben Ish Chai. Nothing really helped. Someone came to change his mind and said, 'I know you. You always loved cholent on Shabbos. Not only did you love the cholent but you loved those eggs, the way they cook in the cholent. And if you're not going to be Jewish, it's just not going to taste the same!' And so he didn't convert."

Aaron Razel serves his musical collaborator Yerachmiel Zeigler some of his home made cholent during the interview.
Photo Credit: Ben Bresky

This is just one of the numerous stories the two tell both at home and in concert. Razel is a well established musician who has released five full length solo CDs, a live album and guest stared on numerous side projects. He also performs countless local concerts both alone and together with his brother Yonatan Razel. His hit song Redemption Time is featured on the new Aliyah Revolution CD released by Kumah.org.

Yerachmiel "Rocky" Ziegler was born and raised in New York where he began his career as a child performer on several Uncle Moishy and the Mitzvah Men tapes. He went on to form numerous bands and side projects including Hamsa Boys, Optymystical, Think Twice with Yitzchok Meir, You N Tea, and Gideon Sword. He released a solo album in 2005 called Ahava Veachva and a year later a duo album called Yossi and Yerachmiel.

Aaron Razel and Yerachmiel Ziegler being interviewed and interviewing each other for Arutz 7 - Israel National Radio.
Photo Credit: Ben Bresky

Being so busy with various music projects, Razel thought he wouldn't have time to work together with Zeigler. "But Rocky approached me with demo CD," he said, "and there was one song that was so beautiful, with text written by the Arizal [Rabbi Isaac Luria, an early Kabbalah scholar]... It was so beautifully composed I couldn't believe it."

"Everyone makes albums today because it's so easy," comments Razel. "You get the hardware for like $1,000. You can download things. Anyone who knows how to press 'record' and press 'erase' can make an album. But the most important thing is if your basic songs are songs. You can have great production with nothing behind it. So we worked more on the songs. Sometimes we argued. But Rocky is easy going. I used to come on my bicycle to Rocky's house. My condition was that in the car to the studio, we would learn Chumash [Torah] with [the commentator] Rashi. Rocky is a real talmud chacham [Torah scholar].

Yerachmiel Zeigler and Aaron Razel perform songs from their new CD at Reshimu, a venue in Jerusalem's Nachlaot neighborhood that features both well-known and up-and-coming religious musicians.
Photo Credit: Ben Bresky

Enhancing the popularity of the CD is a music video of the catchy Shamor Vzachor. The video features the two dancing on rooftops and singing in the crowded shuk bakeries and stores chock full of local residents and random friends.

"A lot of the things that happened in the video that weren't planned," Razel said. "Like suddenly, my little nephews came back from yeshiva and started dancing with us. It was a go-with-the-flow thing. We tried to catch the beauty of Nachlaot and the shuk on a Friday before Shabbos, like Marzipan Rugelach. They have such a long line it blocks the street!"

Razel relates yet another Jerusalem anecdote in regards to the local bakery, whose fame for some apparently overshadows anything else in the city. "I went to South Africa and someone asked me where I was from. I said Jerusalem. They ask where in Jerusalem. I said Nachlaot. 'Never heard of it.' I said it's by the shuk. You know, near the center of town? 'No.' Do you know Marzipan Rugelach? 'Sure! I go there all the time!' They take the Birthright groups to Marzipan Rugelach and I think each one gets 10 dollars to spend."

Zeigler adds: "My brother wants to make aliyah just because of it."

For more information on Raza De Shabbat by Aaron Razel and Yerachmiel Zeigler, visit
http://www.mostlymusic.com/razadshabbos-p-4282.html

The cover of Yerachmiel and Aaron Razel's new CD The Secret of Shabbos.
 
Ben Bresky is the host of the Israel Beat Jewish Music Podcast on Israel National Radio. For show archives click here.



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