Sunday, January 22, 2017

Video: Nemouel, "Elokai"

Israeli Chabad singer Nemouel has released a video for his single "Elokai". The track, a Yisrael Lubin production composed by Yitzy Waldner, arranged and produced by David Ichilovitz, and featuring The Groggers' Chemy Soibelman on drums, is a soaring alt-rock anthem (based on Elokai Neshama from davening), perfectly matched to an Indiana Jones-esque treasure-hunt video filmed in Tzidkiyahu's Cave by director Ariel Cohen and producer Shalom Eisenbach.

Based in Tel Aviv, Nemouel Harroch first gained attention with his 2014 single "Ashreinu" with producer Dani Avidani. The two of them later parlayed the single into Nemouel's debut album, Hitgalut (Epiphany), which released last January. "Elokai" is the first single from his upcoming second album.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Levi Robin to play The Hotel Café in LA

Folksinger Levi Robin will give a special acoustic performance next Thursday evening, January 26th, at the Hotel Café in Los Angeles. He will reportedly play new songs from his upcoming album. Tickets can be purchased here.

DEMA performs "Lovely Signal" for NPR Tiny Desk Contest

Floridian indie-folk artist DEMA is submitting his song "Lovely Signals" to NPR's annual Tiny Desk Contest.

Based in Dayotna Beach, Florida, DEMA has been performing since 2013. "Lovely Signals" comes from his debut EP, Dade Halifax, which released last June, is available on iTunes, and is highly recommended for fans of the headier side of indie rock. You can check out the album version of the song below:

Eitan Katz to release "Pure Simcha"

Singer/guitarist Eitan Katz will shortly release his seventh album entitled Pure Simcha. You can hear a preview of the album above.

The result of "years in the making, both in vision and in actual production", according to a message from Katz that accompanies the video, the album's 35 tracks and two bonus tracks are meant to evoke the simchas and weddings he often plays at and will reportedly draw from Sefardi music, horas, Hasidic nigunim, Carlebach, and a few of Katz's own compositions. Production was handled by Grammy winner Dave Darlington.

The son of Cantor Avshalom Katz and brother of fellow Carlebach-inspired singer Shlomo Katz, Eitan Katz began his career in 2005 with two albums featuring his brother and produced by his father, as well as an album of his own, L'maancha. He has since released five more albums, including two acoustic and one live.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Jake Polansky (ex-Yaakov Chesed) goes solo with "ohr"

Jake Polansky, former lead singer of the alt-rock band Yaakov Chesed, is now back with an indie folk solo project called ohr. The project's debut EP, Side by Side, was released last Tuesday and is available on all the usual platforms. You can hear a sampling of it above.

Yaakov Chesed, for those who don't recall, was one of several post-Blue Fringe alternative bands that sprung up in and around Yeshiva University in the late '00s and early '10s (oddly specific trend, that). Besides Polansky, the group also featured future solo star Aryeh Kunstler on bass and released two albums, 2007's Rise Above and 2009's The Passage. While other frontmen from that era have had success with new bands (Blue Fringe's Dov Rosenblat with Distant Cousins, JudaBlue's Shlomo Gaisin with Zusha), Polansky is the first to try a solo project.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Guest Post: Orthodox Punk Rockers

Hey guys! Michael Croland, formerly of heebnvegan and currently a published author, was gracious enough to write a guest post for Yidwise this week. You can check out more of his writing, including his new book, at

Punk is about going against the grain, giving the establishment the middle finger, and making heavy music that the masses would find unpalatable. Orthodox Judaism is not.

In my book, Oy Oy Oy Gevalt! Jews and Punk, I explored about two dozen punk rock bands that were overtly Jewish. The majority didn’t put religiousness front and center and focused instead on cultural Jewishness, Jewish humor, and various types of traditional Jewish music. There were five bands that managed to balance their punk rock spirit with Orthodox Judaism. They were unconventional and even wild in some cases, but ultimately they were serious about Judaism.

Moshiach Oi!
Yishai Romanoff started the “Torah hardcore” band Moshiach Oi! in 2008. As he embraced Orthodoxy in his early 20s, he no longer connected with most messages in the punk rock he held dear, so he wrote his own Jewish punk songs. Romanoff said, “For me, those basic values of being against the establishment and standing up for what’s right, to me, I saw those same values in the Judaism that I was discovering. So I kind of took punk rock and made it my own. . . . To me, Judaism is punk.” The band has faced unusual challenges through the years. Could screaming “Oi!’ help bring Moshiach (the messiah)? Did a woman’s guest vocals on one song violate kol isha (which prohibits a man from listening to a woman sing because of potential arousal) if her screaming sounded “like a demon from hell”? Would screaming “Shema Yisroel” make listeners “really feel it”?

White Shabbos
Guitarist Menashe Yaakov Wagner co-founded White Shabbos as a Jewish response to the Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly—a folk-punk band with a Jewish message at the center. Wagner has been ordained as a rabbi but does not openly use the title. He runs Shabasa Records, which focuses on what he called message-oriented, Torah-centric, alternative, rebel music, and he plays in every band on the label, including Moshiach Oi! White Shabbos’s 2004 album included psalms as well as songs about Shabbat, Moshiach, and Rav Avraham Kook. The band’s lineup has changed over time and they don’t sound so punk anymore, but this live version of “Shabbos Holy Shabbos” harkens back to their original style. Play it loud!

The Groggers
The Groggers were an Orthodox pop-punk band with a comic twist. Singer L.E. Doug Staiman was surprised by the band’s success at first: “It was this thing that never should have caught on, because if you got the humor, you’d be offended by it.” Songs on the Groggers’ 2011 debut often required a high degree of Jewish knowledge in order to be fully appreciated. “One Last Shatnez” told the story of a rebel who insisted on wearing shatnez (a prohibited combination of wool and linen). “Friday Night Lights” expressed the narrator’s eagerness to have sex with his wife on “mitzvah night.” “Farbrengiton” dealt with a farbrengin (celebration involving alcohol) on “the rebbe’s yahrzeit.” These were pop-punk songs about breaking the rules, sex, and heavy drinking, through a Jewish lens. In “Get” (the Groggers’ breakout song/video), Staiman encouraged a man to grant his wife a get (a religious writ of divorce). The song was not intended for a large, general audience with lyrics like “You’ve been on a losing streak since the sheva brachos week,” but the song was catchy and the hilarious video attracted fans.

Until breaking up in 2009, Yidcore was the standard-bearer for overtly Jewish, zany punk rock. Their shtick included drinking Manischewitz wine out of a shofar, throwing around Jewish foods, and using their songs to woo Natalie Portman and lampoon Adam Sandler. Yidcore did not come across as Orthodox in any obvious way, but singer Bram Presser was the executive president of an Orthodox synagogue. “Not all the shul members approve of me, but they do say they like me when I am quiet,” he explained. In “Punk Rock Chanukah Song,” their parody of Sandler’s version, Yidcore acknowledged their Jewish punk forefathers: “Joey Ramone ate matzoh at the seder/Just like Richard Hell and most of the Dictators.”

Around 2001, a group of Orthodox teenagers came together in Miami and called themselves 7Seventy—named after the address of the Chabad Lubavitch headquarters, 770 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn. Guitarist Josh Braham recalled that he and his bandmates were “trying to reconcile” the musical styles they appreciated with the religious messages they found meaningful. The band’s performances included a bar mitzvah, Rosh Chodesh celebrations, and backyard shows. Braham had not heard of any other Jewish punk bands when 7Seventy formed, but he learned about Yidcore shortly afterward. He said the religious content of 7Seventy songs was “absolutely genuine,” as opposed to Yidcore’s “mockery.” Braham did not want 7Seventy to be too edgy anyway, out of fear that he would get expelled from his yeshiva. He later ran the blog A Frum Punk.

Michael Croland is the author of Oy Oy Oy Gevalt! Jews and Punk, which was published in April by Praeger (an imprint of ABC-CLIO). Check out the book to learn more about all the artists featured in this guest post!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

YouTubers Yonina cover "New Soul"

Israeli YouTube duo Yonina have released a video cover of "New Soul", a song originally by French-Israeli singer Yael Naim best known for appearing in a series of MacBook Air ads in 2008. The Yonina version incorporates keyboard, tambourine, ukulele, and a toy xylophone.

Yonina is Yoni and Nina Tokayer, a Tel Aviv-based couple that perform covers and original music for their YouTube channel, which has been active since January of last year. The pair are currently embarked on their Yotzim Mehaslon (Out of the Living Room) winter tour, which will conclude on Jan. 26 at HaHalutz 33 in Be'er Sheva.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Sruli Broncher ft. David Asher + Ne'eman, "Mi Lashem Eilai"

Israeli EDM DJ Sruli Broncher, teaming with singer David Asher and rapper Ne'eman, has released the new single "Mi Lashem Eilai", named for Matisyahu's battle cry as he incited the rebellion against Antiochus. The song was recorded by Michael Tzy at Tenor Studios.

Video: Yaakov Lemmer, "Hamalach Hagoel"

Cantor Yaakov "Yanky" Lemmer has released a video for his rendition of "Hamalach Hagoel", an old Jewish lullaby taken from Yaakov's blessing to Yosef which has been performed by everyone from Dveykus to Rebbesoul. For this version, Lemmer collaborated with C Lanzbom, founding guitarist of Soulfarm and a notable solo artist in his own right, who mixed, mastered, co-arranged (with Lemmer), and recorded the song at his Sherwood Ridge Studios in Pomona, New York. The song's animated/live-action video was created by Neumann Media Studios with illustrations from Drawphic. The music and lyrics, which include original Yiddish, were crafted by Belgian composer Hershi Rottenberg.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Solomon Brothers audition for "The Voice Israel"

Per the Reshet network's website: Israeli bluegrass trio The Solomon Brothers recently aappeared as contestants on the fourth season of The Voice Israel. For their audition, the group played a cover of "The Boxer" by Simon and Garfunkel.

This is not The Solomon Brothers' first experience with reality singing competitions; according to their website, frontman Nachman Solomon almost auditioned for The Voice Israel back in 2013, and the band itself first formed to compete on Misphacha Hofa'ah, a family-themed spinoff of the show.

The Solomon Brothers' debut, Song of Life, released last year and was reviewed on this site. Their latest single, "Life", can be heard below:

Menachem Weinstein releases "Believe"

Singer-songwriter Menachem Weinstein has released the single "Believe". A project of Weinstein's own production company, Munch Media, the song was produced by Sruly Lipshitz and composed by Weinstein, Lipshitz, and Shaya Greene. The London-born Weinstein is based in Los Angeles.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Video: Gershon Veroba, "Ani Yisrael"

Singer-songwriter Gershon Veroba has released a video for "Ani Yisrael", the title track from his latest album, which released last month. 

The song, a jazzy pop-rocker, was written by Elie Schwab and arranged by Schwab, Veroba, Yitzy Berry, and Eli Klein. The video, filmed by Aharon and David Orian of Olam Media and featuring cameos by Yerachmiel Ziegler and The Jewish Insights' Yossi Zweig, shows Veroba, a native New Yorker, trying to adapt to his new home in Israel.

The album Ani Yisrael is currently available on all digital platforms.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Video: Gad Elbaz ft. Nissim, "L'Chaim"

Israeli popstar Gad Elbaz, accompanied by rapper Nissim, has released a new music video for "L'Chaim". The electro-klezmer dance song is produced by Amir "Dr. Chan" Katz, while the time-traveling video is directed and produced by Daniel Finkelman.

The song comes from Elbaz's upcoming album of the same name, which will be released to iTunes on Jan. 18th. Nissim also has an upcoming album, Lemala, although no release date has been given for that yet.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Lyric video: The Portnoy Brothers, "Diggin' Deep"

Folk/soul duo The Portnoy Brothers have released a lyric video for their song "Diggin' Deep", a Stevie Wonder-esque tune about small kindnesses and the futility of material goods.

The Portnoy Brothers are Sruli and Mendy Portnoy, two Manchester-born brothers who made aliyah as adults and have been playing professionally in Israel since 2012. "Diggin' Deep" is the opening track from their debut album, Learn To Love, which dropped in September and is highly recommended by this author.

Simche Friedman releases "Avur Mishehu Acher"

Hasidic singer Simche Friedman has released "Avur Mishehu Acher" (For Someone Else), the second single from his upcoming debut album (after "Bekarov"). The song was produced by Yuval Stoppel and features lyrics by Friedman's sister, Chana Friedman-Ullman.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Video: Dudi Knopfler ft. Shira Choir, "Birkat Kohanim"

Hasidic vocalist Dudi Knopfler, accompanied by the all-male Shira Choir, performs his rendition of "Birkat Kohanim", based on the Priestly Blessing recited on Shabbos and at weddings. Arranged by Yidel Rosenfeld, the melody was originally composed by Liat Ravner and sung by Lior Narkis before being popularized in Israel by Itzik Orlev.

Knopfler, based in Monsey, New York, is primarily a wedding singer but has nonetheless found recorded success with songs like "Aneini" and "Gut", and is currently working on a debut album which will feature Dudi Kalish and Lipa Schmeltzer. The Shira Choir, formed in 2003 by Shraga Gold, are near-ubiquitous in the frum-pop world and have performed behind many of the genre's top artists, including one I just covered last week. Knopfler and the choir previously teamed in August for the Yiddish Shlomi Shabat cover "Ain Od Milvado".

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Prodezra releases "Smile

Atlanta rapper Prodezra has released "Smile", his third and final single of the month (after "Good Looking Out" and "Egyptian Cotton"). The song finds Prodezra taking a glass-half-full approach to life's hardships over a remixed R&B sample.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Video: Mendel Roth, "Mincha"

Israeli Hasidic singer R' Mendel Roth has released the song "Mincha", a simple song with a surprisingly ambitious video.

The project was apparently inspired by a teaching of the Baal Shem Tov that even a Jew who spends all day working to make a living will, upon noticing the approach of midday, immediately feel compelled to daven Mincha, even without the ideal conditions. According to Gruntig, Roth conceived of the song while grocery shopping in Boro Park and even shared it with fellow singer Shloime Gertner, who named his most recent album after it.

For such a deep concept, the song on its own isn't much; the lyrics are merely repeated exhortations to go daven Mincha, Roth's voice is pleasant but not particularly distinctive, and the beat (produced by Eli Shprei and arranged by Chesky Breuer and Mendy Hershkowitz) is fairly standard frum-pop fare. But the song was released together with the video, and the video is, quite frankly, amazing. Filmed in the Ukraine by Roth, director Alex Osmolovsky, and over fifty extras, it plays out like a big-budget Hollywood remake of Fiddler on the Roof. After an opening nod to the Mannequin Challenge (probably the only Internet fad an older person can partake in without seeming tacky), the video's 18th-century shtetl setting plays host to several mini-stories taken from countless Hasidic tales (the wealthy merchant, the poor woodcutter, the gang of thieves), all realized with impressive attention to detail and a fast pace that justifies the song's bombastic production.

Roth, a descendant of the Baal Shem Tov through the Shomrei Emunim rebbe, is known in Hasidic circles as a kumzitz host and lecturer with a stated intent to "spread Chassidus with pleasantness and charm, in a way that speaks to the younger generation." While he has yet to release an album, he has had several videos out this year, including "Tehoim El Tehoim", "Bein Hazmanim", and a kumzitz video entitled "Mendel with Friends".

Dovid Lowy releases "Ma'oz Tzur Jingle"

Singer/guitarist Dovid Lowy is wishing a Happy Hanukkah to fans with "Maoz Tzur Jingle", a breezy folk-pop rendition of the classic song.

Lowy's most recent album, Inspire, was released in August and is available at Mostly Music, iTunes, and Amazon.

Video: Yerachmiel and Ruach Hakodesh, "Burn The Best" (live studio)

The Israeli wedding band Ruach Hakodesh, fronted by Yerachmiel "Rocky" Ziegler, has released a live studio version of "Burn The Best", a new original reggae tune for Hanukkah composed by Ziegler.

The Ruach Hakodesh roster reads like a Who's Who in Jewish alternative music; at various times, the lineup has included former members of Hamakor, Moshav Band, Soulfarm, Yaakov Chesed, Yood, Pey Dalid, and Aharit Hayamim, as well as notable solo artists like Lazer Lloyd and Josh "Mr. Shabbos" Alpert. Ziegler, for his part, has four albums under his belt, including one with Aharon Razel, and fronts several bands. The musicians in this session include Aharit's Rafi Barkats on saxophone and Achiya Cohen on piano.