Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Lyric Video - Nissim ft. Netanel Israel, "Tagid Todah"

Gangsta rapper turned Breslov Chasid Nissim and Israeli pop singer Netanel Israel recently released a lyric video for "Tagid Todah", a single for Rosh Hashana peppered with references to Rabbi Nachman and Breslov philosophy.

Originally from Seattle, Nissim (who went by D. Black prior to his conversion) has been busy since moving to Israel back in March, releasing joint singles with everyone from Gad Elbaz to Lipa Schmeltzer. Meanwhile, Netanel Israel has released several singles on his own and is a frequent collaborator with previously-covered producer Sruli Broncher.

Nissim can be found on Facebook and YouTube and at nissimofficial.com. Netanel Israel's solo music can be found on his YouTube channel.

Music Video - Eitan Freilich, "Am Yisrael Chai"

Up-and-coming British Orthodox pop star Eitan Freilich has released a music video for "Am Yisrael Chai", the title track of his recently released debut album from producer Avi Newmark (the previously covered Gabriel Tumbak).

Directed by Hadassah Chen and "based on an idea" by Jewbellish's Mendy Pellin, the amusing video depicts a straight-laced Freilich, vacationing in Israel, learning to loosen up with the help of a young boy and an English-impaired cabbie. The song itself is an upbeat pop number with simplistic-but-thoughtful lyrics reassuring Israel during tumultuous times.

Eitan Freilich's debut album, Am Yisrael Chai, is available on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, and Mostly Music. Freilich himself can be found on Facebook and at efmusic.co.uk.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Yiddish Reggaeton - Sruli Broncher and Chaim Shlomo Mayes, "Oy A Broch!"

Jerusalem-based producer Sruli Broncher and Hasidic singer Chaim Shlomo Mayes have created one of the stranger cultural mashups - Yiddish-language reggaeton - with the new single "Oy A Broch!" (Yiddish for "Oh, A Disaster"). And...it actually kind of works.

Partial credit goes to Mayes, who, despite clearly being a student of the more "emotional" school of Hasidic singers, manages to comfortably ride the complex reggae rhythms and even delivers the song's hook in a rave-worthy bass rumble. (There's a reason his debut album is called Bass Kol.) But really, the star of the show here is Broncher's awesome beat work: the aforementioned reggae bounce, the soaring melody that builds into a "Turn Down For What"-esque breakdown, and the hair metal-worthy guitar solo towards the end all make for an exceedingly moshable tune. Lyrics-wise, my Yiddish is even worse than my Hebrew and yet is still better than Google Translate's grasp of the language, but lyrics are kind of beside the point with this type of music, and the few that I can make out seem appropriately dramatic and substantial.

Some interesting background: Mayes's comfort on this song might have to do with his long history of reappropriating pop music for Hasidic audiences. Before this song, he and Bronchner were best known for Yiddish versions of Justin Bieber's "Love Yourself" and Fifth Harmony's "Work It". Before that, back in 2007, he and another Israeli musician, Dudi Kalish, created an album called Rap in Yiddish, full of parodies of artists like 50 Cent and Madonna, which earned them a boycott by local Haredi rabbis at the time. Even with the current oversaturation of bad Jewish parody music, you have to admire that kind of commitment.

More music by Broncher, Mayes, and other artists can be found on Broncher's YouTube channel. Mayes' debut album, Bass Kol, can be found at Mostly Music and JewishMusic.fm.

Music Video - Achiya Cohen, "Yoseph's Nigun"

Israeli composer Achiya Asher Cohen-Alloro recently released this musical tribute to the late Yosi Piamenta, who passed away last year. Piamenta, for those who don't know, was a BT guitarist and singer-songwriter who broke into Jewish music in the early '80s with his signature blend of klezmer and Hendrix-style rock guitar, and is often credited with pioneering the use of the long-dreaded electric guitar in frum music. Nowadays even Mordechai Ben David uses it on half his songs. (Which is not a coincidence. MBD definitely had respect for the master. Like, a lot.)

Fittingly, the tune displays some solid guitar muscle - not quite the shredding you'd expect from a Piamenta tribute, but it works just the same. The bearded flutist in the video is Piamenta's brother and longtime collaborator, Avi Piamenta, who adds a nice texture to things. Jump to 0:39 if you want to skip the opening chatter and get straight to the music.


Achiya Cohen can be found on Facebook and YouTube. Hat tip to Hasidic Musician at Blog in Dm.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Matisyahu coming back to Israel

Formerly Hasidic reggae artist Matisyahu, who made headlines last year from his skirmishes with the BDS crowd in Spain, will return to play Jerusalem next month. The concert will be on October 13, at the Sultan's Pool near Mount Zion, and will feature currently-under-the-radar French-Israeli singer Ishay Ribo.

His latest single is "Storm Tossed", featuring Mihali, from the new album Love Born.


Of Lawsuits, Olympics, and Being Holy in Unholy Places

Here's a story that's been making the Jewish blogosphere rounds. Per a JTA article, Rabbi Baruch Chait - an Israeli musician and rosh yeshiva best known for founding The Rabbis' Sons back in the '60s - has a bone to pick with the people behind the recent Rio Olympics.

See, Chait years ago composed the melody to the now-famous song "Kol Ha'olam Kulo" (aka "the one about the world being a narrow bridge") shortly after the Yom Kippur War, and the Olympics got some press last month when they played a Klezmer version of the tune during a televised performance by 16-year-old Japanese gymnast Sae Miyakawa (video below, mild tznius warning for those concerned). Rather than being flattered, however, Chait told Ynet last Thursday that he would in fact be looking into legal action against the Olympic's Japanese delegation. His complaint was twofold: the tune was used without his permission or knowledge, and the use in question was "not the most modest in the world", presumably referring to the pairing of a spiritually-minded song with the image of teenage girl doing gymnastics in a skin-tight leotard.

Chait did clarify that he wasn't trying to antagonize Japan or cause a chilul Hashem, but merely to uphold his values and get what was legally his. He also playfully pondered how the Japanese knew of the song, mentioning that he'd had some dealings with the country a few years back.

For the sake of brevity, focus, and me actually knowing what I'm talking about, we'll ignore complicated issues of copyright law and the exact halachic parameters of modesty. Instead, let's look at the more interesting topic in my view: Can a religious song comfortably exist in a secular environment? Should it?

It's certainly not without precedent. Devoutly Christian artists have turned up on the soundtracks to crude-humored comedies like Bruce Almighty and Little Nicky. Closer to home, a still-bearded Matisyahu had his own Olympics tie-in song several years ago (which almost certainly played over shots of women in sportswear at some point), and the band Distant Cousins, which includes members of Blue Fringe and Moshav, had one of their biggest hits attached to the R-rated film This Is Where I Leave You.

There is, of course, some differences - all four of those acts paid for those promotions, and are generally much younger and more "modern" than Chait, an elderly rabbi living in Israel - but the point remains: is there a benefit, even for more traditional Jewish artists, to putting their music in less-than-pristine settings? On the one hand, there's plenty of potential for a kiddush Hashem, and a number of frum sources have talked in broad terms about bringing holiness to otherwise unholy things. On the other hand, take the idea too far and you might end up with an affront to both Judaism and good taste. (Imagine hearing Avraham Fried on a Cinemax show. Nobody wins there.)

So it would seem it all comes down to a healthy balance and the personal preference of the artist. It's great to bring a little holiness into the world as long as you don't cheapen said holiness in the process.

So, now that I've made my own mini-rant out of a minor news story, I'd like to hear what you guys think. When does Jewish music work in a secular setting, and when does it not? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Profile: Avishai Rosen, Choir Boy Turned Rocker

I've only recently discovered Israeli singer-songwriter Avishai Rosen, which is a bit funny given how long this kid's already been making music.

Rosen started singing at age seven as a soloist with the Israeli boys choir Kinderlach, whom Orthodox pop fans might known from their collaborations with Lipa Schmeltzer and Ohad Moskowitz - they're basically Israel's answer to Miami Boys Choir. But apparently he got bored with that, because at age twelve - twelve, mind you - he decided to break out on his own and release a solo album, 2013's Ten Li Siman ("Give Me a Sign"). And not as a suit-clad crooner or a Disney-esque pop star, but as a legit, plays-his-own-instruments, writes-most-of-his-own-songs, rock-inflected musician.

This might sound like a recipe for a Justin Bieber/Nick Jonas situation, and truth be told, some of the material on that first album is a bit cutesy (though thankfully not "oh baby baby" cutesy). Fortunately, Rosen made a point to study his co-writer on that album and subsequently decided to take on full songwriting duties for his second album, Mi Sheani Achshav ("Who I Am Now"), which released earlier this year.

For my money, the second album is a major improvement. Not only has the now-17-year-old Rosen aged out of his generic and slightly annoying kid voice, but his songwriting has definitely matured. The songs are catchy without being obnoxious, with a subtle, nervous indie rock quality similar to Ben Folds and Nate Ruess. The lyrics, from what I'm able to translate, seem to genuinely convey the emotional turbulence of adolescence without resorting to pandering or whininess. If you're looking for some youthful pop rock with an added dose of sincerity, this is a good bet.

Avishai Rosen can be found on Facebook. His albums are available on iTunes.

Live: Lazer Lloyd, "Some Day"

If you're not familiar with Hasidic blues master Lazer Lloyd, check out the below footage of him playing his song "Some Day" at Black-Eyed Sally's in Hartfort, CT. Go on. I'll wait.

Back? Good. For those wanting an explanation for the insanity they just witnessed, Lazer Lloyd is a veteran blues singer/guitarist who has been rocking a beard and peyos ever since a chance meeting with the late Shlomo Carlebach back in the early '90s. Following that, he was the guitarist for Jewish rock pioneers Reva L'Sheva, fronted his own blues rock band called Yood, and has spent the last decade and a half building a quite impressive solo career as probably the only blues guitarist based in Israel. The above number is from his album America, which is set for release this fall, so if your interest is now piqued, be sure to keep an eye out for it.

Lazer Lloyd can be found online at lazerlloyd.com.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

New single: Gabriel Tumbak, "Boi Kala"

In case you'd finally got "Let It Go" dislodged from your brain, Gabriel Tumbak (who I previously covered on this blog) has released his latest single, a rendition of "Boi Kala" that pays melodic homage to the inescapable Disney tune.

You can find out more about Gabriel Tumbak at gabrieltumbak.com.

Lyric video: Gad Elbaz, "Mefo Lehatchil"

Gad Elbaz has turned out another up-tempo pop number in the form of a lyric video for new single "Mefo Lehatchil" (Where To Begin). The song melds a disco backbeat with acoustic guitar in a way that reminds of both OneRepublic's "Counting Stars" and Daft Punk's "Get Lucky", neither of which is even remotely a bad thing.

You can check out Gad Elbaz at gadelbaz.com, or on Facebook at facebook.com/GadElbazOfficial.

8th Day "Just Like You" Live at VTHS Gala

The always-enjoyable Hasidic folk duo 8th Day recently performed at a gala for my alma matter, Valley Torah High School. Here is a clip from that concert of them performing "Just Like You" from their most recent album, last year's Inner Flame.

You can find out more about 8th Day at their website, my8thday.com.

If you know of more live footage of Jewish artists that you think we should post, leave them in the comments below or post them to our Facebook page.