hanukah disk 88 298.
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The northeastern United States might have finally received its first blizzard of the season this past weekend, but here in Israel, the weather has been freakishly springlike.
Regardless, sufganiyot (filled doughnuts) have been on sale at the Mahane Yehuda market and elsewhere for about a month now, which must mean that Hannuka is a lot closer than it feels. Indeed, the Jewish marketing mechanisms are gearing up, and several new Hannuka-themed recordings are now available for consumption.
The OyBaby franchise seems to have blazed a formidable trail in the form of their 2003 holiday CD and DVD release. After Rob and Lida Wolf came up with the concept of a Jewish music brand aimed at tots, they recruited Lilith Fair alum Stephanie Schneiderman and her sisters to handle vocals. The result was a tremendous hit as far as home-baked Jewish publishing goes, having moved over 5000 units to date and laying the groundwork for an upcoming sequel.
OyBaby isn't strictly a Hannuka-themed collection, although thanks to a piano solo treatment, its "Maoz Tzur" goes a long way to convey the majesty of the traditional melody. A "Shabbat Candle Blessing" arrangement is adapted from Debbie Freidman's well-known Havdalah tune. OyBaby's "Zum Gali Gali" uses hand percussion tastefully, while "Eli Eli" has a lot more of an edge here than most versions.
Most likely inspired by the success of OyBaby, New York's Shira Kline has released ShirLaLa Chanukah! just in time for the December 2005 holiday season. The subtitle Outrageously Hip Jewish Kiddie Rock is only a slight overstatement, although Kline's hair does seem to be a different shade of Crayola in every publicity photo.
The album opens with the "La Bamba" spoof "Chanukah Bamba," which surprisingly contains no references to the Israeli peanut butter-flavored snack.
"Hayom Chanukah" employs a lounge jazz style, with brushed drums and a plucked upright bass. The creative production of Josh Nelson and Neshama Carlebach collaborator David Morgan continues on "Maccabee March," where youngsters enjoying a sing-along are accompanied by what sounds like tuba and piccolo parts. Tomer Tzur's Middle Eastern percussion is used especially well on "Al Hanisim," while the hip-hop turntablism-inspired "Lots of Latkes" loops a children's round on top of a swooping electronic beat. Kline is booked for Hannuka-themed performances this month in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, New York as well as other cities, so apparently the ShirLaLa Chanuka! phenomenon is catching on.
Ben Jacobson can be reached at email@example.com.