Jewish Discs: Year in review

With the Jewish calendar rapidly approaching the year 5767, aficionados of Jewish music are looking back at the landmark year that is drawing to a close.

September 21, 2006 09:40
4 minute read.
heedoosh disk 88 298

heedoosh disk 88 298. (photo credit: )


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With the Jewish calendar rapidly approaching the year 5767, aficionados of Jewish music are looking back at the landmark year that is drawing to a close. 5766 has brought us some groundbreaking Jewish recordings, many of which have been reviewed on these pages. The annual Jewish Music Awards took place at New York's Museum of Jewish Heritage earlier this month as part of the city's Oyhoo Jewish arts festival. Featuring performances by world beat hippies Soulfarm and hip hop DJ BennyBwoy, the evening was hosted by Jackie Hoffman, the comedienne who has played supporting roles in Garden State, Curb Your Enthusiasm and Kissing Jessica Stein. Unlike this column, the award show avoided differentiating between artists whose music focuses on Jewish themes and artists who happen to have been born Jews. (Ceremony organizers also didn't feel the need to mention whether the honorees have released an album in the past year). For these reasons, as well as for matters of taste, Oyhoo's choices differed from mine. In the Jewish Music Awards' best klezmer category, David Krakauer's Klezmer Madness and JDub's new, post-Matisyahu flagship act Golem lost out to former Knitting Factory darlings the Klezmatics. Golem did, however, win in the best rock category, beating out the Moshav Band, whose new release on Sony's West Coast-based Jewish Music Group (JMG) has yet to be distributed in Israel. In the best singer/songwriter contest, Rav Shmuel - the former Jerusalemite poised to release his own debut on JMG in the coming months - was probably proud to have lost to Bob Dylan. Klezmer Madness collaborator Socalled tied with Idan Raichel in the "Best New Approach" category, with other awards going to Matisyahu, Pharaoh's Daughter, John Zorn and still more groundbreaking acts. From this side of the Atlantic, the seven greatest Jewish albums of 5766 broke down as follows. Honorable mentions go to RebbeSoul's Change the World reissue, Shlomo Katz's VeHakohanim and Matisyahu's major-label debut, Youth. Each earned a spot in the year's Top 10. 7. Aharit Hayamim Aharit Hayamim (self-release) The Israeli religious-nationalist reggae hippies of Aharit Hayamim finally took a long enough break from their radio appearances, Gush Etzion festival performances and IDF solidarity concerts to complete the band's long-anticipated full-length studio debut. Having already yielded two singles in "Kum L'kha, Adam" (Rise Up, Man) and "Ein Yeush" (No Despair) the disc will be reviewed here in full in the coming weeks. 6. Shaharit Shaharit (self-release) Featuring frontman Roni Ishran, the Jerusalem-based Shaharit ensemble's debut album alternates between tight ensemble work and forays into freeform moodscapes. At the junction of heady mysticism and danceable accessibility, the disc draws from the style of classical Judeo-Arab ethnic folk instrumentations, with compositions that are nearly all original. 5. David Krakauer & Socalled Bubbemeises (Label Bleu) Cross-genre collaborations are nothing new to David Krakauer, who in the past has performed alongside the likes of Itzhak Perlman, the Kronos Quartet and the Tokyo String Quartet. It's unlikely, however, that any of those projects pushed the creative envelope like the frenzied prog-klez-hip hop heard on this disc. The standout track, "Turntable Pounding," is a mind-blowing Socalled tempest, which sets the stage for niggun chanting, hard guitar chords and some frantic Krakauer clarinet solos. 4. King Django Roots Tonic (Stubborn Records) Long-time "Ska Mitzva" composer King Django is involved in the East Coast reggae-ska scene on many levels nowadays. Roots Tonic spans a variety of sounds, including classic ska, roots reggae, dancehall and klezmer. "Zion Gates" feels like an underwater shtetl jam, while on "No Trial," a collaboration with vocalist Rocker T, the beats keep changing, showing off Django's sophisticated remixing skills. 3. John Zorn Masada Rock (Tzadik Records) To celebrate the 10th anniversary his 10-disc Masada songbook, John Zorn used his Tzadik label to issue five Masada re-interpretations, each using a different hand-picked ensemble to breathe new life into the compositions. Volume Five of the series features Jon Madof's remarkable Rashanim band, a Brooklyn outfit that combines jazz, Neil Young-style clunk-fuzz, klezmer, Spanish scale-picking and thrashy hard rock in a way that is worthy of the group's name, which means something akin to "Noisemakers." 2. Eden Mi Qedem Eden Mi Qedem (self-release) Eden Mi Qedem visionary Samuel Nelson describes his band as trying to combine the harmonies of the past with the future. On stage, the band mixes original and classic Piyutim with psychedelic guitar rock, but in the studio, Nelson has thrown electronic rhythms and effects into the mix. The album is a masterpiece of spiritual rock, with an infectious blend of muezzin-style chanting, layers of hand percussion and computer-generated beats that build and break down - all anchored by Nelson's stunning vocal tone. 1. Heedoosh Meumkah Delibah (self-release) Performers at the Oyhoo Festival's closing concert, Jewzapalooza East, Heedoosh is the brainchild of Israeli-American brothers Yahav and Yaniv Tsaidi. The creative success of Meumkah Delibah can be attributed to contributions from producer Eli Massias and drummer Ari Leichtberg. On Meumkah Delibah, Yahav Tsaidi's breathtaking songs bring together contemporary Western hard rock styles, progressive song structures and theological lyrics. The album's key tracks - "Etz Hayim," "Lev Tahor," "Bein Mayim L'Yayin" and "The Purim Song" - rank among the greatest rock songs ever to focus on Jewish themes.

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