Jewish classics & Mizrahi pop with a religious twist

Since his days as a young teenager, Barak Cohen has made a career for himself adding religious lyrics to hits by Eyal Golan, Ethnix and other leaders in Mizrahi pop.

January 4, 2007 08:55
2 minute read.
barak cohen disk 8 8298

barak cohen disk 8 8298. (photo credit: )


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YORAM GETZLER Nigun Nishama Haftaah (Self-release) Yoram Getzler comes from a long line of music-loving Hassidim. He grew up in Los Angeles, where he was involved in socialist Zionist youth movements and yeshiva studies before running a purist folk music nightclub on Melrose Avenue in the Sixties. After enjoying a stint farming in Colorado, Getzler made aliya 20 years ago, and today lives on Moshav Aminadav. An active member of Israel's modest Jewish Renewal community, Getzler also co-hosts the popular podcast and manages the music Web site. As the project manager and arranger for Nigun Nishama Haftaah (Melody Soul Surprise), Getzler has assembled a variety of Jewish folk instrumentals from around the world and packaged them as a cohesive sound cycle. He has accomplished this by commissioning a hand-picked ensemble of ethnic and classical performers with backgrounds in Ladino, blues, Israeli, Austrian, Gypsy, Mexican, Arab, Irish, Spanish and piyut music. Like many contemporary classical works, the sounds heard here can be opaque at times, but the repertoire is grounded in enough melody - and the session men have enough touch - for an elevating listening experience. The opening "Brachah" is built around an avant garde, high-pitched string arrangement that strangely fades out just as it begins to take shape. "Avinu Malkenu," the inspiration for many a jam session, here employs bass chords, hand percussion and a proper piyut-like phrasing. Later, "Shrikat HaAsavim" rides waves of cymbals and a throbbing tabla rhythm. "Parashat Kdoshim" and the closing "Blues Bracha" are jams based on the traditional Torah chant melodies, the latter wandering to new places thanks to Niv Yaron's electric guitar. The album's best track, "Nigun HaAri," mixes down-home folk flavors with a formal-baroque style, topped with a trippy violin lead. BARAK COHEN Bagan Hashoshanim (Greentech) Since his days as a young teenager, Barak Cohen has made a career for himself adding religious lyrics to hits by Eyal Golan, Ethnix and other leaders in Mizrahi pop. Bagan Hashoshanim (In the Garden of Roses) is Cohen's sixth disc, but it's only his second collection of mostly original material. Like much of today's Mizrahi pop, Bagan Hashoshanim takes its cues primarily from Latin dance club music, contemporary Greek balladry and the bubblegum sing-alongs of the Arab world. The title track is reminiscent of the 2002 Sarit Hadad mega-hit "Light a Candle," while "Simha Menatzahat" (Joy Overcomes), "Eizeh Min Olam" (What a World) and "Yesh Boreh Olam" (There's a Creator) all sport fancy tranced-out rhythm-synth interludes, the latter two including rap verses. The album's centerpiece, "Rak Alekha," would be pure Eyal Golan fodder if it hadn't been built on lyrics that ponder faith in God and Jews' obligation to crown their King. Music consumers who love Mediterranean-flavored bubblegum pop but are uncomfortable with the genre's love song lyrics will enjoy Bagan Hashoshanim; the rest of us probably won't. Ben Jacobson can be reached at

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