Jewish Music Group
A duo of West Coast Chabad yeshiva students, Ta-Shma is a high-concept hip-hop and pop act that serves as the fledgling Jewish Music Group's answer to Matisyahu. "Ta-Shma" is a Talmudic term that translates as the title of the pair's album, but when it comes to their sound, the members of this act have little reverence for the past.
True, "Good and Grey" uses a klezmer violin sample, and "Voice of My Beloved" and "Rachamana" both use Chabad niggunim as choruses. Guest performances from Andy Statman, Y-Love and Matisyahu himself show that the members of Ta-Shma aren't afraid of being associated with their popular Jewish peers. Overall, however, this disc lives in Gorillaz territory, featuring a slick, layered production that goes out of its way to be as smooth and funky as possible. Producer Alon Cohen has achieved this sound with ease, and the pop-savvy listener will get sucked in.
"Arise O Rise" uses an electro-pop rock-steady groove, while "Ups and Downs" sports some jazzy trumpet parts and "Return Home" sounds like it could be introduced by Casey Kasem. Lyrically, the album lives up to the liner notes' threat that "Ta-Shma drops the spiritual science that makes your head spin." The rhymes flow rapidly and smoothly, although not always intelligibly, covering the gamut of Jewish values and teachings. A defining track, "Journeys," recalls the process of becoming religious, which the song's narrator apparently began after an eye-opening birthright trip to Israel. Along the way, he found a way to combine his past fondness for "reefer" rhymes with the lessons of his current full-time yeshiva studies.
Somehow, Ta-Shma manages to bring these diverse influences together, and it works. Whether its members will be able to build a career out of their talent remains to be seen.
Yossi Karavani is a Yemenite-Israeli who moved to Long Island, New York, following service in the IDF Rabbinical Choir and musical studies in Petah Tikva. Today he serves as the cantor for a conservative synagogue on Long Island, which makes him an unlikely choice for this newly issued hazzanut-pop CD from the largely haredi-oriented Noam label.
Karavani draws his inspiration from the pulpit, so Synagogue Favorites's liturgical theme comes naturally. The album relies mostly on canned, generic karaoke arrangements, with theatrical flourishes thrown in here and there. The album's centerpiece, an "Adon Olam" treatment, is representative of that style, although Karavani does shake things up here and there.
Two Carlebach covers, strangely not cited as such, pepper thing a bit, including a Latin pop-inspired rendition of "Ki Va Moed." On "Avinu Shebashamayim," the Shabbat service's Prayer for Israel turns into a medley that includes a traditional "Ya'aseh Shalom" ("He shall make peace") sing-along.
Ben Jacobson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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