Dear God

Jerusalem-based musician YM gets divinely personal on his debut album.

September 26, 2015 20:47
Jerusalem-based musician Yitzchok Meir Malek.

Jerusalem-based musician YM. (photo credit: YAAKOV LEPON)


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YM is not just a musician. He is the former unofficial mayor of the Jerusalem neighborhood of Nahlaot and all-around deeply spiritual being. His music reflects this beautiful multiplicity, like a carefully woven tapestry that captures the eye on sight.YM’s debut album, Dear God, will be released this fall.

What is your background?

I grew up a poor black boy in the rural mountains of Virginia [he jokes].

Seems like years of whirlwind movement, face-to-face engagement with everything Israeli society can throw at you. I grew up in the big city with more established definitions, more of a scripted life. But it was in Israel that I really came to be, to actually risk my own identity, to be free, independent, open, guitar over my shoulder, flowing with the miracles of everyday life in this land.

You’ve put out albums/musical compilations before. Can you talk about that?

This is the eponymous debut. The sounds coming off my guitar, especially in hindsight, always matched where I was emotionally, what I was dealing with at the time within a wild journey. So I’ve dabbled in some different projects, different partners, different sounds. When I pick up the guitar today, I can hear a bit of all of that, my fingers remember it. It’s all part of the same evolution.

Where is Jewish music headed?

Hopefully to the House of Prayer for All Nations, but before that, I’d like to see some bossa nova make it’s way into the klal. I think Israel might be the best international, multi-ethnic melting pot the Western world has seen in its history.

There’s just such a collision of talents, disciplines, sounds, histories. There’s such a unique genius in the mixing and matching, the experimentation. Is it Jewish per se or just Israeli? Hard to say... is Bob Dylan Jewish music? In any case, seems like Jewish music is exploding in all kinds of directions, but it wasn’t something I’ve had to consider for this album.

Who are your musical inspirations and influences?

Hardly a day goes by when I’m not impacted by something I hear. People say my sound has a little whiff of this, a little of that. I love playing Frank Sinatra on those cold, rainy winter nights in Jerusalem.

Dylan’s poetry opened my ears to language, to songwriting, to the subtleties of words. I get a lot of patterns and rhythms from classical. Leonard Cohen taught me elegance. And when I’m hungry for something more than bread, Shlomo Carlebach always took me home.

What was your creative process like for this album?

I took all the strings off my guitar and just thought it through. Ever wonder where our thoughts come from? It’s all God. I had an absolutely wild few years, and the art just spilled out as I rode the waves. I fell in love, broke apart, traveled the world, battled demons, got back together and tied the knot. The album was born in all of that.

Also a lot of prayer. The album is entitled Dear God. Some requests require more than one prayer to fulfill them, some things are just so big and awesome that in order to give birth to them they require so many prayers. I have this producer, his name is Ronny Vance. He’s been around the block; knows the big names, wheels and deals in the industry. He’s just a genius of the subtle sensitivities, gives me the hard truths, rips me to shreds, and puts me back together again. Keeps me laughing. No Ronny, no album.

Is your music healing?

Is the Pope Catholic? Yes, thank God, it’s healing, but it still needs your prayers. Really, it’s highly contagious but it’s filled with hope. I try not to predict or define or limit how the music will hit you. I hope it does a lot of different things; unfolds in different ways for every person. Most of all I hope it inspires you to live your dream. There’s a lot packed into it, so let’s see what your personal radar picks up on.

Do you have tours planned to promote the album?

24/6. The whole thing feels like a never- ending tour. I move around a lot to sing and share and experience. I’m sure the album will come along for the ride. But yes, they have me out and about a lot after the release, they just keep booking.

What are you future aspirations? I don’t know yet! My current aspirations are Moshiach then Madison Square Garden.

I pray for the whole entire world, my loved ones, my family, my friends, all the holy soldiers protecting our lives, all those who have devoted themselves to the worship of the One and who sustain creation, all of Jerusalem, all of Israel, all the nations of the world, to be healthy and successful and for each individual to fulfill themselves and their dreams, for the ingathering of the exiles, for us to never forget that we left Egypt and we were once slaves and are forever a free people, for all those looking for their true love to find it, for all those who are trying or want to have children to have healthy ones, for the fixing of baseless hatred, and to remind the world that we all do not need to agree in order to love, and for the rebuilding of the house of prayer for all nations.

Which do you prefer: vinyl, cassette tape, cd, or digital?

I prefer a cassette made out of vinyl. Ideally, I would play my album for you live from the backseat on your drive to work. Love the sound of vinyl, there’s just enough static to give the classics an extra layer; something heartwarming and homey. But digital puts it all in my fingertips and it’s hard to imagine living without that.

Could Moshiach be a song?

No, that’s impossible. Unless I’m wrong.

Then, definitely. Sometimes I think Moshiach is a person, sometimes I think Moshiach is a mindset which comes over an entire generation who transform this world back into Eden. Would be great if we could all sing our separate songs but all be singing together. Our diversity is so important, and our unity depends on all our differences coming together. It’s very possible that Moshiach is the hidden track on my album, the only Hebrew one on there, Dear God.

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