Pessah tunes for the new millennium

Kim and Reggie Harris with Rabbi Jonathan Kligler Let My People Go!.

let my people go 88 (photo credit: )
let my people go 88
(photo credit: )
Kim and Reggie Harris with Rabbi Jonathan Kligler Let My People Go! (Appleseed Recordings) Drawn by the socialist's search for overthrowing the status quo and the dogmatists' mission to heal the world, it's well documented that Jews were highly involved in the American Civil Rights movement of the Sixties. Conversely, Garvey adherents aside, African American freedom songs have often utilized the biblical Exodus as a theme, with hymns like "Let My People Go" becoming anthems of such power that they're often sung at Seder tables. In short, Pessah is the connective tissue between American Jews and blacks. Universal empowerment-themed folk singers Kim and Reggie Harris, together with Rabbi Jonathan Kligler of Woodstock, New York, have united with an army of Sixties-style freedom lovers to release Let My People Go!, a multi-cultural song and spoken word concept suite, released by a Pennsylvania-based label that specializes in social justice-oriented recordings. E Street Band keyboard player David Sancious, King Crimson bassist Tony Levin and Don McLean guitarist John Platania contribute to the sound here, while activists like Pete Seeger, Sonny Ochs, Emma Lazarus, Juanita Nelson and Mahmoud Darwish lend their words and vocals. Three opening creative reconfigurations of Haggada selections lead us into the ultra-tight harmonies of "In the Mississippi River." In the poignant "Democratic National Convention 1964," The Shalom Center's Rabbi Arthur Waskow tells of how his days singing along with black spiritual protesters back in the Sixties turned him on to his own people's spirituality for the first time. On "Ilu Finu," an expression of God's praiseworthiness, Kligler's flock joins in for a choir-anchored round before the traditional "Venomar Lefanav" is transformed into a Balkan groove. SoCalled The SoCalled Seder (JDub Records) The Haggada commands that "In each generation, man is obligated to see himself as if he personally has left Egypt." Those of us looking to take Paschal observance into the new millennium are presented with this turntablist concept album that embodies a deconstructionist, brainy and frenzied East Coast headspace. Along the same lines as his Hiphop Khasene (Piranha Music, 2003) and Bubbemeises (Label Bleu, 2006) discs, Montreal's Josh "SoCalled" Dolgin has put together The SoCalled Seder for Manhattan's JDub Records. The disc opens with "Pesach Zeit," which features a Gypsy jam backing up Eminem-style rapping by Teah and scratching by DJ P Love. The tone having been set, SoCalled then gets even more eclectic, mashing fiddles and banjo picking with old-school beats ("1st Cup"), hosting an Elijah-summoning Matisyahu ("3rd Cup"), cutting a niggun-caroling Yiddish rendition of the "Four Questions" and bringing in Wu-Tang's Killah Priest to recount an updated "Ten Plagues." The suite closes appropriately with "Passout for Passover," an exercise in robo-electro pop with a frantic rap imploring us to "Come on and get your ass over" to a party for Pessah. Ben Jacobson can be reached at