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October 28, 2016 / 26 Tishri, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Music’

Conducting the Netanya Orchestra

Tuesday, September 13th, 2016

The Israel Netanya Kibbutz Orchestra took to the streets on August 25th and let the people conduct the symphonies.

Take a look… and a listen…

Video of the Day

Music in the Streets

Wednesday, July 20th, 2016

Street performers play music on Ben Yehuda street in central Jerusalem.

Photo of the Day

The Intolerable Loudness Of Simcha Music

Friday, July 8th, 2016

I’ve received so many letters over the years about the intolerably loud music at simchas (joyous occasions). One that sticks in my mind was from a grandmother who expressed concern at the high decibel level of the music at these functions, which she felt could be injurious to people’s hearing, especially infants who are often brought along by their parents.

She also expressed annoyance that the loudness of the music prevents people from holding conversations and often forces them to go into the lobby in order to communicate with friends and family.

I am not a physician, nor am I knowledgeable about audiological problems, so I will leave comment on those areas to professionals. But I do feel it is important to comment on the lack of derech eretz  – respect for the feelings of others.

When I shared that grandmother’s letter with readers some years ago, I was deluged with letters and e-mails from people who agreed with the grandmother.

Several medical professionals wrote in to confirm the grandmother’s point about the high decibel levels.

Most often, this problem is generational. By and large it is young people who favor this cacophonous, loud music – while mature adults, the elderly, and toddlers and infants find it unbearable.

Innumerable grandparents have confided to me that they anticipate family simchas with delight so that they can get together with relatives and friends and reconnect with them, and that they are especially pleased when they are all seated at the same table. To their dismay, however, they invariably discover that the extremely loud music inhibits them from making conversation.

Not only does this type of music give them a headache, it actually forces them out of the simcha room, consigning them to an often drafty, uncomfortable hallway. On the other hand, should they choose to remain seated at their table and attempt to talk, they have to deal with yet another problem – their vocal chords can become strained by the effort it takes to talk over the music.

There is yet a third option to which wedding guests can resort, and that is to smile, nod their heads, and pretend they hear their neighbors.

Obviously, not one of these choices is an acceptable one.

Perhaps we should trace the roots of this bombastic music. Certainly our zeidies and bubbies never indulged in it. The music at their simchas was joyous and elevating but never reached the offensive decibel levels so popular in our day. This sort of music has roots in a culture that is not Jewish and does not reflect our way.  Some might of course argue that years ago they did not have the technology to amplify music as we do today, to which I would respond that you don’t need technology to make horrifically loud music.

Early Indian tribes, with a primitive culture and lifestyle, found ways to create loud music through which they believed they were able to banish “evil spirits.” Could it be that contemporary man, in trying to escape reality, resorts to this very loud music in order to shut out the real questions of life: Who are you? What do you represent? What are your goals in life?

Could it be that we, like the Indians of yesteryear, are attempting to banish the insanity in our society and have forgotten the sweet sounds of the music that was once reflective of our simchas?

I must add that this intolerable noise is not limited to weddings or bar mitzvahs but assails us everywhere. It can come from a car in a parallel lane in which the driver believes he has license to inflict his obsessions on others. Many of our young people have become so addicted to this music that they are never without the technological gadgets that saturate them with this sound.

Perhaps the time has come for parents to tell their children that at simchas they have a responsibility to consider the needs of their grandparents and other guests.  Perhaps the time has come for young people not only to be concerned by what they want, but also by what is right and comfortable for others.

In the interim, I hope and pray that the day will speedily come when we will hear the joyous music of chassan and kallah that emanates from Yerushalayim and brings gladness to all hearts.

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

The King Of Jewish YouTube: Daniel Finkelman Is Pursuing His Chabad Shlichut Through Popular Jewish Music Videos

Friday, June 10th, 2016

“My plan is to win an Academy Award by the time I’m 45,” says Daniel Finkelman, the 38-year-old director and producer of a recently shot feature film and countless short films and Jewish music videos, including Gad Elbaz’s Paris-located “Hava Nagila” and Lipa Schmeltzer’s futuristic “Hang Up the Phone.”

Go ahead. Roll your eyes. You’ve heard this before – from people far more famous and with more industry connections than Finkelman. And it’s true: Finkelman tends to make grand pronouncements like that. But spend enough time with the filmmaker and instead of dismissing him as delusional, he’ll make you not only believe it’s possible, he’ll have you rooting for him to succeed. It comes from confidence and ample talent – yes – but also from Finkelman’s striking appetite and sense of purpose.

In the specialized corner of filmmaking that creates Jewish music videos, Finkelman – who also directs and produces Jewish music concerts – has earned a reputation as a visionary. He has been creating YouTube videos full time for the past five years and has already worked with over a dozen major Jewish music including (in addition to Schmeltzer and Elbaz) Mordechai Ben David, Dudu Fisher, and Avraham Fried.

Before taking on filmmaking, Finkelman was a secular studies principal and teacher in a Chabad school. He looks at all of his work from an educator’s point of view. Now, he says, “instead of inspiring a class of 12 or 15 students, I have the ability to inspire millions of people with help from Gad Elbaz, Lipa Schmeltzer, Avraham Fried, and many others. That responsibility gives me tremendous satisfaction.”

Finkelman, who lives in Brooklyn, says he pursues his shlichut like all Chabad individuals do. But Finkelman’s shlichut is fulfilled not by by traveling via rickshaw in New Delhi, camel in Beirut, or elephant in Johannesburg. Instead he does so through his videos, which, though they display a broad range, have a core set of messages in common: of faith, simcha, and Jewish pride.

During the filming of one of these videos, the phosphorescent glow of the stage lights were dim as buzzing chatter came from dozens of costumed men, women, and children. The Soho Lounge in Brooklyn was as ethereal as it has ever been. The lounge’s brick walls and swooning musical vibes were emitting a Roaring Twenties aura. Soon, a hush blanketed the crowd. Bartenders stopped tending, DJs stopped mixing, and customers stopped mingling.

All eyes focused on the far end of the quaint room, which was brilliantly illuminated by violet, turquoise, and scarlet spotlights. A man appeared dressed casually in jeans and a t-shirt and introduced himself: “I’m Daniel Finkelman, and welcome to Lipa Schmeltzer’s music video shoot. I hope you’re all having a great time. Sit back and enjoy.” The crowd applauded then stopped as Finkelman raised his hand. Finkelman took his place behind the camera with the rest of his crew and shouted, “Action.”

Schmeltzer moved onto center stage and commanded everyone’s attention with his red sparkly vest and fashionable glasses. He belted out his newest tune, while members of the Holocaust Survivor Band accompanied him on their string instruments. Schmeltzer has become one of the top two or three performers in Jewish music, those who can manufacture a sure bet every time they step on a stage or cut a new album, and it’s no oversimplification to say that a significant chunk of his renown and reach is thanks to Finkelman. Schmelzter – and, for that matter, Gad Elbaz and others – are the talent; Finkelman is their impresario.

* * * * *

Before I met Daniel Finkelman, we had arranged for an interview at Chocolatte, a 24-hour kosher coffee shop in Crown Heights. As I wait for him, the favorite hymns of the Lubavitcher Rebbe play softly in the background and the heavenly aroma of cinnamon lattes and chocolate croissants fill the air. Soon, Finkelman saunters in, uber-confident, wearing a denim suit jacket, gray slacks, and spiffy gray lace-ups. The only thought crossing my mind is, “Never in my life have I seen a Lubavitcher with this much style.” Finkelman introduces himself – as if I didn’t know it was him – and invites me to take a seat. He is so excited to begin the interview, and acts as if a reporter has never interviewed him before. He is courteous, calm, and collected. And he’s very eager for whatever happens next.

Daniel Finkelman (left) on the set of the black-and-white music video “The Reveal.”

Daniel Finkelman (left) on the set of the black-and-white music video “The Reveal.”

Finkelman was born in Israel and moved to New York when he was 11. Unlike the case with most children, watching a film at home was no simple task for the young Daniel Finkelman. Every couple of minutes, he’d make his younger brother pause the video so that he could absorb the film quality and directorial techniques of each scene – whether he was watching in French, Russian, Hebrew, or English.

“I had bought VHS tapes through Columbia House’s mail order club,” he says. “We also went to the movie theater, but those I couldn’t pause. Right away, I was attracted to directors such as Spielberg, Scorsese, Louis Malle, and others. My parents were hard-working immigrants who didn’t have much time for films, but at least they didn’t kill my passion toward them. I watched a lot. I sometimes went into a marathon of watching four films one after the other – very geeky, but yeah, that was me.”

Finkelman’s family was not associated with Chabad at the time but they spent a Shabbat at 770 Eastern Parkway soon after their arrival. Finkelman cites the Rebbe as his muse and says the Rebbe granted him a modern day miracle.

“As a child I was extremely allergic to the sun – the pain in my eyes when in contact with the sun was excruciating,” Finkelman relates. “None of the doctors could cure me. After my Shabbat at 770 I waited on line the following Sunday to shake hands with the Rebbe in the boiling sun. When I finally met the Rebbe, I asked him for a blessing, and then in the only Yiddish I knew I told the Rebbe, ‘Zei gezint,to which he answered ‘Amen’ followed by ‘You should have hatzlacha with everything in your life,’ and a few weeks later my eyesight was completely restored and my allergy was gone; it was a miracle.”

Finkelman says he was also drawn to the Chabad philosophy of letchatchila ariber: “While some people live life by accomplishing their goals step-by-step, Chabad shoots straight to the top,” he says. “That, in particular, appeals to me. Straight to the top is my motto. Straight to the top in my marriage and straight to the top with career choices. I didn’t want to wake up when I’m 75 and go, ‘Oh, I could’ve done that.’ Now is the time to jump in the waters and be a Nachshon ben Aminadav and just do it. That is why my goal is an Academy Award. I don’t think that it’s a far off dream.”

Finkelman first thought seriously about using his filmmaking for religious ends five years ago. Sholom Rubashkin’s imprisonment had been sitting on his mind and the more he heard about the allegations against Rubashkin, the more he wanted to get involved. He called Mordechai Ben David and set in motion the “Unity for Justice” music video. “The thing that tugs at my heartstrings most,” says Finkelman, “is that Jews from so many communities, from Syrians to Sephardim to Chabad to Modern Orthodox, found a common denominator, and his name is Rubashkin. It’s as if he sits in prison so that the Jewish people can unite.”

Wanting to infuse his projects with a sense of mission has led Finkelman to work alongside Meyer Seewald, founder of the victim advocate group Jewish Community Watch, which helps protect children from sexual abuse and helps victims heal from their traumas. Finkelman calls Seewald “a living saint.” Together they filmed the video “Speak Up” in which seven survivors of sexual abuse shared their stories.

“I respect Daniel and love him like a brother,” says Seewald. “He is an advocate for victims, and in every interview that he has had with them, they feel supported and loved. He speaks to them gently, and supports them even after the video is through. Daniel is never satisfied with just that, he always wants to do more, and has amazing ideas to spread awareness on the subject. With his help we will continue bringing awareness to the community, and help more victims become survivors.”

Working with sexual abuse victims does not come without its share of detractors within the community, but Finkelman generally shrugs off those concerns. For example, the video for the Schmeltzer song “Believe in a Miracle” includes women, which elicited the virtual wrath of many a commenter; they fumed that parading women in an Orthodox music video is both inappropriate and un-Jewish. This made Finkelman livid. “If we’re going to make a revolution,” he tell me, “even a small one, it needs to be heard. I think it’s a disaster that women are not in videos or pictures of Jewish sources. Maybe Lipa’s videos will promote change.”

Finkelman’s sense of mission extends to videos combating anti-Semitism. One of his most popular is “Hava Nagila,” featuring Israeli artist Gad Elbaz. “Hava Nagila” was shot in Paris after the January 2015 massacres at Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket but before the November attacks which took the lives of 130 in the city.

Finkelman has worked with Elbaz for many years and has created popular music videos for Elbaz’s songs, like “Esh Shel Mashiach” (over 800,000 YouTube views), “Open Up” (a million YouTube views), and “Hashem Melech 2.0” (nearly 1.3 million YouTube views). A recurring element in these videos is impeccable choreography and, often, jazzed-up dance routines, which Finkelman feels can help attract younger Jewish viewers.

“Who’s our target audience? Not only the unaffiliated, it’s also the affiliated,” he says. “They’re not interested in Jewish music, to see some gray-bearded guy jump and say ‘oyoyoyoyoyoy.’ It doesn’t inspire. It doesn’t inspire me. But if you give them something like Gad Elbaz, some good dancing, and it’s like ‘Oh wow; this is good.’ This is almost just as good. It’s good beats, good choreography, and some window of communication with the youth. When I say youth I mean all of us. I’m also youth. I’m also not inspired by the gray-bearded people (except maybe Avraham Fried). I can’t stand going to these concerts where the artist has zero charisma. We’ve changed that.”

Finkelman is especially proud of his Holocaust-related film work. He started exploring Holocaust cinematography when he began working with producer and composer Cecelia Margules, the daughter of Holocaust survivors who’s been promoting Holocaust education for decades. He says, “Ever since she came into my life, I’ve been bringing it to YouTube, and to the masses. These videos unite Jews on a global scale and it allows me to combine my love for Judaism with my love for filmmaking.”

Ever mindful of looking forward toward future Jewish generations, Finkelman says he plans to create online platforms catering to Jewish youth. “We want people to answer the commonly asked question ‘What makes you Jewish?’ Thousands of Jewish individuals worldwide will take minute-long video clips of what makes them feel connected to Judaism. For some, being Jewish is through feeling connected. For others, it’s eating lox. For still others, it’s watching Woody Allen movies. Everyone has their own concept.”

Once he’s gathered enough videos, he plans to showcase them online, hoping they can represent a kind of cumulative snapshot of what Judaism means to Jews worldwide. He’s dubbed the project “We R 1.”

Molly Meisels

Israelis to Get ‘Happy’ at Pharrell Williams Concert in Rishon Lezion

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

Israelis are preparing to get “happy” this summer when Grammy Award-winning American vocalist Pharrell Williams arrives in the Holy Land.

Pharrell is scheduled to appear on July 21 at Live Park in Rishon Lezion.

His monster hit “Happy” is probably the most successful and well-known of his tunes, but Pharrell is a multi-talented musician.

Numerous ‘Happy’ videos were made in Israel when his hit came out.

He has scored many international number one hits as a solo performer. He’s also written top hits for other performers as well, including Madonna, Beyonce, Kanye West and the Rolling Stones, among others.

Pharrell has won 11 Grammy Awards for his work as a performer and producer. He’s currently a judge on the American hit talent show, The Voice.

Hana Levi Julian

Palestinian Authority Flag Banned — With Others — at Eurovision

Sunday, May 1st, 2016

Palestinian Authority officials have expressed outrage at the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) decision to ban any display of Palestinian Authority flags at next month’s Eurovision song contest in Sweden.

But it wasn’t personal — a fact that seems to have escaped the notice of the PA government in Ramallah.

EBU released the “flag policy” on their website on Friday. “Particularly, the organizers request and urge the fan community to respect and appreciate the non-political nature of the Eurovision Song Contest,” the statement read. Only flags representing UN member states are to be permitted, along with the “rainbow flag” and the European Union flag – but only if they are not “used as [a] tool to intentionally make a political statement during the show.”

There is a long list of “not” permitted flags, which include local, regional, or provincial flags, those with commercial messages, “flags of disputed territories,” offensive statements, non-English statements and high objects such as selfie-sticks that might obstruct the cameras. There are also size restrictions as well.

Nevertheless, newly-appointed PLO secretary-general and heir-apparent Saeb Erekat slammed the decision on Saturday.

Writing to EBU President Jean-Paul Philippot, Erekat expressed his “outrage and indignation” according to the Bethlehem-based Ma’an news agency, and a post on Twitter. Erekat called the decision “discriminatory and a serious offense against our nation.”

The EBU, which produces the show, also banned flags from other disputed political entities such as Crimea, Northern Cyprus and – as the “Palestine Chronicle” noted – the Islamic State. (No, this is no joke – the PC really did write that and apparently really intended it as a geographical and political reference.)

The first semi-final will be held on May 10, the second on May 12 and the final date is set for May 14.

Rachel Levy

New York Hasidic Hipster Band Brings Message Of Unity and Peace to Jerusalem

Sunday, January 10th, 2016

By Jonathan Benedek/TPS

Jerusalem (TPS) – A popular Hasidic hipster musical band based out of New York, known as “Zusha,” performed in Jerusalem’s Yellow Submarine music center this weekend. As it does in all of its performances, Zusha sought to inspire and elevate the Jerusalem audience through its Carlebach-style music.

“What we’re trying to do with our music is to gather people together and bring them back to Israel. Even if our listeners are not in Israel, we try to elevate them to Israel,” Shlomo Galsin of Zusha told Tazpit Press Service (TPS).

For Shlomo and the other two members of his band, Elisha Mlotek and Zechariah Goldschmiedt, “Israel” is more than just a geographic location or the name of a country, but a state of elevation through music.

“Whether you are religious or not, everyone needs to elevate themselves from one level to the next and music is a wonderful medium to do that,” explained Shlomo. “This was essential to the [Jewish] Temple, and if it was essential to the Temple, which was the epicenter of Israel, then it is what Israel is all about.”

In particular, Zusha’s mission is to elevate people to a higher level of unity and interconnection with one another. “That’s the goal of the music, to make our niggunim (hymns, melodies) accessible and relatable to everybody,” Elisha elaborated to TPS.

The “niggunim” referred to by Elisha, are the wordless melodies that automatically transcend language barriers and are therefore used by Zusha to unify people from all different backgrounds.

“Not using words really unites a room full of people that don’t speak to each other or know each other, and may even disagree with each other” said Zechariah Goldschmiedt to TPS. “Part of our mission is to bring people together that normally don’t agree with each other and one of the ways to do that is to just not say anything at all, and instead, use your pure voice before opinions even come into place.”

“It doesn’t mean that you should lose who you are but it means that once in awhile, it’s important to realize that we’re all connected and that we should all be looking out for each other,” Zechariah added.

In addition to its many lyric-free melodies, Zusha also attempts to create unity among people by adopting music styles from many different cultures.

“You will often hear a little bit of reggae, some Latin percussive rhythms, as well as some jazz,” explained Elisha to TPS. “But what you ultimately experience is the music resonating with the soul, and that’s something we’ve experienced with both Jews and non-Jews and is something we want to share with the rest of the world.”

Zusha’s very formation was built upon the principle of unity and coming together from different backgrounds. “We were all on different journeys and at different locations,” Elisha told TPS as he described Zusha’s beginnings. “Shlomo was at Yeshiva University, Zechariah was at New York University and I was at Queens College and we all met downtown in this small community that was growing and wanted to feel the spirit of unity.”

“We found unity in the niggunim that we sang together and that’s how we first became friends and grew together spiritually and creatively,” continued Elisha.

During their trip to Israel this past week, Zusha spread its message of unity through music in many different parts of the country. “We’ve been traveling around Israel from Safed to Jerusalem to Beit Shemesh, gathering people together to sing niggunim,” Elisha said to TPS.

In light of the current wave of attacks throughout Israel over the past few months, Zusha hopes that its message of unity will lead to an end to conflict. “The only thing that is going to solve conflict is bringing people together instead being left in completely separate units,” Shlomo said to TPS. “The more we unite, the more we break away all the discord.”

TPS / Tazpit News Agency

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/new-york-hasidic-hipster-band-brings-message-of-unity-and-peace-to-jerusalem/2016/01/10/

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