Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Update

I'm back from a long trip to Europe and will now be able to spend more time in this blog.

Michoel Pruzanski just released a new album that bears a very unique name - Pruzbul. This follows Dovid Gabay's trend of choosing album titles that sounds like the singer's name, in his case LeGabay.

I REALLY look forward for this album. I am a huge fan of Pruzanski and I think he has been the best voice to come out in the last years, following his excellent debut album Ashrecho. If you don't have Ashrecho, buy it. For some reason it never became very popular, but many of the songs in his first album are all-time classics to me.

Pruz has a very energetic, all-range voice that was very well coached. He's always on tune and tries new shticks in almost every song, keeping his songs always interesting. I have been telling my friends for a long time that I plan to get Pruzanki for my wedding.

I heard MostlyMusic's Promo song of Pruzbul and it sounds great and very energetic. Yitzy Bald seems to be the main composer, but there are songs by Yossi Green and Waldner.

I will post a review asap. I also plan to review Shloime Dachs' album soon. Stay tuned.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Music and Lyrics

Music is one of the most powerful ways of expressing a person’s feelings and ideas, and for centuries it has played a very important role in Jewish life. From the Shtetl’s folk wedding songs to the niggunim of the Hasidim, virtually all Jews share a great passion and admiration for tunes that inspire their lives.

Both the lyrics and the tune are the most important facets of an inspiring song, and they can convey to the listeners joy, excitement, insight or even sadness, depending on the lyrics and tune used by the composer.

Everyone agrees that Shlomo Carlebach had a special skill to choose the appropriate tunes for the lyrics he sang, and the vast majority of his songs seem to be in perfect harmony with the words. That might explain why his songs are still so popular even after his passing.

Today, the biggest trend in JM is borrowing non-Jewish songs and singing them with lyrics from Tehilim, Tefila or whatever. Some singers copy the whole song (see Life-of-Rubin's list here), some composers simply use the beats and style that are typically used by techno or pop singers and so on. I once saw a teshuva from Rav Ovadia Yosef stating that it’s actually a good thing to transform these tunes into Jewish music because by doing that, the singer brings something that was used for the Sitra Achra (“Dark Side”) and elevates its use to Hashem.

But even though it might be ok to bring “alien” music into JM, we must keep in mind that these songs were composed for different lyrics and by definition they have nothing to do with the Tehilim or Tefila lyrics. In other words, many JM songs we are listening today has no “soul” and has little or nothing to do with the lyrics. The tunes might be good and catchy, but it’s hard to enjoy music that has no meaning to it. That’s why I can’t hear The Chevra anymore, for example. They sing techno and pop-style songs but even though the music is modern and the arrangements are good, I feel like there’s nothing to the songs. But the same holds true for many other composers today. For instance, Yossi Green’s thing today seems to be techno songs – like “Gedoilo Shiro” in Ohad2 and “Im Ain Ani Li” in Gertner’s album. I must admit that I like these songs but in the other hand, I feel that there’s no connection between the lyrics and the melody. The same thing happens when I hear Blue Fringe or AKAPella. Not to mention Variations (remember?).

I believe that the singers and composers should focus more in producing original music that is connected to the lyrics. If they keep focusing in finding the most catchy goish tunes and arrangements, we will be flooded with Jewish songs that are nothing more than copycats of non-Jewish music, with no originality or meaning to the songs. That’s why I like Shalsheles so much. And Chaim David, Chaim Yisrael, A. Fried, Abie Rotemberg and even Razel. These guys are busy singing real music, with real lyrics. Kein Irbu.

For the discussion thread, please mention Jewish songs that you think that have nothing to do with its lyrics. I came up with another one: this very very old-school Jewish tune, "ציון הלא תישאלי לשלום אסיריך" a very joyful song from... the Kinos of Tisha Beav.

PS: Although I brought a negative example from two of YG’s compositions, these are exceptions, and I think the vast majority of his music is very real and meaningful.