Friday, January 11, 2008

Chochmah Binah V'Daat

Life-of-Rubin has a great post on the evolution of JM and I want to explore a little another fascet of the evolution Chaim mentioned.

If you take a look in JM you will see that it's not a accurate reflection of the actual Orthodox world. Let me explain. In the Orthodox world, there's modern orthodox, yeshivish, chasidish, sephardim and many other "sects". In the old days, there wasn't much diversity in JM and, as Chaim pointed out, you couldn't find Jewish Rock or groupies like Chevra and Lev tahor. As the industry evolved, we got a broader array of sub-genres within JM and today we have new sub-genres like reggae, rap, Acapella and so on.

But some sects are way more represented than others and now I'll get to my point. It's fascinating to me that so many voices in JM are Chabad - we have of course Avraham Fried, Shlomo Simcha, Piamenta, Yossi Rose, Yossi Goldstein, Yaakov Young, 8th Day, formerly Matisyahu, Benny Friedman and more. Isn't it interesting that so many top singers belong to a specific sect, namely, Chabad? So, although we have much diversity in JM today, Chabad definitely owns the stage.

(On a side note, the Sephardim also have a strong presence in this typically Ashkenazi industry - take Shwekey and Dovid Gabay).

Not long ago, the typical JM singer was MBD, Shlome Dachs, Mendy Wald and the like - Ashkenazi, Yeshivish and American - but along with the evolution of JM, there was a shift away from this standard profile and perhaps the new standard profile is... Chabad!

So why is Chabad so strong in JM? I have some theories. One of them is that Chabad is strongly focused in Kiruv and consequently people from all sorts of background join Chabad day after day. Chabad is one of the most active Chassidic sects, with Shluchim all over the world, major events like the Chabad Telethon and even a news channel. I was watching an interview with JewDa the other day and he said that before he became religious he had a thing for hip-hop and when he made Teshuva he didn't give up his passion, he decided to become a Jewish Hip Hop singer. Most Chabadniks I know have something in common - they are not afraid to be themselves, to go away from the standard.

I'm not saying all Chabad singers are Baal Teshuva, but my point is that there's a unique broadminded environment in Chabad that propels talents in the JM scene.

In that environment, a guy who has a good voice and musical skill is not afraid to focus in it and excel, even if he was into Reggae, Hip-hop or just the mainstream JM.

Any other theories?

UPDATE: I now read Chaim's second post, about Benny Friedman. He says Benny is the next generation of JM because he uses the Internet "to make a presence for himself". I think that's related to what I wrote, perhaps. If Benny was Satmar or Viznitz, he would probably get a ban for promoting himself in the web. But in the Chabad world, the internet has been used as tool to reach other Jews and Benny does the same, which indeed puts him apart from all other singers.


Chaim said...

Great post, as a Chabad'sker, all I can say is we love to dance to the music. :-)

Here are some more name to add to that list.

Mendy Jerufi and Yoni Shlomo.

I don't know if makes the list, but Cantor Zalman Baumgarten. If you go back in time a little, Gershon Frankel (England), composed and worked very closely with Avraham Fried on some of those 80's albums is also Lubavitch.

Oh, and one more, Moshe Yess!! He was a Chabad Baal Teshuvah. (Now he went a little crazy - see his website for how crazy)

Joel said...

Speaking of Mendi Jerufi, his last album was great. Lubavitch or not you have to pick it up. Since he is Israeli no one heard about it, but after you pick up Lapidot get Jerufi's new ( or most recent) album.
There is a lot of solid music coming out of Israel we have to let people know about it.

YK said...


Thank you for your post, which prompted me to write this. But I'm curious if you, as a chabadsker, have an explanation why Chabad is in the top of JM. You agree with my (conspiracy) theory?

Wow, I went to OMG! FInd a way to interview this guy!


I have Jerufi's first album, and I heard once his 2nd one. He's very good, but as you said the israeli JM industry doesn't get much attention here for some reason. The opposite is also true, as albums like YBC don't sell half as well there.


lubaluba said...

there's a very simple explanation - the Rebbe. no further explanations required

YK said...

pls explain


Jordan said...

One important person you left out is Avremie Gurari.
He is responsible for the bulk of Music Copy work done in the JM business. Most American made JM recordings are done with arrangements which he copies. He also provides sheet music for all the major bands to perform at weddings. He has become indispensable to the way most performers operate. He is also a strong advocate for the performance of traditional Chabad music.

YK said...

You are right, I Avrumi G is a big player indeed. His company name - notable idea - is in every sheet music I see.