Saturday, March 31, 2007

Brief Comment on Gertner

I was planning to write a review on Shloime Gertner, but the whole world seems to be saying the same thing over and over – he’s voice is plain, nothing special. I obviously agree and I realized that writing a full review is pointless in this case.

Gertner is not the first newcomer who has average vocals. This is a trend in JM, we see it every so often. The best example is Yehuda!, who was also nothing special in his first album Modim (the one with a lion alongside him) but managed to become one of the most talented singers today. He wasn’t half as good when he started, but today he is a dynamic singer. He has even started to arrange, compose and produce his albums. In other words, the sluggish start was just a prelude of what was coming.

Another example is Shloime Dachs, who had an annoying voice at first but has improved his vocals over time. I believe that because there are few good singers in JM today, the public seems to be patient with the newcomers, and as long as they sound decent people become excited of what will be coming in the future from this new talent. Shloime Gertner fits this profile. He is good, but far from great. I, just like everyone else, hope he follows Yehuda!’s footsteps by working on himself to be a more dynamic singer, with more energy and sweetness. He has the potential.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

A Decent Clip, for a change

Jewish Music video clips are usually a disaster - boring, cheesy and not well mixed.

Someone sent me this YBC clip and guess what, it's not bad.

I'm not a fan of boys choirs, but many people enjoy it, so I'm posting it here to those of you who like it.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Yossi Green

Before I post a review on Shloime Gertner’s album, I would like to discuss about the man behind Gertner’s music – Yossi Green, the composer and vocal arranger of most of the songs in the album. YG is an outstanding composer and he’s probably one of the most prolific composers of Jewish Music history, having composed hundreds of songs, in more than one hundred albums. He started composing for the London Boys Choir and never stopped. Lately, his music sounds more contemporary and he even ventured to compose oriental-style music (Ki Hatov, Halo Yadata etc..) and techno songs (i.e. Wald’s Echod and Ohad’s Gedoilo). He is not the typical Yeshivish composer anymore - Pinky Weber has that post today. In an industry where most people are amateurs who have little formal musical knowledge, YG is one of the few pros that are constantly evolving and he is always scouting for new singers to sing his songs. He produced albums for virtually all A-list singers in the industry, from Lipa to Dudu Fischer. One of his biggest accomplishment’s was his partnership in Dedi’s the sky-rocketing career in the mid-90’s, when Dedi became just as popular as Avraham Fried and MBD, if not more.

But as much as I appreciate Green’s music, it’s just disappointing to see he’s the only bringing new music to the industry consistently. Most of the other composers compose occasionally, whenever they are lucky enough to compose something that sounds good I guess. Obviously there are other good composers out there but I don’t see more than handful composers that take JM seriously. Every single time there’s a new singer, Yossi Green is behind the biggest hits. That was the case with Dedi, Shwekey (Shomati), Ohad (Ve’erastich), Michoel Shnitzler, Michoel Pruzanski (Da Lifnei Mi), Craimer (British chazzan who released an album two years ago with YG), Lipa (Mi Sheomar), Yaakov Young (Yogati) and now Gertner, just to name a few. The musical mind behind all those singers was Yossi Green and that highlights how one-sided is Jewish Music today. There’s a lack of professional composers, people are musically talented and know how to compose an original piece.

That probably explains why so many singers started to compose songs themselves, kind of an Im-Ein-Ani-Li-Mi-Li approach. Avraham Fried has composed many great songs already, like Lechaim in Yerushalaim, and most of the songs in MBD’s latest album were his own compositions. Even Ohad started to compose as well, in his latest album (see review).

In the last ten years, I only have in mind one new musical talent that started to compose songs consistently, bringing a new sound and genre within JM. That’s Yizthok Rosenthal, the man behind the Shalsheles. He composed songs for the three Shalsheles albums, for his Shabbos album featuring many guest singers, for Shalsheles Junior and for Yaakov Young. The public instantly absorbed his music and his songs were instant hits, but that’s still too little if you take JM as a whole. We need more, much more. I hope we see some new knowledgeable composers entering the Jewish Music world in the near future. Until then, all I can say is long live Yossi Green.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Beatboxing + Flute

Nothing to do with Jewish Music, but I tought it was very creative and worth of note.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Sephardi/Oriental/Middle-Eastern Songs

Posted in the Shwekey Review thread:

“... (Shwekey) has clearly demonstrated originality and talent in the songs he sings which have a Sephardic influence. So why aren't there more of these style songs? In fact, isn't Shwekey himself of Sephardic persuasion? 
Although he is overwhelmingly popular with the Yeshiva crowd (such that all of his songs instantly becoming Shabbos zemiros at certain places), I don't know why he doesn't stay closer to his roots, especially after seeing how these are typically the best songs he puts out.” Anonymous

That's a very good point. There’s no doubt that the Sephardic/Oriental/Middle-Eastern tunes are “in” today – most albums have at least one and they are constantly played at weddings. Just like Yeedle popularized the V’ato Bonim-kumzitz-style of songs, Shwekey started a new trend when he sang Ki Hatov in Shwekey 2.

The Sephardic songs we hear today are just an imitation, what I label “the Ashkenazi version” of Oriental songs. Let me explain why. Yossi Green, the most traditional composer of Chasidic music, composed Ki Hatov and Ata Shomer; In Generations of Song, Yehuda composed Ana Avda; Boruch Levine, another well known composer of Chasidic music, composed Halo Yadata for Shwekey in his latest album and even Eli Gerstner composed a few. The arrangers of these songs are the standard guys that we know Laufer, Lamm, Gerstner and others.

These musicians actually did a pretty good job so far but since they are oblivious of the complexities and subtle characteristics of this genre, which has special musical scales and unique concepts of rhythm and harmony, there’s little originality in their compositions. They might be able to compose one or two great songs, but not more than that since that’s not their musical field. That anwers “why aren't there more of these style songs?”, I think. I believe only a Sephardi composer, who grew up listening and singing Oriental songs, would be able to bring this genre to a new level.

That already happened in Israel, where Chaim Israel became incredibly popular and came up with a few hits already, like Malachim Hakdoshim (Shwekey sings it often). His secret? He composes and sings modern, well-arranged and catchy Sephardic songs to the religious public. He’s original and has made an impact already in the Sephardi music world.

After his standard releases (like Yogati, Yedid), Shwekey has been recording assorted albums like the Wedding Album and the Kumzitz Album, where he sings popular songs in a more simple production. Since Shwekey just released an album, I hereby suggest him to record the Sephardi Album, where he would sing Sephardic tunes with other prominent Sephardic singers. If you think Shwekey is the only great Sephardi singer in the US, think again. Dovid Gabay, Boruch Aboud and Ohad (I invite the readers to explain why he has such an Ashkenazi name – Moskowitz) are Sephardim and are among the best voices in Jewish Music today. An album like that would surely please the listeners, who are starving for something new, and it would bring new life to the Sephardic/Oriental/Middle-Eastern songs to come. Amen.

Benny Friedman’s Kulanu Nelech Album Review

Benny Friedman’s latest album, Kulanu, is out on Spotify, and as a paying subscriber I enjoyed listening to this album quite a bit, to the e...