Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Year of Jewish Music

Although it is arguably the entirely wrong time of year to be publishing retrospectives of the year in Jewish music (wouldn't Elul be more appropriate?), both Jewish Week and Jewschool came out this week with lists of their favorites of 2006.

Interestingly, the only album that was honored on both lists was the Klezmatics' mining of the Woodie Guthrie archive, Wonder Wheel. Pretty cool that there are enough good new albums to fill two different top-ten lists - it wasn't so long ago that we might as well have called it the "only ten" list.

Even more interestingly, neither list honored any popular Israeli artists (unless you count the "Rough Guide to the Music of Israel," which received honorable mention from JW). I can't claim to be an expert, but I know there's an Israeli radio station that ONLY plays religious music the entire time, so I've gotta believe there must be one album from Israel worthy of making a list of Jewish music. And in any case, Jewish content was hardly a requirement on either list (one of which includes Bob Dylan's latest album).

An early indicator that the top lists for 2007 might be different appeared in the December Bikkurim briefing, which reported that JDub Records plans to "launch a new Israeli artist initiative 'The Port" that will introduce rising Israeli talents to American audiences."

My favorite Israeli album of the year (although it was actually released in 2005) is the second from Shutei Hanevuah (The Fools Of Prophecy), Mechapsim Et Dorot. We saw them in concert on the night before Erev Rosh Hashana with an audience that was evenly divided between Israelis, Americans, and Brits, mostly in their late teens and early twenties, and before concluding the show the band told the audience, in English, to call home and wish their parents a happy new year. And my favorite music video is this one from the Festigal, although apparently this link doesn't always work from the USA.

UPDATE [Jan 5]: Shutei Hanevuah was the featured performer at birthrightisrael/Taglit's "mega-events" this past week, which should help increase their exposure to an international audience.

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