Hebrew School

God is a Moog
September 26, 2007, 2:33 am
Filed under: electronic music, jewish music | Tags: , , ,

God is a Moog: The Electronic Prayers of Gershon Kingsley

Much has been written and said about Mr. Kingsley, especially since a subset of his Jewish material was re-released by Reboot Stereophonic a couple of years ago. (Check out the Reboot link for clips, videos, interviews, etc.) The composer and musician, while most famous for the chintzy hit “Popcorn,” was a pioneer of the Moog synthesizer, and then later the Fairlight and Synclavier. His work ranged from the radically experimental Music Between Chairs (mp3 link) to music used for parades at Disneyland. Somewhere in between, he did a soft-core porn soundtrack, weird electronic beat poetry collaborations, and a ’70s collection of synth-driven Jewish rock-opera albums for holiday ceremonies. (His Passover and Shabbat albums are included on God is a Moog.)

In a 2005 Times article, he is quoted as saying, “I’m a religious composer who doesn’t like religion.” Perhaps that sums up the exceptional quality of the Jewish music heard here, which manages to be melodious (sing-songy vocals) and esoteric (filtered analog blips and bleeps), devoid of baggage and weighty all at once.

More Gershon:

official website

samples of the cd

79 versions of “popcorn”

the first moog quartet- bei mir bistu shein (youtube video)


A special shout-out today to Jack Zaientz, who on Monday featured Hebrew School on Teruah. Check out his site.


Israeli Bossa Nova

Pais Tropical – Songs From Brazil (1977)

As you may know, I’m in a band of mostly Americans who pretend to be French. So perhaps I shouldn’t be so surprised to think that 30 years ago, there were Israelis in fake Brazilian bands.

This album of Brazilian hits of the day, sung in Hebrew, apparently caused quite a frenzy in Israel when it was released.  Nationally renowned composer Ehud Manor translated and re-wrote the lyrics (he also wrote the Eurovision winner “A-Ba-Ni-Bi” which I wrote about here); Matti Caspi did the arrangements. Included are songs like “A Felicidade” from Black Orpheus by Antonio Carlos Jobim and the title track by Jorge Ben (originally recorded by Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’77). Here’s the latter:

Here’s “Casa de Bamba,” also from the record:

And in case that did not quench your thirst for Hebrew Bossa (and what would, really?), here’s more of this stuff than you’ll know what to do with.

More Danny Ben Israel
September 13, 2007, 3:10 pm
Filed under: israeli music, psych | Tags:

Shanah tovah everyone!

(real audio links)

Can’t Stand You



A Different Song

Do You Believe In Fairytales? (youtube)

Message to the Blank Generation
September 12, 2007, 7:55 am
Filed under: jewish, records | Tags: , , , , ,

Esther Jungreis- You Are A Jew

Madison Square Garden, November 18, 1973.  Rangers game? No– Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis packs the Felt Forum and delivers what might be considered the first mass Jewish revival meeting ever.  This concert album features an impassioned, at times crying and screaming delivery on the need for Jews to return to Judaism, not intermarry, nor become secular hippies, lest they cause a “spiritual holocaust.” Jungreis, a survivor of the actual Holocaust, went on to become a leader in the Ba’al Teshuva (return to Orthodox Judaism) movement in the U.S., and worldwide. The show is interspersed with rousing renditions of “Shema Yisrael,” “Ani Maamin,” and other prayer and folk songs.

Some of the Hungarian-accented diatribe seems to come straight out of a Richard Hell song (“You Are A Jew” coincides with the beginning of Hell’s musical career in the Neon Boys… coincidence?):

“You belong to that generation
You belong to a generation which suffers from a disease – a disease called ‘Jewish Amnesia.’
You belong to a generation that has been described the Prophet Amos:
And days shall come upon you saith the Lord, and I shall send a hunger into the land. It shall not be a hunger for bread, nor a thirst for water… but it shall be a HUNGER FOR THE WORD OF GOD.'”

Phew. Can one get a sense of detached euphoria from the tragically frightening? I hope so, I mean…. not… 

Links / events / etc.

I felt mixed feelings of sadness and living in some strange bizzaro world on today Sept. 11, coming in on the subway via the Manhattan Bridge.  The conductor came on the speakers and started singing the Star Spangled Banner. He did not have a very good voice, but to his credit it is a very hard song to sing. Some people applauded when he was done. Another man muttered, “It sounded like a prayer to me.” I was busy getting sucked into a conversation with my next door neighbor about how she continually sabotages her chances for “true love.” 

Some cool Jewish music blog spottings:
– Israeli-American band Sabra on the WFM-Jew blog.
– April Winchell’s OyTunes.

Also, my fellow fellows at Six Points have some events coming up:
– Jeremiah Lockwood’s Sway Machinery do a rock Rosh Hashanah event tomorrow at Angel Orensanz.  Jeremiah’s grandfather gave his debut concert there in 1949 when it was the Slonimer Synagogue.  RSVP here.
Ofri Cnaani has an exhibition at the Andrea Meislin gallery in Chelsea, opening September 20.

above: Ofri Cnaani

Have happy high holidays, Jews!  

Sunset Park Donut
September 6, 2007, 6:31 pm
Filed under: brooklyn, sunset park | Tags:

Gentrification is a phenomenon that you often hear about but much less occasionally witness beyond a glance. Over time, living in a neighborhood and watching it slowly gentrify has yielded a lot more nuance to my thoughts about the issue. I live in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, a neighborhood known for its amazing Mexican and Latin food as well as its own bustling Chinatown. Although, I should watch my weasels, since most people I speak to about my neighborhood (if they don’t think it’s in Queens) know it for the Melody Lanes bowling alley or Greenwood Cemetery.

I’m not one to shed crocodile tears or feign guilt about gentrification, in order to merely substantiate the fact that I am somehow “privileged” to whoever’s in earshot. And I won’t tell the same old story you’re likely to have heard one too many times, about how as a musician I moved here x years ago and there weren’t x plastic weekly boxes by the subway, thrift stores, or people without melanin in their skin. But I do need to tell you about a diner.

There used to be a diner on 39th and 5th, right next to the Jackie Gleason bus depot, that I would go to fairly regularly. It was called 39th Street Donuts. Here’s a picture I found of the old exterior:

It had a wide range of food, which is to say from very shitty (home fries and bacon sitting on the grill all morning) to very good (pancakes, meatloaf sandwich). Regardless of the quality of the food, the waitresses were always friendly, with no qualms about recognizing me and saying hello, or calling me “honey,” or amicably jibing me about my unkempt hair. And there was the fact that a full breakfast for two (with sides, coffee, tea, etc.) would run around $6-$7.

Having been alternately away or busy most of the summer, I was surprised one day, while impatiently walking up the street for the elusive B63 bus, to find that the place had almost doubled in size and was completely remodeled.

Actually I was only a little bit surprised. But I was taken aback enough to venture back there about a week later with my friend Jill. Gentrification had bore its fruits: not-as-friendly waitresses, an eerie but pleasant feeling of sanitation all about me (the ultimate irony is that this is the name of a sandwich on their menu), really good, perfectly cooked home fries, and almost double the check.