Posts Tagged ‘Chana Rothman’

Chana Rothman Shines

January 9, 2012

This review was first published on The Arty Semite blog at the Forward.

Chana Rothman (photo by Elise Warshavsky)

Not every singer-songwriter can sing lyrics like, “You got a big heart, sweet like a Pop-Tart, bigger than Walmart” and hope to be taken seriously. But Chana Rothman can, and she does so on the bouncy first track of her new album, “Beautiful Land.” That track, somewhat reminiscent of Kimya Dawson (whose songs were featured in Jason Reitman’s powerful film “Juno”), is called “Shine.” The object of Rothman’s complimentary lyrics is a young person whom the singer is encouraging to grow up strong and proud of her individuality.

The Rothman we hear on “Beautiful Land” is clearly recognizable from her debut album, “We Can Rise,” but here she goes in new musical and lyrical directions. Her earlier music, though accomplished, was heavy-handed politically and religiously (there was no mistaking her left-leaning opinions), while her new songs leave more to the listener’s interpretation. If the former was a form of musical activism, the latter is a show of increasing artistry.

Listen to ‘Shine’:

Click here to read more and listen to two tracks off Rothman’s new album.

© 2012 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.



Nice Try, But…

April 2, 2010

Thanks to my social media connections, I came across two music videos today that both caused me to ask aloud (to no one in particular, as I as was alone when viewing them), “What the hell was that?!” I’d have to say that I don’t think I have ever seen or heard anything quite like them before. And I think it is safe to say that I don’t think I want to see anything quite like them again.

The first appears to me an elaborate advertisement for a Lag Ba’Omer parade and festival that takes place along Eastern Parkway (home of Brooklyn’s Lubavitch Hassidic Jewish community). These singers must be headliners in that community, but I can’t be sure since I don’t claim to be a follower of contemporary Hassidic pop music. All I can say is that this sure does seem to be a far more elaborate marketing plan (to make sure that “No Jew is left behind”) than putting up a few flyers on lampposts and utility poles in the ‘hood. I did find it a bit alarming, though, that someone who commented on the video on YouTube said that she was looking forward to the Rebbe coming out to lead the parade. I’m afraid that would be hard for him to do, given that he has been dead for over fifteen years.

I can tell that the other video was made with the best of intentions, but in my humble opinion, boy, did it miss the mark. Apparently, a couple from New York named Linda and Elliot Allen concluded that the divisions among Jews result not so much from intellectual differences, but because of deeply held emotions. So, it therefore seemed logical to them to overcome these divisions through an emotionally charged medium. That of course, would be music.

Since there isn’t much written about this (pet) project on its website, I am going to go out on a limb (based on observations drawn from watching the video a few times) and say that the couple managed to get Kobi Oz – lead singer of Teapacks (also spelled “Tipex” according to those who think the band is named after a European Wite-Out type product, rather than something having to do with a hot beverage) and an artist who has recently written and recorded a lot of songs inspired by traditional Jewish themes and language – to write “Ani Yehudi” (I am a Jew) and get a bunch of relatively well known singers from Israel and the US to record it with him. (Regular readers of this blog will recognize Ilan Damri, whom I wrote about in my There’s Singing, And Then There’s Singing post.)

Look, I feel bad knocking this earnest effort to do something nice. But is a “We Are The World”-like song with simplistic lyrics like,

I’m a little Sephardi, and I’m a little Ashkenazi,

A little Israeli and a tiny bit Diasporic,

Maybe I’m religious and maybe secular,

But in my heart I know that I am Jewish, and that is unique.

No better than the other, no worse,

Just a Jew.

really going to heal our rifts? I think not.  Contrary to the Allens, I think that the divisions among Jews (although they may be emotionally fraught) do stem from intellectual differences, different ways of perceiving the world and interpreting Jewish sources and traditions.

One contentious issue among world Jewry today is the role of women in public religious life.  I have to ask, then, where the women are in a musical video devoted to Jewish unity. I don’t see a single female singer participating (As far as I am concerned, the women in the Galron choir from Kfar Saba – which makes a weird token, cameo appearance toward the end – don’t count.) Where are Chava Alberstein, Nurit Galron, Yehudit Ravitz, Sarit Hadad, Basya Shechter, Chana Rothman, et al? And don’t even start with me by explaining that a woman couldn’t sing, “Ani Yehudi,” (the feminine is “Ani Yehudiah“), because that’s just semantics and a completely lame excuse.

© 2010 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

Matzah Balls And Passover Treats

March 26, 2010

If you’ve been reading my blog lately, then you know that I am rather discriminating when it comes to the quality of the stuff that is being put out there about Pesach (see my post called Separating The Wheat From The Chaff). I, of course, know that some of it is meant to be light and fluffy like matzah balls (at least that’s the way they turn out when I make them with my secret ingredient: selzter):

However, the Jewish educator in me compels me to prefer more substantive creative undertakings, like those of Sarah Lefton’s G-dcast project. What a pesachdik treat it is that G-dcast is branching out beyond parashat hashavua (the weekly Torah portion) to the holidays. Here is its Passover offering that was just released yesterday:

And there’s nothing I like better than a new twist on a old ritual. Jewish women rockers Naomi Less, Chana Rothman and Sarah Aroeste have banded together as “Lights Ignite Change” to not only perform together, but also work together to hopefully shed light on important social issues. These three talented young women, on whom I wrote in my Kol Ishah: Jewish Chicks Rock post, started off last night’s Downtown Seder by lighting the candles with the traditional bracha (blessing) and also an original composition by Less called, “A New Light.” It’s a great song not only musically (ie. it sounds nice and is catchy enough for even the musically-challenged to sing along), but also lyrically and educationally, because Less has packed a bunch of traditional liturgical references to “light” into it.  For those inclined to mix it up and experiment with new practices, I would suggest that this song would be a great addition to your seder. Fortunately, with a few days left until Pesach, there is still time to learn it – just park yourself in front of your computer and keep clicking “replay” on this video…

© 2010 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.