Posts Tagged ‘Jewish music’

Matisyahu To Sing With Female Cantor

May 13, 2014

This piece first appeared in The Times of Israel.

Matisyahu on a visit to Israel. (photo credit: courtesy)

Matisyahu on a visit to Israel. (photo credit: courtesy)

The ever-evolving Jewish reggae star Matisyahu will perform on stage with a female cantor for the first time next week in Redondo Beach, California.

The singer, who was a Hasidic Jew and observed kol isha (the religious prohibition for a man to hear a woman’s singing voice) until late in 2011, when he surprised fans by posting online photos of himself sans beard and yarmulke, has sung publicly in recent months with women, but never with a female cantor.

Matisyahu responded positively to an invitation from soon-to-be cantor Jessica Hutchings to sing with her at her senior recital on May 18 at Temple Menorah.

Click here to read more and watch videos.

© 2014 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

Songs For The Breathing Walls

November 9, 2012

This article was first published as “Musical tour creates poignant historical echo in Czech Republic’s synagogues” in The Times of Israel.

Lenka Lichtenberg at the Old Synagogue in Plzen (Pilsen) (Photo credit: Romana Rysava)

It’s unusual for a mid-career artist to declare a recent project “the most important thing I will ever do.”

But that’s precisely how Czech-born singer Lenka Lichtenberg feels about “Songs for the Breathing Walls,” a collection of mainly Jewish liturgical pieces she recorded in 12 Czech synagogues. The album’s North American release this week coincides with Friday-Saturday’s 74th anniversary of Kristallnacht, during which some of these synagogues were damaged or destroyed.

With two nominations at this month’s Canadian Folk Music Awards, it’s evident that Lichtenberg isn’t alone in thinking the album is remarkable. “Lenka Lichtenberg is a unique artist, and this album is a unique project,” says Grit Laskin, a member of the CFMA board of directors.

The praise she’s receiving is the end result of what Lichtenberg recently called her 2009 “moment of epiphany.”

“I was on a bus on the way back to Prague after giving concerts in synagogues in Plzen [Pilsen] and Liberec,” she said in a recent phone interview with The Times of Israel. “I was half-asleep, but I was musing on the interesting comparison between singing at the Plzen synagogue, which is derelict, and at the Liberec one, which is completely renovated. How could I capture the difference between the two experiences?”

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© 2012 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

How ‘Hava Nagila’ Became A Global Hit

July 13, 2012

This article was first published in The Forward.

One day, in the summer of 2008, the question “‘Hava Nagila’ — what is it?” popped into Roberta Grossman’s head. Although she was familiar with the ubiquitous song, she was clueless about its origins. Thus began the filmmaker’s four-year quest to investigate the Jewish standard’s century-and-a-half journey, from Ukraine to YouTube. The result is her new documentary film, Hava Nagila (The Movie),” which premieres at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival on July 19.

“It turned out that ‘Hava Nagila’ is an amazing portal to 150 years of Jewish history, culture and spirituality,” the Los Angeles-based Grossman told the Forward in a recent telephone interview. “Once we started sticking our toe in the big Hava river, so to speak, we realized there was a lot out there.”

Grossman had always thought of the song as a touchstone of her own culturally Jewish childhood, but until she began researching it, she had no idea of its reach and effectiveness. The quest to understand “Hava Nagila” turned into an inquiry into her own American Jewish identity, as well as into why certain songs have such staying power.

Click here to read more and to watch a video of Danny Kaye and Harry Belafonte singing Hava Nagila.