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Herencia Judía. Benjamin Lapidus. Tresero Productions, 2008.

Timba Talmud. Roberto Rodriguez/Sexteto Rodriguez. Tzadik, 2009.

Reviewed by Lillian WohlTimba Talmud

Herencia Judía and Timba Talmud are recordings that fuse Afro-Caribbean (mainly Cuban) and Jewish (Ashkenazic and Sephardic) traditions. While Roberto Rodriguez/Sexteto Rodriguez’s compilation is largely dance music derived from popular Cuban and klezmer repertoire to be enjoyed in the home or in secular engagements, Lapidus’s album takes on the difficult task of arranging piyyutim (paraliturgical hymns) and texts from Jewish holidays with secular and religious musics of the Spanish Caribbean. Lapidus and Rodriguez’s impressions of musical encounter are presented as audiotopias—ideological spaces that offer the listener and/or the musician new maps for re-imagining the present social world.[1] They are spaces with no real place where ideological contradictions and conflicts may coexist.[2] Yet, the proliferation of a variety of Cuban musical idioms such as rumba, son, cha-cha-chá, mambo, and comparsa assure a focus on Cuban sound on both albums. Ultimately, by playing with musical materials from Afro-Caribbean, Cuban, and Jewish traditions, both Lapidus and Rodriguez must contend with the difficulties of finding a coherent musical point of view. In this respect, Rodriguez more successfully streamlines his vision, maintaining a focus on (predominantly) popular styles and images in comparison to Lapidus, whose strategy can feel almost overwhelmingly eclectic at times. Read the rest of this entry »

Playing Across a Divide: Israeli-Palestinian Musical Encounters. Benjamin Brinner. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. 360 pp. ISBN 978-0-1953-9594-5

Reviewed by Arieh Saposnik

Some time in the late 1980s, at the height of the first Palestinian intifada, Israeli poet/lyricist/author/publicist Jonathan Geffen devoted one of his regular newspaper columns to Israeli music. Geffen, renowned as an eloquent cynic in his often dour critique of Israeli society, began his piece by articulating the general sense of shock and depression that had taken over much of Israeli cultural and intellectual life in that period, particularly among those identified with the country’s left-of-center political camp, for which Geffen was a spokesperson. Depressing though the situation was, Geffen wrote, there was one bright spot: In a country so small and crisis-ridden, the extent and range of musical creativity was to him a small piece of veritable redemption. Read the rest of this entry »

Songs of Peace. Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. Sojourn Records, 2010.

Higher & Higher. Neshama Carlebach and The Green Pastures Baptist Choir. Sojourn Records, 2010.

Reviewed by Shaul MagidSongs of Peace

Jewish ethnomusicology in its current form is a relatively new field. In the past few decades there has been a flurry of studies and reviews that have dealt with the origins of Jewish music and various ethnic musical traditions, including American Jewish music. It therefore seems somewhat surprising that (as far as I know) there has been little work published on the prolific and influential musical career of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, arguably the most well-known composer and performer of traditional Jewish music in the post-war period.

Below I review two very different Carlebach compilations. The first, Songs of Peace, includes selections from two previously unreleased live performances in 1973. The second, Higher & Higher, represents another branch of the Carlebach industry: the work of his interpreters, in this case his eldest daughter Neshama Carlebach. Read the rest of this entry »