Israel Beat Jewish Music Podcast

The Israel Beat Jewish Music Podcast interviews the latest Israeli and Jewish artists and covers a wide range of styles from Carlebach, cantorial, klezmer, Israeli trance, Mizrachi, rock, Sephardic, hasidic and everything in between. Past interviews have included Matisyahu, Avraham Fried, and Miri Ben-Ari. IsraelBeat broadcasts live every Sunday from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Israel time on

Friday, April 27, 2007

Daniel Zamir interview - download now!

Daniel Zamir on Jazz, Jewishness and the Meaning of Music

Interview with Daniel Zamir on his new Jewish themed jazz album Amen. How did this talented saxophonist go from Israel to downtown New York avant garde to Chabad and back again? Plus, tales of getting lost in a swamp with Matisyahu, and discovering old Hebrew folk music with his mother.

-- Click here to listen - right click and select "save target as" top download as mp3 --

Daniel Zamir 1999

Daniel Zamir 2000

Daniel Zamir 2007

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Photo essay of Dead Sea Jewish Rock & Soul Festival

Dead Sea Jewish Rock and Soul Festival

by Ben Bresky

The second annual Dead Sea Jewish Rock and Soul Festival was held during the interim days of the Passover holiday, on Wednesday and Thursday April 4th and 5th.

The festival was sponsored by Pirsumei Nisa, a music production and distribution company that handles many of the artists and events that fall under the category of "original Jewish roots music" or "redemption rock." Proceeds of the festival went to the IsraeLife Foundation to benefit the purchase of medical equipment for Hatzalah and other emergency rescue organizations in Israel.

The man behind the festival is Jonty Zweber, an immigrant from Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia). Although he doesn't look like a rocker or a Carlebach hippie, Zweber is responsible for management of many of modern Jewish musicians. He and his wife started Club Tzora on a kibbutz near Beit Shemesh. He also organizes the annual Beit Shemesh festival and the Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach memorial concert. He also runs the Pirsumei Nisa production company, and manages singers and groups, including Neshama Carlebach and the Moshav Band. Although most of his musicians were personally influenced by Shlomo Carlebach, Zweber prefers to call the music "original Jewish roots music", "alternative Jewish music," or "Jewish Rock and Soul." Rabbi Carlebach was an individual, not a name brand, he explains.

Regarding the increasing popularity of religious rock music, Zweber says, "It's not only at Pesach time." He spoke during the festival on IsraelNationalRadio's Yishai Fleisher Show. "It's a phenomenon that is spreading, and not only in the Diaspora but in a lot, and not only among the religious, but among mainstream Israeli society. There are a number of examples. A major singer like Etti Ankri is returning to her roots, and Ehud Banai and we just did a tour with Neshama Carlebach who teamed up with Mika Karni. These are Israeli icons. There's a lot going on in the country, we feel it and we're proud to be a part of it."

The stage was built on the beach with the audience facing the calm waters of the Dead Sea, in the Ein Bokek area where most of the large hotels are situated. The audience was a mix of families staying at the hotels for the Passover holiday -- both Israeli residents and visitors from the United States -- as well as young people who camped out in tents.

One such visitor was Grammy Award nominee Jewish-American recording artist Matisyahu, who attended the festival with his wife and toddler. Originally just an observer, Matisyahu was eventually invited onto the stage, first as a recipient of an award from the IsraeLite Foundation and then for a finale performance with Israeli singer Aaron Razel. The two sang a medley which blended Aaron Razel's music -- such as his song Shir L'Tzion -- with Matisyahu singing the vocals of his own hits songs, such as Jerusalem and King Without a Crown. The surprise performance, a major crowd-pleaser brought the first day of the festival to an end on a high note.

The performers in this years festival consisted of mainstay performers who played their hits and newcomers who brought different sounds. One group in particular was A Groyse Metsi'e, who calls its style "progressive Jewish klezmer music." The band, whose name is a Yiddish expression meaning "big deal," consisted of a mix of young musicians both with and without kippot who played guitars, violin, hand drums and other instruments. Most of their music was fast klezmer style with yells of "oy gevalt!" They surprised the audience with a Caribbean/ska-sounding ode to Rabbi Nachman of Breslov and a reggae piece. The band's debut album was just released this winter.

Another new band was Bein HaShmashot, which played moody, Pink Floyd-style rock with lyrics about Israeli issues. Lahakat Regaim, a new band, opened up the festival.

HaMAKOR is a young band with a changing line-up of musicians due to the fact that several of its members have just been inducted into the Israeli Defense Forces. Their lead singer is Nachman Solomon, who grew up on Moshav Mevo Modi'in with Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. His father, Ben-Zion Solomon, performed with Rabbi Carlebach for many years. One of his brothers is in the Moshav Band. Another brother is in Soulfarm.

HaMAKOR's music is straight-ahead rock, with lyrics both in English and Hebrew, some sounding Carlebach-inspired and others sounding like American hard rock. They have just released a debut album.

Adi Ran, whose his hit song Atah Kadosh was featured in the movie Ushpizin, was another crowd pleaser. His music is electric-guitar based, with quirky lyrics ranging from religious exhortation, his love for long peyos (sidecurls), scat singing and animal noises. He also played a distortion-filled instrumental version of an Israeli nursery rhyme.

Sinai Tor brought his ancient Hebrew-looking white head wrap and long flowing peyos to the stage for an introspective, acoustic performance. The Hevron-area singer performs a sort of folk music with an edge and lyrics about faith and redemption.

Udi Davidi is also from the Hevron area. Raised in Kedumim and currently working as a shepherd, Davidi plays upbeat pop rock with inspirational lyrics. He often performs on the drum set singing simultaneously with a headphone/microphone attachment. One of his popular songs is the catchy feel-good Am Yisrael Chai, which was commissioned by the father of 17-year-old terrorist victim Avichai Levy. The father specifically asked Davidi to write a happy song to reflect his late son's personality. Davidi, with an ever-present smile, also dedicated a song called Dayenu to imprisoned Yehonatan (Jonathan) Pollard.

Simply Tsfat is a trio that includes an acoustic guitarist and violin players from the northern Israeli city of its namesake. The band played a lightning-fast set of jumpy Hassidic niggunim and klezmer melodies.

A new group called Yood also performed. The three members sport long beards and black hats. Between songs they told Hassidic stories in English. Their music is blues and hard rock influenced by 1970's classic rock bands like Cream and Jimi Hendrix. They even talked about Hendrix on stage, comparing him to a Hassidic rebbe. They perform regular gigs at Mike's Place, a bar that caters to Americans living in Israel, with locations in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Reva L'Sheva is a group of Jewish American immigrants who are going on ten albums. They played an energetic mix of Carlebach-style folk rock. Bass player Adam Wexler was a former member of Prince and Sheena Easton's touring band in the United States before making aliyah to Israel.

Shlomo Katz played traditional Carlebach-style folk-rock highly conducive to dancing the hora and singing along. Most of his songs consisted of catchy "na na nas," with which the audience sang along. Katz has released one solo album, and another with his brother Eitan Katz. He spoke between songs about kidnapped soldiers Gilad Shalit, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev.

Naftali Abramson also sang Carlebach-style folk rock. The young singer has released two solo albums. He was followed by HaAkevot, a young duo, consisting of Naftali's brother Shlomo Abramson, who has recently finished his army service. The two brothers also performed together on stage. Abramson spoke excitedly about his experience at last year's festival with Benyamin Bresky, host of The Beat on IsraelNationalRadio, when the first day of the festival was rained out and everyone in attendance gathered under the roofed area of the beach entrance.

"It was crazy," related Abramson. "What are the chances of rain down by Yam HaMelach (the Dead Sea)? It was such an amazing experience. There was no sound system, no anything. Whoever was there just started playing music. Everyone just got up and started dancing. It was one of these amazing situations where you're there and you can't get out so you just make the best out of it and that's what we did."

Although this year's festival had a smaller turnout, the weather was beautiful.

The final act of the concert was Chaim Dovid (also spelled Chaim David), an older folk rocker who has been a mentor to the younger bands. With a flowing grey beard, Dovid led the audience in catchy, repetitive, easy-to-dance-to songs with "ay yai yai" choruses and lyrics taken from Psalms and other religious sources. He was joined on stage by Shlomo Katz and guitarist Yakir Hyman of HaMAKOR. Dovid's kind and gentle stage presence was peppered with brief references to the situation in Israel and the desire for people to offer a hand of assistance and a prayer. He played a mix of slow songs and fast, folk rock horas.

Benyamin Bresky is the host of The Beat on Israel National Radio. He maintains a music journal at

Sunday, April 22, 2007

E-Shy - The Angry Jewish Poet of Hip-Hop

Interview with E-Shy, a Jewish musician who raps about Israel, Black-Jewish relations, 1940's Jewish gangsters and more. Find out what makes him tick and hear of his unique concert in Germany.

Plus new songs by:
Jordan Chaviv - Shema Yisrael - a catchy r'n'b style pop song much requested by Israel National Radio listeners
Yair Orbach - 100 Brachos a Day - A electronica dance song with quirky lyrics about being religious.
David Breckheimer - Pslam 71 - a Noahide fan of the show sent me this live track with cool guitar
Eric Berman - Bein Elon - a hot new Israeli singer
the Klezmatics - Shnerele Perele - a haunting Yiddish anthem of redemption. My friend in Nachlaot sings this song every Shabbat eveing.

-- Click here to listen. right click to download --

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Progressive Klezmer with A Groyse Metsie - interview

Progressive Klezmer and Ragamuffin Breslov with A Groyse Metsie

Interview with Shai Perelman and Nadav Menahem Bachar of the band A Groyse Metsie on their unique brand of klezmer influenced by rock, funk, Chabad and more. Plus, Nadav's near-death experience in Thailand and how he was saved by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov.

* Click here for A Groyse Metsie interview excerpt
* Click here for extra all-request hour of The Beat
* Click here for full version of The Beat for April 15th

Monday, April 02, 2007

Matisyahu interview

Matisyahu to Perform Two Shows in Israel
by Benyamin Bresky

( "Check for your chometz [leavened products that must be disposed of before Passover –ed.] and then come party." So says popular singer Matisyahu who will be playing two shows this week in Israel right before the start of Passover. The singer spoke on Israel National Radio's 'The Beat.'

Click here for an mp3 download of the exclusive audio interview

The singer's latest release is a CD and DVD combination, which includes seven new songs and concert footage from his first concert series in Israel from December 2005. The singer is looking forward to his return to the stage in Israel and is even in the process of making Israel his permanent home.

His tour continues to other nations after Israel. "In different countries there's somewhat of a different reaction," says Matisyahu, "but there's definitely a universal thing that happens with music probably more than anything else in people, where those lines get crossed and some human thing in them just comes out."

Born Mathew Miller in New York, Matisyahu first broke onto the scene performing 'Hasidic reggae.' His 2004 release Shake off the Dust... Arise contained roots-style Jamaican reggae with lyrics based on the Torah, Hasidic teachings and other Jewish subjects. The novelty led to appearances on national TV shows in the United States where he told the story of his love for reggae and his return to a Jewish traditional lifestyle through the Chabad movement.

The image of the tall, bearded man in a black hat singing rapid-fire rap and reggae made him an underground sensation. His second album, Live at Stubb's shot up the Top 40 Billboard charts earning him an unprecedented Billboard Top Reggae Artist.

In 2006 Matisyahu released Youth which also topped the Billboard charts and earned him a Grammy Award nomination for Best Reggae Artist. He lost to Ziggy Markey, the son of reggae legend Bob Marley, however another Jewish group, The Klezmatics won the award for Best Contemporary World Music Album. Before the Matisyahu phenomenon, the only time a Jewish oriented song received mainstream airplay was Tzena Tzena Tzena by The Weavers with Gordon Jenkins in the early 1950s.

Although Matisyahu is seen as a reggae artist, he doesn't necessarily stick to a strict interpretation of it. "Hopefully my sound is developing," said Matisyahu in a phone call on the road in Israel. "Hopefully I am able to put together different sounds. The music that I make is not based on any one specific line of music. I love and I hear so many different interesting sounds. That's what I've tried to do in the past and that's what I'll continue to do."

Matisyahu is already writing material for his next album. "There will be sounds ranging from electronic music to African music to reggae to hip hop to rock. So it will be a real combination," he says.

Matisyahu is also experimenting lyrically and expanding his citations of Jewish philosophy to include other hassidic masters aside from the late Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson. He says future lyrics will include the teaching of the 19th century Hasidic leader Rabbi Nachman of Breslov. Rabbi Nachman is a popular source of inspiration for musicians in Israel due to his focus on music, folk tales and meditation.

"I don't know if I want to put it out there yet," says Matisyahu of his future projects. "There was a dream that Rebbe Nachman had and he said that all of his teachings are based on this dream. I have also been particularly interested in The Story of the Seven Beggars since I have been here in Israel."

Matisyahu also performed briefly this week with Israeli Hadag Nahash whom he met previously in the United States. Hadag Nahash performs a self-described mix of hip-hop, funk and jazz and often uses bitingly sarcastic lyrics from a liberal and secular point of view.

"A couple of years ago they had a show at the Knitting Factory [a prominent concert club in New York]," related Matisyahu. "My manager at the time wanted to bring me there. I asked them if I could get on stage and they were probably like, "who's this Hasidic guy?" They had never really heard of me before. I got up there with them and it was really cool. It's was a real powerful moment. And now two years later after my success to come back and collaborate is nice. I like doing that in different countries where I am collaborating with different artists."

In addition, Matisyahu has also joined international pop star Sting on stage in Israel and participated in an impromptu street performance in Jerusalem with the popular reggae/world-music group Aharit HaYamim.

"I was eating at Big Apple Pizza on Yaffo Street," recalls Matisyahu. "It sounded really cool. I had a concert that night at [Jerusalem concert club] The Lab." Minutes after Matisyahu left the microphone, he was surrounded by enthusiastic fans. Today his popularity has only increased.

Other recent projects have been the annual benefit concert for HASC - The Hebrew Academy for Special Children. Although visually, Matisyahu has the same black hat and button-down white shirt as the other performers, his mix of rock guitars and Caribbean rhythm is a stark contrast to the other artists.

"If a Jewish person is making music with some roots and some foundation within Judaism, that's what I would consider Jewish music," comments the singer on the subject. "The ideas behind the music and the meaning behind it – that's what would make it Jewish."

Joining Matisyahu in concert this week will be Daniel Zamir, an old friend from the New School, a university in New York City attended by Matisyahu and his fellow band members. Zamir's Jewish jazz, particularly his newly released album Amen is becoming increasingly popular in Israel.

"He was a young guy in music school and known to be this protégé," says Matisyahu of his friend. "John Zorn, the famous saxophone player [and founder of Tzadik Records] was his mentor. He and I were both doing teshuvah. We started hanging out a little bit. After yeshiva, we came back for the graduation. I look down the hallway and see this fully religious Jew. And he sees me now with a beard and everything. He went through some pretty intense changes. And that, I think, is a good thing. I think it's a good thing to always be changing."

Matisyahu will be performing Saturday night at 9 p.m. on March 31, 2007 at Binyanei HaUmah, the Jerusalem International Convention Center, with opening act Daniel Zamir as well as on Sunday at 10:30 p.m. on April 1, 2007 at Hanger 11 in Tel Aviv with opening acts Tomer Yosef of Balkan Beat Box and DJ Yaron Lidur. For ticket information visit

Click here for audio of this exclusive interview:

Benyamin Bresky is the host of The Beat on Israel National Radio. He maintains a journal on Jewish and Israeli music at

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