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MUSIC, MOVIES & TV-----jewish music

First of all, what defines music as Jewish?

music that is definitely NOT Jewish: metallica, eminem, lil kim, creed, etc.

music that is definitely Jewish: chabad niggunim, modzitz niggunim, MBD, avraham fried, shlomo carlebach, and chazonus.

music that is questionably Jewish: anything by a Jewish person that is not in the above list.

Unfortunately, not all the music you cataloged as "definitely Jewish", is. MBD's entire song "Yidden, Yidden," for example, is, from beginning to end, a German 80's song called "Dschingis Khan". And it's not the only "definitely Jewish" tune that was lifted from the goyim.

Even among the "oldies", the New York School of Jewish Song's "Btzais Yisroel mimitzrayim" is actually, note for note, a Greek syrtaki (type of dance).

Even Shlomo Carlebach was influenced by the French folk singer George Moustaki (they even look a bit alike). And compare the Irish folk song, "What should we do with the drunken sailor?" and Shlomo's "Odchah Hashem b'chol levav", and then tell me what "definitely Jewish" means.

And it is no secret, nor need it be, that many Chassidic niggunim were actually non-Jewish melodies that were "sanctified" and used at the tisch.

On the other hand, the way we perceive Jewish music, there are very few Jewish melodies that sound nearly as heavenly Jewish as Kitaro's "Silk Road" (particularly the "Enchanted Evening" version) and you would be hard pressed to find a more appropriate sounding "chupah march" than "Milky Way," by the same artist.

Yanni and John Tesh are sold today in Jewish music stores and their music is sometimes accepted as more Jewish than those of many Jewish composers.

When MBD came out with "Let My People Go". A number of Roshei Yeshivos declared it to be plain goyish music composed by a Jewish artist.

It's hard to define Jewish music today, since our music has for so so long been so so mixed up blended and influenced by and with any and all types of music that exist, and the only one criterion that determines what music is sold as "Jewish" is if the "Jewish market" is willing to buy it.

And marketing is a very messed up way to a spiritual concept, such as "Jewish music".

Music has tremendous power over us. It has the power to make us happy, sad, angry, optimistic, or hopeless. It can get a lazy guy moving, make our hearts beat faster, and make us shed tears. The Vilna Gaon writes that if someone could theoretically harness the power in music they would be able to actually “revive the dead” with it.

Music sits in your head even when you don’t know it’s there – how often do you find yourself absent-mindedly humming a tune without even deciding which tune to hum? Or to hum it at all? That doesn’t happen with non-musical information. You don’t absent-mindedly recite the Gettysburg Address. Tosfos in Megilla says that if you learn with a melody you will remember what you learn better.

Music comes from a person’s soul, says the Kuzari. The tune can have an effect even on the soul of a little baby that hears it, says the Shelah. So music is really a form of communication, soul-to-soul, that comes from somewhere deeper than the place where we make conscious decisions, and penetrates to there as well.

So I guess that Jewish Music would be music that comes from a Jewish place within a person’s soul, or at the very least, music that contains a Jewish feeling, meaning, a feeling that the Torah would encourage or at least approve of.

Now even Jews, because of the impact that their deeds and thoughts have on their souls, may have non-Jewish influences within their own souls that can be expressed in their music. And so, too, a non-Jewish melody can be “repossessed” by the Jewish soul, using the melody as a medium for the expression of exclusively Jewish sentiment.

Recognizing music as possessing Jewish sentiments is a matter of sensitivity. To be sure, to a certain extent, we do possess the sensitivity to recognize some musical sensations as thoroughly non-Jewish (such as the veneration for death in many metal tunes).

But for the most part, as we can see from the above examples, we no longer possess the sensitivity to recognize music that’s coming from a Jewish place within someone, from music that is coming from elsewhere. And it’s no wonder. Since we have mixed and matched both our music and our souls with foreign influences for so long, it becomes almost impossible to sense the Jewishness and non-Jewishness in our music altogether.

We have for the longest time commercialized the creation of song, cranking out melodies while being concerned more on the sale than the soul, that it’s unclear to me that today’s music is an expression of anything except market trends.

Music, really, is a lost art. Lost because we are not sensitive enough to recognize the message of Jewishness – and to discern an undesirable message of non-Jewishness – but also because there is very little left in our big business music industry that actually has a message anyway.

What we have are nice, catchy tunes, melodies to dance to, and songs to sing. But all that isn’t “music” in the religious sense. There may be an exception or two, but in general, we’re talking about a business rather than a religious experience. Or at the very best, something somewhere in between.

Our music today is a lot like us: mixed up and confused.

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