Not Your Grandmother’s Jewish Music

By Devra Ferst

Published March 31, 2010, issue of April 09, 2010.
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‘When people say ‘Jewish music,’ people often think of Eastern European klezmer. But that’s just a slice of the world of Jewish music,” said Aaron Lightstone, leader of the Toronto-based world fusion band Jaffa Road. “We’re hopefully representing a different slice.”

The five-person group blends Jewish, Arabic and Indian music traditions with jazz and modern rock to create a unique sound. Singing in Hebrew, English and Ladino, Jaffa Road reinterprets traditional Jewish songs and liturgy in a way rarely heard in North America.

The band’s music hasn’t gone without notice. Jaffa Road’s first album, “Sunplace,” which came out in 2009, was recently nominated for the 2010 Juno Award (the Canadian version of the Grammy Awards) for the world music album of the year. The ceremony will be held April 16-19.

And the band’s music has received other accolades. Their song “L.Y.G.” (which stands for “Lo Yisa Goy”) already won the first round of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest in the world music category and is currently in the running for the fans’ choice award.

The track combines a Hebrew verse from Isaiah (“Nation shall not lift up sword against nation”) with the African-American hymn “Gonna Lay Down My Sword and Shield” in a song about peace.

With the possibility of the two new awards in the coming months, the young band is gearing up for a second album, which they plan to start recording this fall. And in the meantime, they are collaborating with various artists, including Iraqi-Jewish musician Yair Dalal, who will perform with the band in Toronto on April 25.


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