A few weeks ago, while walking past the fountain at Lincoln Center, a young Lubavitch teenager approached me with a laptop in his hands. He asked if I had a second to vote for his school on the Kohl’s Cares for Kids Internet contest, in which the department store chain is giving away a total of $10 million to 20 schools based on Facebook votes.
Yoseph Robinson, a 34-year-old Jamaican-born hip-hop artist and record executive who converted to Orthodox Judaism, was shot to death yesterday at a kosher liquor store in the Midwood section of Brooklyn. According to eyewitness accounts, Robinson, who was on duty as a store clerk at the time, was fatally shot in the chest and arms after he tried to stop a hooded gunman from robbing his girlfriend.
“The politics these days are the worst I’ve ever seen,” lamented Robert Kaplan of the Workmen’s Circle/Arbeter Ring. He was introducing The Klezmatics before they hit the stage at Lincoln Center’s Damrosch Park Bandshell on August 3 for the second show in the Music For a Better World series, which culminates on August 15 with the “Klezmer to Rock Street Party” at the Madison Avenue Summer Fair.
Earlier this spring Gorillaz, a British “virtual” rock sensation headed by Blur front-man Damon Albarn, canceled a show at Tel Aviv’s Pic.nic festival, along with British dance punk outfit Klaxons and American alt-rock pioneers The Pixies. Albarn never explicitly stated the reason for the cancellation, but it was widely speculated that the decision was linked to Israel’s May 31 raid on the Gaza-bound, Turkish-led flotilla.
While Jewish New York Knicks fans may wonder if signing NBA superstar Amare Stoudemire was worth the $100 million price tag, as well as the loss of all-star center and all-around mentsch David Lee, they can at least take comfort in the fact that the 6-foot-10-inch power forward has taken an interest in Judaism.
Unlike many practitioners of Jewish music, percussionist and composer Roberto Rodriguez doesn’t view Jewishness as a simple war chest of traditions and musical idioms to draw from. Instead, Rodriguez’s Cuban-Jewish All Stars project is a more strict interpretation of what a particular moment in Jewish history must have sounded like.
Eclecticism is a virtue too often touted by musicians and critics. Reviews and press releases formulaically repeat the cliché that “artist x blends elements of genre y with style z.” While this may be relevant to the archivists amongst us, such statements really say very little about the quality or authenticity of the music in question.