On the new record by the Israeli quintet Fogel and the Sheriffs, Jesus packs a gun, the Pope is a woman, and the Second Coming occurs in the bedroom. One song calls the Holocaust a “soiree”; another orders a Muslim woman to “put on a burka, baby” to hide her body, from her head to her clitoris. Long before the album’s final song declares, “I was crucified inside my mama’s womb,” the point is clear: nothing is too sacred to satire.
If you’re a singer-songwriter, it’s difficult to imagine having a father-in-law more intimidating than Bob Dylan. But Peter Himmelman hasn’t let his marriage to Dylan’s daughter stop him from making music. Over three decades as a journeyman, Himmelman has recorded 18 albums, including five for kids, and scored soundtracks for film and television shows such as “Bones.” And if Dylan’s relationship to Judaism is ambiguous at best, Himmelman identifies himself as “the first highly recognized Observant Jew since Sandy Koufax.”
Back in 1997, “Buena Vista Social Club” introduced American audiences to a style of Cuban music that was popular in Havana in the 1950s. The album charmed the critics, topped the charts, spawned a documentary film, and was championed by Starbucks when the coffee behemoth decided to become a curator of world music.
As their name implies, Slavic Soul Party! updates traditional Eastern European sounds with a festive, contemporary feel. Their instrumental music conjures carnivals and circuses, pep bands and klezmer bands, James Brown and James Bond. Brooklyn music aficionados may know Slavic Soul Party! from their weekly Tuesday gigs at Barbès; uptowners may have caught them at Carnegie Hall. Like Johnny Cash and B.B. King, the band also plays prisons, with a show on November 19 at Sing Sing Correctional Facility and October 5 at Rikers Island.
Imagine a klezmer band where the vocalists rap in English, chant in Arabic, and sing in Spanish and Serbian. That band is Balkan Beat Box, a group led by two Israelis — Ori Kaplan (saxophone) and Tamir Muskat (drums) — who merge traditional Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Eastern European sounds with hip-hop and electronica.
A little girl on a kibbutz is born pregnant and believes that her baby will be the Messiah. A Haitian-Jewish student comes to school on Purim in Muslim garb… with a bomb strapped to his chest. An image of the Virgin Mary appears in a synagogue before the High Holy Days.
What if I knew more Hebrew than Spanish? What if I only hung out with white girls? What if Orthodox Jews reject me because I have a busted hymen and a head full of human rights? What if I’m not really Jewish?
In the salsa world, they call him El Judio Maravilloso, the Amazing Jew. And when the legendary pianist Larry Harlow — born Lawrence Ira Kahn — joined the funk orchestra Grupo Fantasma on stage last night at New York’s Le Poisson Rouge, he delivered on his nickname.
In “Leaves of Grass,” Walt Whitman transformed his life into a poetic portrait of America and all its vastness, diversity, and tension. More than 150 years later, writer-director Tim Blake Nelson does something similar in his “Leaves of Grass,” a film that draws on his native Oklahoma, his college days at Brown, and his Jewish heritage.