“Thoughtless Sounds,” Max Jared’s debut Shemspeed release and the first on Shemspeed’s new folk imprint, Soul Snack Records, follows the blueprint for sentimental adult contemporary rock laid out by Jason Mraz and Jack Johnson: light accessible vocals, sensitive acoustic strumming and unobtrusive tunes. Like those other artists, Jared’s lyrical pallet assumes a sacred hippie slacker pace, empathetic about others but still so sleepy. “It’s cold outside but I’m warm in my bed / others are hopefully living okay,” he sings on “Roots,” a track emblematic of disengaged concern. Maybe look outside and find out? Later on the song he muses that “Our generation will soon be the world / So what kind of change comes with it?”
Hip-hop has always been Diaspora music, or at least since the Jamaican-born Kool Herc started looping James Brown records in the early 1970s. Later on, people like the late Japanese producer Nujabes made the culture truly global. Shi 360, an Israeli raised in Canada by Maghrebi Jewish parents, who plays Afro-American music with roots in West Africa, is true to the culture in that sense. His new album, “Shalom Haters,” from Shemspeed Records, is explicitly concerned with issues of Diaspora, Sephardic, Israeli and Jewish identity.
The song titles tell you a lot about this album: “Master Of The World”; “The Soul”; “Father in Heaven.” Even Moshe Hecht’s last name suggests Orthodoxy. But the sounds of his first album, “Heart Is Alive,” are surprisingly diverse. While the lyrics of Hecht’s compositions come from a devout mindset, the sonic colors are those of a vinyl-collecting record nerd. It’s an interesting contradiction.
“So you’re the only non-Jewish artist on Shemspeed?”
Courtesy of Yitz Jordan/Shemspeed Records. Photo by Jonathan Hunter.
When Erez Safar started the Sephardic Music Festival in 2005, he was thinking about the future of Sephardic music. Having spent the last decade watching klezmer explode in popularity among artists like the avant-garde composer John Zorn and the Brooklyn punk band Golem, Safar realized klezmer was moving into a brave new future and was leaving its Sephardic counterparts behind. If the annual festival is Safar’s response to that problem, “Sephardic Music Festival Vol. 1,” is the permanent document illuminating a musical movement at a moment of uncertain transformation.
It is safe to wager that New York City has seen it all when an art rave fashion show spirals into an impromptu hora on an open, desolate warehouse block. These men’s dancing feet may have been inspired by a sudden spiritual impulse to be closer to God. But the sudden shakedown also could have been a reaction to the recent display of Jewish girls strutting down a catwalk wearing little more than their grandfather’s tallis.
The first few bars of DeScribe’s new video, “Harmony,” are an Auto-Tuned proclamation of love, respect and unity. Standing behind a microphone, surrounded by Jewish and African American teenagers, the bearded 28-year-old rapper advocates love and understanding between the two communities and the world at large.
The Brooklyn-based music label Shemspeed attracted international attention recently with their “Israeli remix of the Keffiyeh” (more of a tempest in a teapot, really, than a full-blown controversy), but that shouldn’t distract anyone from what the Jewish music production company spends most of its time doing: producing music.