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Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Sacred Snapshots Brings a Justice-Seeking Connection to the Holy


by: on April 17th, 2012 | Comments Off

On Saturday, April 21, Sacred Snapshots, a day-long Sampler for the Spirit, will invite participants to experience the divine, celebrate spiritual practices from a range of religions and traditions at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California (9 a.m. to 6 p.m.) Whether exploring religion in pop culture, engaging 12-step spirituality, or experiencing Hindu ritual, attendees will create a multi-religious, multicultural and international community for one day. Rumi wrote that “there are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground,” and at Sacred Snapshots, you will have the chance to try at least a dozen.


The Imperatives of Whitney Houston


by: on February 13th, 2012 | 7 Comments »

I still sometimes dance in the car while waiting at a red light. However, back in the day, when I had less sense than I have now, I would throw the car in park, jump out and dance in the street. When Whitney Houston sang “I Wanna Dance with Somebody”, the joy, the exuberance, the hope, the possibility was too much to contain inside the car. The imperative: turn the volume up, put the car in park, jump out and dance. Celebrate life.

When she sang the “Star Spangled Banner” at a Super Bowl, this unashamed, unapologetic peacenik who at the time was completely disgusted by the first Iraq War, who then and now is suspicious of cheap, political patriotism, who hates with a perfect hatred the flag-waving jingoistic aspects of war – any war – got goose bumps. Her voice reverberated across the globe. My children and I stood up in the living room and cheered. To paraphrase Marvin Gaye: she made me want to holler and throw up both my hands. Peace theory IS patriotism. I was reminded of my patriotic duty.

Then, when we went to see “The Preacher’s Wife”, the movie with Whitney Houston and Denzel Washington, the entire sound track, especially her rendering of “Joy to the World” compelled us to go to the record store when the movie was over. The imperative: go to the music store. Go directly to the music store. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.


Soup & Bread: The Church of The Hideout Cookbook


by: on November 14th, 2011 | 2 Comments »

Soup & Bread at the Hideout

Sometimes even an atheist needs a community soup kitchen.

This winter, I will probably need one, and so will many many of my fellow Americans. This winter, when the thin veil of November leaves has finally come down in Chicago, the sand is banked on the beaches against the lake shore wind and the dark comes early, I will be happy for a bowl of soup and a place to eat it where I feel welcome.

Like so many this year, for me the recession is grinding down hard, and the things that held me together are beginning to fray, just a little and at the edges, but still, the possibility of coming unraveled hangs over all endeavors while the nights get colder.

Like the people occupying parks the whole country over, I am running out of faith in governments and institutions to provide a little grace and shelter while we all wait out the economic troubles we’ve got to endure.


Cranky? How about a boost of hope for our future?


by: on August 13th, 2011 | 4 Comments »

My cousin Marcia wrote to me the other day. I’ve been one of her anchors of hope amidst a lot of despair about the world situation. When she wrote this time though, I too was cranky. “Change we can believe in my tush!” Then, a few hours later, our shop was filled with Think Peace Workshop kids and their parents making scarves for children in Africa. The energy was simply amazing. And then this morning I was writing checks to some of the organizations we support and ran across this video from the Mosaic Project. Now, I don’t feel so cranky. Maybe this will lift your spirits too. There are amazing people and organizations working with children to make their world and ours a much better place. Read more if you’d like to know more about The Mosaic Project and Think Peace Workshop. And, if this kind of post makes you happy, let me know and I’ll tell you about other people and organizations doing wonderful things. If you’d rather just be cranky….. I’ll understand!


On Discovering the Existence of The Westboro Baptist Church


by: on January 11th, 2011 | 9 Comments »

Perhaps I have been hiding under a rock – maybe a good strategy, considering – but until today I was blissfully ignorant of the existence of The Westboro Baptist Church and its history of picketing rock concerts and a wide variety of funerals. Upcoming events include the funerals of the Arizona shooting victims and of Elizabeth Edwards. Members of the church are also infamous for picketing at the funerals of soldiers whose deaths they consider evidence of god’s wrath. Although the name of their website is http://www.godhatesfags.com/ it seems their god hates just about unconditionally, and hell is either overcapacity or infinitely expandable. Dante’s nine circles could never suffice for all the people the WBC believes the almighty has consigned to eternal damnation.

I tried to go to their website, just as I recently tried to visit Sarah Palin’s, to read for myself contents reported by the media. In both cases, my computer could not connect, although connection to other sites was no problem. I wondered at first (in paranoid Luddite fashion) if somehow those websites can screen people like me who want to spy on their activities or at any rate decry them. Then it occurred to me that maybe those sites are so trafficked that there is an impassible jam. Either explanation disturbs me.

My husband, who is a news junkie, just walked in and told me he had never heard of The Westboro Baptist Church, either. Unaffiliated with any recognized Baptist conference or association, the WBC was founded by Fred Phelps in 1955. According the Wikipedia entry, its modest membership (71 in 2007) consists mostly of Phelps’ family. Since 1991 the church has been actively involved in the anti-gay rights movement. Now clearly they have become experts at exploiting the media and attaching themselves to anyone with celebrity, including Lady Gaga whom they likened to “The Beast Obama.”

Lady Gaga counseled her fans not to engage with the picketers. In Arizona people will assemble not as counter-protesters exactly but as human shields for the mourners. Meanwhile Arizona lawmakers are drafting emergency legislation to prohibit protests at or near funeral sites.


Portrait of the Polymath as an Old Man


by: on November 3rd, 2010 | 3 Comments »

In my childhood, I wanted to know everything about everything, which I called “being a polymath”, because polymath was such an impressive word. I read omnivorously, and remembered almost all of what I had read. I was the star of my high school’s Reach For the Top team (short version: a Canadian high school Jeopardy). I knew all the songs on the top 30, every week, and could identify them from the first notes, to the amazement of my parents to whom all rock and roll sounded pretty much the same. Two long-remembered dreams from my childhood encapsulate this obsession. In the first, the happy dream, aliens come to destroy Earth (I was a big science fiction fan) but moved to pity, they choose one person at random and ask one question. If the question is answered correctly, Earth will be spared; if incorrectly, ZAP! They choose me; I know the answer. Everyone is awed and grateful. In the other dream, I go off to summer camp for two weeks, and when I come back I get a copy of the current top thirty. I look at it in disbelief. I don’t know any of the songs on it. I don’t even know any of the groups. I am in utter despair.

One of these dreams has come true, and – here’s a hint – it’s not the one with the aliens. I still read music reviews occasionally, and they’re about albums I don’t know by bands of which I’ve never heard. Even when they explain that the lead singer used to be in this important other band, I still don’t know him. Sometimes out of this vast ocean of ignorance there’ll emerge a familiar island, a new album by Paul Simon, or the Rolling Stones. But the waters of oblivion are rising, the islands are becoming fewer, and there are more and more column inches of reviews waving between them.


Jesse Rifkin: Real “Bad Jew”


by: on July 8th, 2010 | Comments Off

I’m a bad Jew,” a friend said, grinning ear to ear and then biting into a bacon-egg-and-cheese bagel sandwich. Even looking back on the Jewish gangsters of the 1920′s, socialist Jews of the 1930′s, hippies of the ’60′s and punks of the ’80′s, seldom has being a “bad Jew” seemed so trendy.

Time and time again, American Jews simultaneously act and critique their own actions, rigidly adhere to ancient precepts and then question them. As a community, we create the counter thesis to our own tradition through rebellion, with the rebellion itself long since becoming a tradition. The problem is that “bad Jews” don’t always play their part so well. Some don’t rebel against particular Jewish traditions or approaches to theology. Instead, they actively adhere to American Jewish cultural traditions — bagels and lox on the weekends, self-effacing humor, and political activism — while still claiming that they are somehow devious. How rebellious can conformity be?

True rebelliousness has been partially relegated to literature, where a set of young Jewish giants is replacing a generation of retiring ones. But how long can Jonathan Safran Foer‘s brilliant, if incessant, references to his sex life be considered truly rebellious? Are we losing our tradition of losing our tradition?


Business Class Refugees: Kartick & Gotam


by: on June 13th, 2010 | 2 Comments »

Who are these guys? Whatever are “business class refugees”? And, most of all, why should I care?

You should care because this album, Business Class Refugees, is a new and extraordinary music, created internationally, in ways that simply haven’t been possible till now. It comes out thirty years after “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts” the pioneering Byrne / Eno collaboration which used electronic ambience, and world music behind sampled vocal tracks, but assembled painfully in the studio through analog trial and error. Kartick and Gotam, known as K&G, also weave a beating net of electronic ambience, but overlay it with a stunning selection of Indian and south Asian musicians as foreground. And they do it live with visuals as well, though that comes later.


Neil Innes: Pop Goes Your Culture


by: on May 3rd, 2010 | 4 Comments »

All around the musical village
The alarm-clock chased the vulture.
The sands ran through the hourglass -
Pop! goes your culture.

…………..(old children’s song)

“Good evening,” said Neil Innes, as he stepped out onto the Hughes’ Room stage last Thursday. “It’s wonderful to be.”

He opened with “I’m the Urban Spaceman“, ended it after 30 seconds, smiled at the audience and said, “Thank you. That was a medley of my hit.” I laughed, though I remembered that he had started his show at Edinburgh Festival 20 years ago with the same song and line. But then he’d performed the whole song, and now it was just a thumbnail from his (and my) past.

I first saw Neil Innes in 1969 in Boston, when he was a member of the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, a UK band of art-school graduates who were heavily into surrealism and dada art. They performed a 30 second Neil Sedaka parody called “Kama-Sutra“, a painfully extended blues song (“Can Blue Men Sing the Whites?”) in which Neil played a guitar with a four foot long neck, explaining sotto voce that, “this next song will feature a long guitar solo.” Other songs included an electric trouser press, and a female mannequin leg with built-in theremin, which made screeching sounds if you moved your hand close to it. There were about a dozen members in the band, and they were quite wonderfully manic.


A Great Way to Keep Smiling in a Difficult Time


by: on January 22nd, 2010 | 2 Comments »

Beyond the Pale

[Editor's Note: We are delighted to welcome Mark LeVine, Tikkun's longest serving contributing editor, to Tikkun Daily. Mark wears at least two hats and another one apart from musician is political prof and Middle East expert. His latest post at tikkun.org is "No Hope for Haiti" Without Justice."]

If the end of 2009 is any indication, 2010 is going to be a difficult year. Whether it’s the economy, foreign policy or just political and cultural pulse of America more broadly, a host of problems confronts our society from the political leadership to the average citizen that hardly anyone knows how or even wants to deal with honestly.

We need inspiration, and few things inspire people to action better than music. For my money, one of the best albums to get your year going in a positive way has to be Postcards, the latest release of the internationally acclaimed Klezmer/world music ensemble, Beyond the Pale.

Based in Toronto, Beyond the Pale’s sound is a paradox — acoustic yet explosive, grounded in Klezmer yet swimming in Balkan and bluegrass elements, with forays into everything from reggae to funk. With its blend of innovative original compositions with classics of the world music repertoire that group is surely one of the most accomplished ensembles on the world music scene today.


It’s not surprising that Beyond the Pale hails from Toronto. The city has a strong Jewish presence, which has been joined in recent decades by a major influx of immigrants from around the world, making Toronto one of the most cosmopolitan and culturally diverse in the world. Eric Stein, the multi-instrumentalist (mandolin, bass, cimbalom, guitar) founder of Beyond the Pale and a leading figure in Toronto’s Jewish music scene, explains that the city and the Jewish music scene there lend themselves to opening up to other cultures, which is reflected in the group’s name. “‘Beyond the Pale’ obviously refers to the Pale of Settlement, but that’s the start, not the end of the musical journey we’re on.” Indeed, while Klezmer is the foundation for the music, the majority of the band is not Jewish, but instead hails from a diverse background, particularly the former Yugoslavia.

“Toronto has been an amazing place to develop our music. It’s one of the only places where a band of such eclectic makeup could come together and do what it does because of all the different musical traditions and the freedom and openness that our cultural environment in Toronto facilitates.”