The Jewish Music Woodstock

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How do you discover great Jewish music?

I’m not talking about Barbra Streisand or Yossele Rosenblatt — or, no, not even Bob Dylan’s Christmas album. I mean real Jewish music, Jewish music that hits you straight in the gut, new and current and unlike anything you — or anyone else — has ever heard before.

jeremiah sway machineryFrom talking to Jeremiah of The Sway Machinery and Alan and Miriam of Stereo Sinai, I’ve been learning how, increasingly, it’s at these small music festivals. At places like this, you get Jewish music giants like Andy Statman and Debbie Friedman sharing stages with up-and-coming bands like…well, like Jeremiah and Stereo Sinai. It’s a kind of musical democracy that doesn’t really exist in the Jewish-music mainstream (yes, there is such a thing). And it really gives you the opportunity to discover the next Nirvana while they’re still playing mostly basements.

In a way, I’m exaggerating. But in a way I’m not. Virtually all the best Jewish music is being made by people you’ve never heard of. So here’s a chance to hear of them.

And here’s also the chance to be them. Right now, the Washington Jewish Music Festival is accepting submissions from artists. If you can manage to be around the Capital area from June 6-13, I’d certainly plan on it. And if you play music, you should start planning now — email Lili Kalish Gersch or check out the site for details.

And keep your eyes peeled! The next Sway Machinery could be standing right behind you. Or jamming right in front of you.

Oh, and one unrelated thing: my band, Chibi Vision, is on a new Hanukkah compilation. It’s hand-designed and there’s only 200 in existence, so order it now!

Posted on November 25, 2009

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