Just when it seems there’s nothing Shemspeed can’t do, they take another bite of the Jewish music plate and grind it between their teeth. Shemspeed was originally an outgrowth of the hip-hop music label Modular Moods Records, run by Erez Safar, who’s an observant Yemenite Jew. For just over a year, they’ve tried to be the go-to folks for Jewish music, producing hip-hop albums, keeping a bustling Jewish music calendar, and keeping an exhaustive database of Jewish musicians and bands.
Their latest effort, 40 Days and 40 Nights, is an ambitious undertaking — a massive national tour in (you guessed it) 40 days that brings together musicians, rappers, and learning sessions visiting local Hillels and taking over for the day, and then putting on a show that night. We spoke to the seemingly never-sleeping Safar about putting together the tour, what he plans to do with it, and some guest stars who you might recognize from late-night TV…
So, tell me about 40 Days and 40 Nights.
I was talking to Daniel Seliger from 12 Tribe Sound about doing a tour with Y-Love, who I was producing and his group Riddimtion which was the group who did the first Matisyahu record–a sort of rap and reggae tour of Jewish artists and values, calling it 40 Days and 40 Nights. Fast forward 3 years, I was riding my bike and it hit me–Shemspeed should produce a massive 40 Days 40 Nights taking the performance idea with artists to the next level: a more diverse line up, and include education and such into the mix, playing on the DAYS part. I hit up Dov of Blue Fringe about it and jumped on board right away, and we started meeting with people who were equally stoked.
What other parties are involved?
The core group is Y-Love, Dov, myself and [Israeli reggae band] Aharit Hayamaim–although logistically we arent sure how many shows we will have with Aharit. We had to be very modest, since Hillels seem to have less budgets than ever before. We needed to pick artists that were able to perform with the energy of a full live band, but come without one. So Dov will be doing his new solo act, and Y-Love, who does hip hop, doesn’t require 4 extra musicians playing backup.