Kohane of Newark: The Interview

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Ricky Orbach is a singer, poet, music producer, and patron of the arts — but, really, it’s more accurate to just call him Kohane of Newark.

His first CD features some of the most highly-acclaimed experimental rock and jazz musicians in the New York scene — but, most prominently, it features Orbach’s lyrics. They are sometimes awkward and darkly meaningful, like “Pizza” (an ode to the victims of the Israel Sbarro’s bombing); sometimes funny and angry and nostalgic, and the angst and sexual awakening of “Festival” — which is quite possibly the most introverted Hanukkah song I’ve ever heard. Then there’s the “White Wedding”-inspired anti-love anthem “Shoshana” (“Shoshana’s had all her dreams shattered/by me”). Characterized with deep grooves, moody, dark jazz, and all-out rock, “Kohane” is weird and extroverted and unexpectedly both raucous and meditative.

Below, we talk to Orbach about his music, his idols, the tenuous status of his priesthood, and the status of New Jersey as the new Jerusalem. Listen to the album and buy it here. Come back later today for a chance to win a copy — but, for now, check out the Kohane himself.

There’s a lot of potential midlife crises on the album: religious, emotional, relationship-al. What’s it like to have a midlife crisis — presuming, of course, that you’ve had one?

You happen to catch me on a good week. It’s actually not a midlife crisis I’m undergoing, but a “new†midlife crisis (emphasis on “new” for renewal) like the record says and yes, it is in full swing!

Why do you think there’s no sort of official midlife ritual in Judaism, like there is with being born or getting married or becoming an adult?

Rituals serve as bookends for all the stuff that goes on in between them. The unofficial midlife ritual for most human beings is the “crisis†itself. The significant events — birth, marriage, bar/bat mitzvah and death -– are really the parents of crisis. You could argue that “midlife†begins when you’re born because damn it, who knows if you’ll make it through the night?