Isaac Kaplan

"Is it any wonder I've got too much time on my hands?"

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Jewish Music, Kosher Music, and why I'm for the Chevra, pt. 1

I forgot which blog it was, but I saw someone recently complain about Blue Fringe's rocky style of music, and questioned "how Jewish" it is. Which brought to mind the old question: how do we define "Jewish" music?

I believe that music shares a similarity to one of my other favorite pastimes-- food.

When it comes to food, you have Jewish food and kosher food. Take matzoh balls, for example. They're the quintessential Jewish food, but they're not always kosher. It brings to mind an old incident one of my rabbeim told us about, how he was by some non-religious affair, and he found it amusing that they had "Jewish-style" food, but all the stuff was treif! (I don't find that amusing-- I don't like poking fun at my brothers.)

And on the other side of things, you have a food as non-traditional and goyish as sushi (check the archives for a piece I wrote about that). Yet, if it's got a hechsher, then it's kosher! In fact, you can eat that, but not the treif-matzoh balls.

Back to the music. When it comes to music, there certainly is a Jewish style. Whether it's sort-of like folk-rock, whatever, there's a distinctive Jewish sound out there. Yet if you have artists like Simon & Garfunkel who sing in a Jewish style (in fact, Uncle Harvey once said that "Scarborough Fair" was ripped off by Paul Simon from a Dror Yikra tune that he heard at shalosh seudos), but have lyrics about sex, love, and the like, it's just not kosher.

And on the other end of the spectrum are bands like Blue Fringe and the Chevra that have a very goyish sound, yet use kosher words. Does it bother me that the holy words of kaddish have been used in an NSYNC-style song? Absolutely. Yet the stuff's still kosher.

When it comes to food, too, there have been gedolim who wouldn't eat pizza because it's a goyishe food. There certainly is an inyan to stick to foods and music that lack the influence of the goyim. In fact, cousin Izzy quoted a rebbi of his referring to the Chevra as "Esav's chevra." But the stuff's still kosher.

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