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. 2

The counter-argument that I can hear is that food and music are incomparable. People eat food because they need to eat (and if a gadol was stuck on a desert island with a plate of sushi, he'd eat it), but the point of music is to inspire us to be closer to G-d. And if music is not inspiring, then it's worthless. This may be true, but the fact of the matter is that there's not that much inspiring Jewish music out there. It's become a business, many singers have no passion, and even some of the inspiring stuff just isn't that good. So to expect someone only to inspiring music is unrealistic. And if someone needs to listen to music anyway (let's say someone's exercising, or in the car), is it so bad if they listen to uninspiring music, as long as the words are clean?

Another issue that comes up are songs originally written by goyim. Can we use those with Hebrew words (like the zimra uncle Harvey sings to the tune of a Beach boys hit), or are the nigunim intrinsically tamei? But even if the nigunim are intrisically tamei, is that because they written by a goy, or is it because of the goyish sound? This is a separate discussion, so I'm not going to get involved yet. Then there's the whole Yanni (a guy who supposedly composes instrumental tunes while doing immoral acts) controversy, also an article in and of itself. Yet they sell his CD's in Eichler's (as well as Kenny G) and no one gives them a hard time. If Making of a Gadol couldn't be sold there but Yanni could, I guess his stuff can't be that bad.

And it's because the stuff is kosher that I'm for the Chevra (not a Chevra fan --- please!! -- I'm just for their existence. Personally, I hate that homo music). If the average teenage girl today would have a choice between Outkast and the Bobover nigunim CD, you know what she'd choose. Today, it's as hard as ever to escape the media and its ever-appealing products. Not to mention the all-too-prevalent peer pressure that teens face. No, the Bobover Nigunim aren't cool. Sorry, cousin Barry.

But if the choice is between Outkast and the Chevra, then the plot thickens. The girl sees the pictures on the CD sleeve, she sees that it's sorta cool, and then maybe the fact that the words are clean helps tip the scales in favor of the Chevra. It's unfortunate that in today's world it takes a frum boy band to get girls to listen to Jewish music, but that's just the way it is. To expect these girls to go for the Modzitz nigunnim is to live in a fantasy-land, where there's no yetzer hara and no evil. But in 2004, this is simply not the case.

So for every girl out there who's listening to Blue Fringe and the Chevra instead of the filth that passes for pop music today, that's a plus. And that's a little piece of good work being done by these artists.


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