The rambling thoughts of a Modern Orthodox Chassid (whatever that means). Contact me at emansouth @

Friday, April 23, 2004

On the Power of Music

Blog in Dm discusses an article written by Rav Dovid Glodwasser in the Jewish Press in which he attacks Jewish musicians who convert secular songs into Jewish niggunim. Dm discusses a different view brought by R. Mattisyahu Salomon, suggesting that even coarse, secular music can be used to grow spiritually. Nevertheless, Dm points out that R. Salomon is bothered by today's JM "pop culture".

"Incidentally, in this essay, R” Salomon protests today’s Jewish pop music. He says that it’s commercial—designed to hook people and get them into it. He says that the “star” mentality of promoting the individual entertainers is abhorrent and that certainly most of them aren’t worthy of being role models."

The problem that I had with Rav Goldwasser's article is that I didn't understand precisely what he was referring to. Was he only talking about songs like, for example, "Asher Bara" from Piamenta, which are clearly converted secular songs ("Land Down Under" from Men at Work)? Or was he also addressing the general Boro Park Rock scene in which song writers listen to rock music, fool around with the tunes and then put pasukim to the modified tunes?

I suspect that he was referring to the former. I, personally, am more offended by the latter than the former. At least you know where the tune comes from in the case of converted rock songs.

Also, what is Rav Goldwasser's take on the music of, for example, Avraham Rosenblum , Chaim Dovid, Yosef Karduner or Aron Razel, or other Ba'alei Teshuva who cut their teeth on secular music and brought what they learned in that world into the world of Kedusha. These musicians write songs that come from their hearts, based on their experiences and their past musical influences; they certainly do not consider themeselves "stars" as decried by R. Salomon. To me, this music is the purest Jewish music on the market (and is much more musically interesting than most of the pop garbage cranked out in the Boro Park scene).

Presumably, Rav Goldwasser wouldn't have much use for the music of Jewish rock bands like Soulfarm, Moshav and Blue Fringe, who, unlike Diaspora, Chaim Dovid, etc., came from the opposite direction, i.e., grew up frum but are largely influenced by secular, rock music (as well as the Carlebach sound). But he doesn't really say.

Unlike Rav Salomon, Rav Goldwasser also doesn't say anything about the appalling gaiva (conceit) and lust for money that permiates the entire Boro Park JM scene (where, for example, Chassidishe Yidden permit themselves to be advertised as "The King of Jewish Music"). This arrogance and money grubbing is at the heart of what's wrong with the JM scene.

If all that bothers Rav Goldwasser is that some musicians convert secular songs, he is missing the boat.


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