Saturday, December 8, 2012

Jews Contributing to Music NOW, From Moishe House Philly's Mira Treatman

Jews Contributing to Music NOW and in a BIG way, From Moishe House Philly's Mira Treatman  

As a show promoter and booker in Philadelphia, I am constantly hunting for artists to work with. Along the way, I've come across musicians who also happen to be Jewish. The following are my picks for Moishe House residents and community members to support potentially because they are not only creating cutting edge recordings and performances, but also stand for more than just entertainment value. Across the board, they're single-handedly defining contemporary Judaism for themselves as they see fit. They may not all be particularly Jewish artists in their work, however they're certainly not hiding this part of their identity per se. For one, I do not personally know any of these artists and yet I can confirm that they're all at least Jewish-identifying in some way. Many of the people on this list manifest their Jewish backgrounds in very subtle, almost sexy ways, for example Amy Klein has casually written a song called "Jacob's Ladder" just because she can. This list represents DIY Judaism at its finest.

Judd Greenstein, one of the three co-directors of New Amsterdam Records, is an award-winning, self-described indie-classical composer based in Brooklyn. Not only the creator of contemporary, relevant composed music, Greenstein also promotes his comrades such as Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond), Annie Clark (St. Vincent), and Merrill Garbus (Tune-Yards), among others. He is curator of the Ecstatic Music Festival, an annual event which brings together seemingly disparate artists to create incredible, moving collaborations. Most Jewish in his list of accomplishments is Greenstein's Six Points Fellowship where he spent a year composing the full-length work, Solomon, which was performed by a group he assembled called Yehudim. To learn more about this fellowship, check out

Amy Klein, also known as Amy Rebecca Klein, also known as the front woman of Leda and Hilly Eye, also known as the unofficial founder of Permanent Wave, also known as the former guitarist of Titus Andronicus, is a goddess in Jewish feminism today. Educated, brilliant, talented, literary, and loud, Amy has accomplished so much in her twenty-seven years, including the unofficial founding of Permanent Wave. This non-wave feminist arts collective seeks to "challenge gender inequality as it manifests itself in art, politics, and personal lives." It was inspired in part by violence against women in Amy's immediate environment, in addition to the inequality between men and women in the music industry. Since its founding in late 2010, Permanent Wave has spread from New York to the San Francisco Bay, Philadelphia, Boston, Minneapolis, and even Omaha, Nebraska. A hallmark of Permanent Wave is the organization of music shows featuring all female-identifying, queer, people of color, and youth performers.

Mirah, born Mirah Yom Tov Zeitlyn in Philadelphia, is a singer-songwriter known for writing classic works on K Records in the Pacific Northwest during the golden age of lady rock. While at Evergreen State, Mirah began a fruitful collaboration with Phil Elvrum of Mt. Eerie/The Microphones releasing early solo albums with songs such as "The Garden", "Nobody Has to Stay", "Jerusalem", and "Don't Die in Me". More recently, Mirah has released an incredible collaborative music effort with Thao Nguyen of the insanely popular WNYC Radiolab national tour. An icon in the making known for rocking short Betty Page bangs and kimono tops, Mirah will certainly be remembered for being a cult musical diva as well as the Leonard Cohen of her generation. She was definitely born with the Jewish, eloquent literati gene. 

 Alicia Jo Rabins is a musician, poet, Torah scholar, mother, and slightly obscure folk-rock star based in Brooklyn and Portland. I first heard of her music in the form of her masters thesis (in Jewish Womens Studies at JTS no less) turned band Girls in Trouble. That same year her all-Jewish record label, JDub, unsurprisingly went under. This record label really had no chance at succeeding unfortunately, but at least their artists are still chugging along and releasing work. As a poet, Rabins has been published in American Poetry Review, Boston Review, 6x6, Court Green, anthologies from NYU Press and Knopf, and Artscape Press. Like Judd Greenstein, Alicia Jo is also a recent Six Points Fellow who created "an experimental rock opera about the spiritual implications of the current financial crisis, examining the figure of Bernard Madoff (and the system he represents) through the lens of rabbinic Jewish texts about financial ethics, the meaning of wealth, and the inevitability of cycles." 

              Schmekel is now not only Yiddish for "tiny penis", but also is the name of the first queer Jewcore band ever. Based in Brooklyn, Nogga Schwartz, Ricky Riot, Lucian Kahn, and Simcha Halpert-Hanson are a quartet of transgendered Jews who pen songs about their experiences in a very borscht belt, bathroom humor sort of way. Their songs celebrate their bar mitzvahs, which has been a major marketing tool in their journey (you can buy a t-shirt that says "I survived Schmekel's Bar Mitzvah"), which I find hilarious and really poignant. When the musicians in Schmekel were thirteen, they had Bat Mitzvot, which was not the correct prefix for any of their Mitzvot, then or now. The reason this band is on this list is because of the grace with which Schmekel unapologetically owns their trans and Jewish identities with a strong sense of humor. Schmekel shows are never a pity party or an angst-ridden fest, they always capture the authentic, loud, jubilant personalities of the band mates. 

Are you an amazing Jewish contributor to music today too? Are you not on this very short list? Please holler at me, or challah at me if that's easier, and I'll gladly book you in Philly! In a perfect world, my Moishe House would, can, and has definitely doubled as a welcoming yet cutting edge house show venue.  


SR luin said...

Nice article , want to know more about this topic.

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Mira Treatman said...

Thanks, I'm glad you liked it. Here are the other artists that I had to edit out: Jenna Peters-Golden, The Shondes, Chana Rothman, Silverton, Liz and the Lost Boys, Edible Onion Records, Rachel Udell, Barbarism, and Amos Mac. - Mira