HaDag Nachash: Atypical Israel band hip-hops to Hollywood

Adam Sandler, a.k.a. Israeli Mossad super-agent Zohan, saunters through the streets of Tel Aviv gyrating his cut-off-jeans-clad hips, delighting Israeli beachgoers with an exaggerated display of hacky-sack skills and putting on a super-human show of strength in a game of tug-of-war as a bikini-clad beauty perches on his shoulders.

The soundtrack playing throughout this opening sequence of “You Don’t Mess With the Zohan,” is the hip-hop/funk “Ma She Ba Ba” by one of Israel’s top bands, Hadag Nahash.

Later, as Zohan faces his Arab nemesis, The Phantom, the band charges up a fast-paced chase scene with the rapid beat of “Hine Ani Ba.” The catchy track, which translates to “Here I Come,” repeats during the closing credits and is featured prominently in the film’s trailers.

So how did a song released in 2006 by a 12-year-old Israeli band become the theme song of a major Hollywood release?

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VIDEO: Der Golem (1920) with new original soundtrack

The classic 1920 German expressionist black and white horror film “The Golem” gets a new soundtrack by Hollywood composer Carvin Knowles in this original JewishJournal.com video

Carvin Knowles writes:

In the 16th Century CE Rabbi Judah Loew was said to have created a powerful Golem to defend Prague’s Jewish ghetto.

Although I composed this segment of of score for the scene in Paul Wegener’s 1920 prequel to his silent Golem series in the summer of 2002, I only recorded it during the last weekend of October in 2007.

I played all the brass and woodwinds myself, including the oboe solo near the beginning and the gong, all in my small Hollywood apartment.

In this scene, Rabbi Loew summons the Sumerian demon Astaroth to learn the word that will bring the Golem to life—rendered in the most arcane transliteration from Hebrew that I have ever seen, the word is “Aemath” meaning ‘emet’ (Hebrew)’ or ‘truth.’ I had imagined Rabbi Loew reciting the Shema to hold the ancient demon at bay.

For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by Der Golem, the great Jewish monster of clay who only comes to life when Truth is in his breast (or on his tongue, in the original text).

Whether it is the silent film or the Hammer horror version or even Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” (which, incidentally, had it’s premier in Prague), the living statue has always terrified and thrilled me.

It is my pleasure to share a little piece of that with our audiences at JewishJournal.com.


Carvin Knowles


French Israeli singer-songwriter Yael Naim infuses Apple Computers with ‘New Soul’

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Article reprinted with permission of The Forward.

Klezmer: Backward and Forward

Three new klezmer recordings offer a listen into the genre’s past, present and possible future.

Klezmer was originally the soundtrack to the Jewish wedding, but no band has attempted to recreate such an event until recently. Working with people who were in Eastern Europe at the time klezmer was developed, the band Budowitz — named for the maker of their accordionist’s instrument — crafted "Wedding Without a Bride" (Buda Musique, $18.98).

In 70 minutes, Budowitz ushers the listener through the whole wedding day, from the bride’s bedecken to the groom’s processional to the in-laws’ dance. The songs conjure up the sadness of the bride leaving her family, the joy of the new union and the lighthearted pomp of the families, considered royalty for the day. There are quite a few surprises for the wedding attendees, including a dance in which the couple’s parents mime a fight and reconciliation.

Another intriguing feature is the use of the cimbalom. This dulcimer-like instrument has strings across a sound-hole, like a guitar, but is played flat on a lap or table, and its seeming dozens of strings are struck by small sticks, like inside a piano. Its glinting, chiming tone is unfortunately not common in more recent klezmer ensembles.

Another highlight is the badchan, the jokester. This emcee serves and a poet, jester and ringleader, guiding the attendees through the wedding ceremony and spouting praise and admonishment to the young couple in exuberant Yiddish.

The CD comes with thesis-worthy liner notes, but it is more than an academic exercise. "Wedding Without a Bride" is a highly listenable introduction into klezmer for novices, while those familiar only with more recent takes on the form will also be entertained and enlightened.

The current state of klezmer is examined on "The Rough Guide to Klezmer" (World Music Network, $12.98). The Rough Guide series is like a musical version of Fodor’s, escorting listeners around the world through their headphones.

The Rough Guide volume on klezmer purports to be a overview of the current klezmer scene. It succeeds, however, in being an excellent overview of the Klezmatics and Naftule Brandwein, and the more intellectual approach to the genre in general. Now, these artists are key to klezmer. And other major players — like the Hankus Netsky’s Klezmer Conservatory Band, Brave Old World, the Flying Bulgar Klezmer Band and Budowitz — are profiled. But they are far from the limits of the style.

Inexplicably missing are such major figures as Giora Fiedman and Andy Statman. Further, some United States-born musicians stationed overseas are here, but natives like Britain’s Burning Bush and Italy’s KlezRoym are not. Also MIA are rising stars like Shawn’s Kugel and Tzimmes; Midwest favorites, like Chicago’s Tumbalalaika, Madison’s Yid Vicious and Cleveland’s Yiddishe Cup; and jokemeisters like Mickey Katz and Klezperanto. Clearly, there is not room for everyone. But their omission is hard to justify when five of the 18 tracks are by the Klezmatics or members thereof, while upwards of eight selections are Brandwein compositions.

One nice feature of the disc is that it presents the same tracks twice — once by Brandwein himself, once by a more recent band — in keeping with the disc’s subtitle: "Shtetl roots and New World revival." It closes with two divergent modern takes on a Brandwein classic as well.

Klezmatics fans will want the band’s whole-group and solo albums, and newcomers to klezmer would find this a skewed introduction. But those who like their klezmer somewhere between sugary freylachs and flavorless reproductions should find "The Rough Guide to Klezmer" a winning compilation.

"Wedding Without a Bride" is notable for the way it wrings many emotions from the same instruments. "Rough Guide to Klezmer," on the other hand, boasts the expected clarinets and violins, but also drums, pianos, a trombone, and a tuba.

Looking to the future, KlezSka announces itself as "part of the next wave in Jewish music." The band’s name explains its modus operandi: klezmer mixed with ska (punk-like protoreggae). The duo is comprised of composer and producer Glenn Tamir, who has played with the seminal Skatalites, and keyboardist Tommy Mandel, who has backed Bryan Adams and Dire Straits. The first half of their CD, "Rasta Meets the Rabbi" (Klezska, $18.95), is given to explorations of the places klezmer and ska might meet, melodically and rhythmically.

But this strange bird doesn’t really fly until the second half, which spins Jewish favorites as ska. There is a double dose of Debbie Friedman, "Elokai" and "L’Chi Lach" — arrangements she might consider borrowing. And "Ein Fiddler" uses a medley of "Fiddler on the Roof" and "Tradition" to invite Tevye from Anatevka to Kingston. In these and the following tracks, Tamir finds an island groove and rides it like a champion surfer.

Appropriately for the age of the Internet, Jewish music’s past, present and future are all available for listening right now. Who would have thought we’d live in a time when we could use the words "klezmer" and "download" in the same sentence?