Kosher Gospel and Yiddish Punk: The 24th Annual Jewish Music Festival’s American Ingenuity…
March 21-April 2, San Francisco Bay Area
An African-American Newark native’s soaring gospel is grounded by the good-old-boy bass of a native Texan. A young Detroit songwriter returns to Yiddish in his adopted home of Berlin. Bluegrass and Bosnian. Classical piano and swinging vocal harmonies.
This is American Jewish music, the driving force behind this year’s 24th Annual Jewish Music Festival, celebrating more than two decades of broad-minded programming on March 21-April 2, 2009 at venues around the Bay Area.
“As we imagined this year’s festival, we specifically thought about an American orientation, to celebrate a new era in the country,” festival director Eleanor Shapiro explains. “That’s why we chose Joshua Nelson as one of our opening night artists, because his kosher gospel represents a new orientation towards being in the world that’s not based on your past or what you were born into, but what you are becoming and what you can become in this country.”
And American Jewish art is becoming increasingly aware of its plethora of global roots. “There are a lot of diverse Jewish cultures,” notes Nelson, who grew up attending Newark ‘s Sephardic congregations. “Most people think of European Jewish, but there are all types of Jewish cultures and customs, and they all have soul, much like Black culture. Both Black and Jewish people have been through hell. Soul comes out of having a bad experience and being able to sing about it. It’s in cantorial chanting you hear in a synagogue.”