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George Robinson, GRComm@ writes for the Jewish Week. His book, "Essential Judaism," was published in hardcover by Pocket Books, March 2000. You can find out more at his website.

Articles by George Robinson, available on the KlezmerShack, are:

2004 Chanukah Roundup, by George Robinson, sent 2 Dec 2004.

The Year's Best: the annual "best of" column, by George Robinson, sent 25 Nov 2002.

A Religious Experience: A roundup of recent Jewish liturgical music, by George Robinson, sent 26 Aug 2002.

More Than Klezmer: A sampler of Yiddish vaudeville, folk music and even art song, sent 9 Aug 2002.

Spring Sephardic Music Roundup, send 3 May 2002.

The Spring Roundup, part 1, sent 9 Mar 2002.

The Spring Roundup, part 2, sent 9 Mar 2002.

The Best of 2001 - Hanukah suggestions, sent 7 Dec 2001.

Isaac Stern: Beyond the Fiddle to the Heart of a Man, sent out 5 Oct 2001.

Sounds for the Jewish New Year, sent out 23 Nov 2001.

Slobin on Beregovski (and the survival of Klezmer Music), sent out 30 Aug 2001.

Women of Valor, sent out 15 Aug 2001.

Shabbat, for Starters, sent out 3 Jun 2001.

From Liturgical Rock to the Postmodern, sent out 15 May 2001.

A Sephardic Passover, sent out 25 Mar 2001.

Oh, Klezmer, sent out 18 Mar 2001.

Jewish Classical Music, sent out 1 Mar 2001.

Best of 2000, send out 23 Dec 2000.

Holiday Music for Hanukkah, 6 Dec 2000.

Kidding on the Square, 9/29/00, from the Jewish Week

From the Catskills to Canada, 6/15/00, from the Jewish Week

Sephardic Survey, 05/00, from the Jewish Week

1999 Klezmer Wrapup, from the Jewish Week

Sisters in Swing, 12/15/99, from the Jewish Week

Bending the Genres, October 1998, from the Jewish Week

The Klezmer Drums of Passion, September 1998, from the Jewish Week

Drums of Passion, summer, 1998, from the Jewish Week

Other klezmer articles
on the Internet

Holiday Music for Hanukah

from the author, 6 Dec '00.
Reprinted by permission of the author.

by George Robinson,

Note: Don't click on any links until the entire file loads, or else the links won't work. I apologize for the inconvenience. webmaster

Buchman, Rachel / Shine Little Candles: Chanukah Songs for Children
Alexandria Kleztet / Y2Klezmer
Celebrate Hanukkah!
Chants Judeo-Espagnols de la Mediterranee Orientale
A Jewish Odyssey
The Real Complete Happy Hanukka Party
Yarkoni, Yaffa / Rumania, Rumania

Hanukah usually means the Jewish Sounds 5-star round-up, a salute to the best Jewish records of the year. And you may expect to see that column shortly. But Hanukah also means dipping into another of the pools of Jewish music specific to a festival, and several recent CDs seem apposite. Actually, not all of these are specifically Hanukah sets, but they just seemed to fit in. At the very least, these records suggest the many ways to transliterate the name of the holiday.

Buchman, Rachel: "Shine Little Candles: Chanukah Songs for Children" (Rounder Kids). Buchman is a sweet-voiced folkie and a deft acoustic guitarist. The originals on this set are charming and the other cuts include every familiar Hanukah song imaginable. Clearly, though, the target listenership for this set is not forty-something music critics, so I called upon wiser heads, my friends Katherine Muller, 6, and Emily Michels, 7: "Some of the songs I liked but some I didn't." "Some of the voices were too high and some were too low." Rating: I'm not qualified to review this, but my young friends would give it 3 stars.

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"Celebrate Hanukkah" (Craig & Co.). The latest in Craig Taubman's series of musical celebrations. Like the Shabbat CD this is a reliable collection of standards interpreted by a predictable cast of characters. There's the obligatory Jon Simon cocktail-piano noodling, the obligatory overbearing Debbie Friedman cut, a treacly Peter Yarrow "Light One Candle." But there's also a funky Alan Eder reggae tune, a charming Linda Hirschhorn a capella number, and the classic Flory Jagoda "Ocho Kandelikas." In short, as uneven as any anthology can be. Rating: 3 ½ stars.

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"Chants Judeo-Espagnols de la Mediterranee Orientale" (Hatikvah Music). Two Jewish women from Balkans, unaccompanied, singing a wide range of songs from the Judeo-Spanish tradition -- simple, unadorned, even plain, but ineffably powerful. This is an excellent point of entry into a musical tradition that is probably unfamiliar to American Jews, but over the course of nearly an hour, it begins to pall a bit. A record to be dipped into perhaps, rather than immersed in. Rating: 4 ½ stars. (Available from Hatikvah Music, or 323-655-7083.)

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"A Jewish Odyssey" (Putumayo). A Putumayo Jewish collection was an inevitable addition to the company's growing list of world-music samplers. The resulting CD, "A Jewish Odyssey," is a good one, thanks in large part to thoughtful, imaginative programming by producer Dan Storper and informative notes by Jacob Edgar. Storper has programmed the CD like a bell curve, beginning with the gentle but insistent "Di Goldene Pave," a Yiddish tune from the rewarding collaboration between Israeli diva Chava Alberstein and the Klezmatics, then building to uptempo dance musics before a gradual decrescense into a sinuous "Shalom Aleichem" by Brazilian-Jewish singer Fortuna (a surprisingly effective recording by someone most of whose other work might be charitably charaterized as world-beat-meets-disco). The set is an excellent showcase for lesser-known talents, particularly the Turkish-Sephardic folkies Janet and Jak Esim and Chilean-born Ladino singer Consuela Luz. The result is a nice addition to the growing shelf of Jewish samplers and a credit to Putumayo's generally admirable series. Rating: 4 ½ stars.

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"The Real Complete Happy Hanukka Party" (Worldwide Success). Performed by somebody called David and the High Spirit, this is synth-heavy, mush to be played by a guy in a bad rug at a nursing home. Has the musical authenticity of Ethel Merman's disco album without the fun. Rating: no stars.

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Yarkoni, Yaffa: "Rumania, Rumania" (Hatikvah Music). Yarkoni is one of those Israeli pop divas whose LPs from the 1960s can be found in thrift shops around town even now. She had a meltingly pretty soprano with a smoky undertone and a slightly maudlin streak. This set has been out of print for ages, but Simon Rutberg of Hatikvah Music rescued it recently and it is a pleasant surprise. Glenn Osser's arrangements are tasteful in the same vein as, say, Gordon Jenkins, and Yarkoni is effective on a program that is heavy on ballads. Rating: 4 stars. (Available from Hatikvah Music, or 323-655-7083.)

Finally, although it's not a record, you may get some chuckles out of the new book "Jews Who Rock" by Greg Oseary (St. Martin's Press, $12.95). Oseary, who heads Madonna's Maverick Records label, has assembled quick little bios of 100 musicians who are (at least half) Jewish with some amusing fun facts to boot. I think he's cheating a little when he includes Herb Alpert, Bette Midler, Sammy Davis, Jr., Kenny G and Peter Yarrow, none of whom could remotely be called rockers, and he missed a good one in former Blue Oyster Cult member Albert Bouchard, but there are some real surprises here. Richard Hell? Slash? Beck? Color me shocked, Greg.

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Contents copyright © 2001 by George Robinson. Used with permission. All rights reserved. Page last revised 11 June, 2007.