Presented as part of KFAR’s concert series
August 20, 2005 BY THOMAS CONNER Staff Reporter
If you’re a fellow rock ‘n’ roll gentile, when you hear the phrase “Jewish music,” you probably think “Fiddler on the Roof” or, if you really think you’re hip, Theodore Bikel. But the rock of ages has wandered into the 21st century making some exciting new sounds, and a Chicago arts center is spotlighting them throughout the fall.
The “Tzitzit: Voices From the Jewish Fringe” music series, presented by the KFAR Jewish Arts Center, features young Jewish musicians who dig deep into their traditional culture and extrapolate its roots into bold, buzzing modern music. Lyrics sometimes seem like insider baseball to those of us who aren’t “frum” (religious, observant, Jewish), but the resulting music is often innovative and worldly.
The series kicks off tonight with a concert by Blue Fringe. On the eve of an appearance at Yidstock in Monticello, N.Y., this basic rock-pop quartet pulls off the same magic act Christian rockers have been mastering (and profiting by) for several years — writing perfectly catchy modern rock tunes, but with lyrics aimed at their particular spiritual perspective, such as these from a song called “Flippin’ Out”:
“I’m getting frummer, yeah, I’m on my way
Learnin’ those catchphrases that you have to say
Like ‘Shkoyach’ and ‘M’Stama,’ too
‘Cause if you don’t say them then you’re not a frum Jew … “
It’s one thing to learn your way in the modern world, but young orthodox Jews study to learn their way through centuries of history and tradition, too. Blue Fringe tries to connect both worlds in its music — old-world ideas with guitar, drums and bass — and blow off a little steam in the proocess.
The series’ subtitle, after all, is “Concerts Exploring the Threads Tying the Ancient to the Avant-Garde,” and a duo that really lives up to that is the Balkan Beat Box, appearing next in the series at Wild Hare on Sept. 18. Why buy every one of those tedious Putamayo world-music collections when these New York-based Israelis (Ori Kaplan and world-class beat boy Tamir Muskat) can synthesize them all in the span of a single disc?
The pair’s self-titled debut CD, to be released two days after their Chicago concert, is a magnificent mash-up melding music from every conceivable corner of the globe and its history. French heavy-metal samples, Arabic lyrics, Bulgarian female vocals, electronic beats, kitchen utensils, even a language made up just for one song — instead of gazing into the navels of other cultures, these melanges pull the whole weight of the world forward, always forward. The shows allegedly are lively productions with the band often performing in the middle of the audience.
More acts follow in the KFAR series (look to www.kfarcenter.com for more). If you really want to explore other lands through music, this is a good place to start. Crossing borders — this the Jews know how to do.
Blue Fringe WITH HEEDOOSH
When: 10 tonight
Where: Martyrs’, 3855 N. Lincoln
Call: (773) 550-1543