The Wailing Wall answers the age-old question: Where’s the genuine Jewish folk-infused indie rock?

If the ecstatic poetry of Psalms and Song of Songs were being written today, it would sound like this.

I like a lot the stuff that’s happening in the burgeoning world of Jewish hip-hop. I like Y-Love, Matisyahu, Socalled and many others of that ilk, but I caught myself wondering recently about the absence of Jewish folk rock or indie rock, genre of music Jews of my generation listen to a lot of . We listen to it. We make it (check out my cousin’s band–no explicitly Jewish content–but he and his band mate met at Ramah). And finally I found the answer to my question: The Wailing Wall.

The Wailing Wall – Bones Become Rainbows:

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The Wailing Wall is NYC multi-instrumentalist Jesse Rifkin and the music is breathtaking. It’s at once familiar and yet totally unique. This guy is Bob Dylan, the Decemberists, Kirtan Rabbi and The Psalmist all rolled into one. It’s completely eclectic, full of energizing swells of melody, percussion and lyrics. If the ecstatic poetry of Psalms and Song of Songs were being written today, it would sound like this. At the same time, the music has dark, reflective moments more akin to Ecclesiastes. I’ll leave the obligatory Simon and Garfunkel comparison up to you, but it wouldn’t be a bad comparison.

In the words of JDub Records’ press info:

Still hungry and skeptical after 11 years of Orthodox day school education, and questioning his belief in a benevolent higher power, Jesse turned to the strains of Sufi Qawwali music, Hindu Kirtan chanting, Renaissance and Baroque church music. Looking back, perhaps this wasn’t a turn so much as a return:

“My parents first met in a Siddha Yoga ashram in California where they both spent years following a guru named Swami Muktananda…[and] I grew up meditating and chanting with them. So throughout my childhood, there was an awareness of both Jewish and Hindu liturgical traditions,” says Jesse.

Bones Become Rainbows, the track embedded above is so engrossing, I’ve had it looping for the entire time I’ve been writing this post. It begins with a series of rhythms and percussion instruments coming in layers and spurts. And the lyrics might as well be from a classical piyut: “There is no easy answer for the breath in my love, but it’s your name I recite in each song that I’ve sung.”

The entire album has been blowing my mind all day. You should get it. Shavua tov.

Filed under Arts & Culture, Music

4 Responses to “The Wailing Wall answers the age-old question: Where’s the genuine Jewish folk-infused indie rock?”

  1. Singing nasal doesn’t make you Dylan.

    Too bad there’s a recession on so there probably isn’t a day job he shouldn’t quit.


    Dave Boxthorn · April 26th, 2010 at 9:13 pm
  2. right. because dylan doesn’t sound nasal. and that’s not what makes him dylan-esque.

    anyway, i love that many of commenters come here to disagree or start conversations, but seriously, man. if you don’t like it, don’t listen to it.


    David A.M. Wilensky · April 26th, 2010 at 11:07 pm
  3. Do the Klezmatics count?


    Pierre · April 27th, 2010 at 9:30 pm
  4. [...] Our friends over at Jewschool also have some very nice things to say about The Wailing Wall. [...]


    JDub Records: Innovative Jewish music, community and cross-cultural dialogue. · May 5th, 2010 at 5:08 pm

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