So last week, during Shabbat dinner, my grandma gave me a bunch of old CD's that used to belong to my grandpa Jack. Jack was a huge music fan. Back in the day he used to play bongos in a salsa orchestra. Later on, when he had kids, he used to line them all up in rows and teach them how to dance. Anyways, as I was going through the collection I found this one CD which is labeled as a collaboration of Colombian, American, and ISRAELI, musicians fusing Colombian music with jazz.
The project is titled Folklore Urbano. It is a recent project directed by Colombian pianist Pablo Mayor. There only seems to be one Israeli in the band, though there are also a couple of American Jews. The Israeli dude, who plays trombone and euphonium, is Rafi Malkiel. He seems to be a pretty talented dude and has received a lot of praise for his 2008 album My Island. You can check out his music here.
Anyways, point of the story is, I got to thinking about the involvement of Jews in the emergence of Latin and Afro-Caribbean music during the 40's and 50's. I did a little research, and as it turns out, the close proximity of Jews and Latinos in certain neighborhoods of New York, exposed Jews early on to these new styles of music. Many Jews, such as my grandpa, became diehard fans, and many Jewish businessmen capitalized on the popularity of this music, and helped promote the careers of Latin musicians. Eventually, there also emerged plenty of musical collaborations. Not only did many Jewish musicians play in Latin Orchestras, but the Latin musicians recognized the Jews' enthusiasm and teamed up with Jewish musicians to produce albums like Mazel Tov, Mis Amigos.
The coolest Jew in this whole scene is Larry Harlow, born Lawrence Ira Kahn, a.ka. "El Judio Maravilloso". A star pianist, Harlow was one of the early talents involved in the legendary Fania Records, and helped develop what we know today as modern salsa. He has produced over 250 albums for various artists and continues to perform even today. He is the one playing piano on the video above. If you pay attention you will hear him introduced as "El Judio Marivilloso" around 1:20.
Action and discussion have always been integral parts of Judaism. The halakha acts as a guideline that weighs in on even the smallest details of our day to day actions. We owe much of our strength as a people to the centuries of active and engaged Talmudic debate that has honed our analytical and persuasive skills. Nowadays things have changed. For many of us the halakha as a guideline has become outdated. We struggle to find the time to engage and discuss Jewish issues. Judaism remains a central part of who we are, but not of what we do. ReJEWvenate will provide a forum to change this. It will act as an avenue through which we can reengage current issues of Jewish identity, explore new trends in modern Jewish culture, and give new breath to the traditions we've inherited in order to make them relevant in our day to day lives. Through active discussion and debate, we seek to reJEWvenate our Judaism and once again make it part of what we do, not just who we are.