"I've noticed that quite a lot of people who are prominent in the animal liberation movement are Jews. Maybe we are simply not prepared to see the powerful hurting the weak." --Peter Singer (Author, Animal Liberation)


Jewish Punk: Follow-Up to the Wrap-Up

I considered my December 31 post to be a wrap-up of my Jewish punk research and writing and thought that I'd be taking a hiatus from talking about this topic for a long while. You know what they say about best-laid plans.

CAN CAN and Jewish Punk Featured in the Forward
Today, the Forward ran a wonderful article about CAN CAN (click here to see my blog post about the band from last month) and Jewish punk in general.

"If I can give young Jews a sense of spiritual connection through heavy music in the same way that my Christian colleagues have done so, then that’s a wonderful thing, but that’s not necessarily what I’m trying to do," CAN CAN singer Patrick A. is quoted as saying. "If they go the extra step and read the lyrics and see that there are songs about creation mythology, and a song about olam haba [the afterlife], well, what is that? Then that’s great," he added.

The article talks about the Israeli punk scene as well as kitschy Jewish punk bands in the U.S. Jericho's Echo: Punk Rock in the Holy Land director Liz Nord told the Forward, "All the bands I’ve heard that are Jewish punk bands, they aren’t like Christian punk bands that are so sincere, like, 'I will follow you, Jesus!' They’re much more like silly, funny punk bands." (I'd say that Moshiach Oi, Farbrengiton, and White Shabbos are exceptions to that generalization.)

The article ends with a faux call to action from Patrick A.: "It’s time for all-ages hardcore shows in the shuls."

At the University Level
Steven Lee Beeber (author of The Heebie-Jeebies at CBGB's: A Secret History of Jewish Punk) is currently teaching a class called "The Jewish Origins of Punk Rock" as part of Tufts University's Experimental College. Here's the course description from Tufts' Web site:
This course will explore the origins of punk rock, in relation to Jewish cultural history. Since punk's emergence in NYC in the 1970s, many have cited its irony, commitment to social justice and embrace of anarchic comedy as emblematic of the city's largest minorities, the Jewish children and grandchildren of immigrants. We will explore how Punk reflects the Jewish history of oppression and uncertainty, flight and wandering, belonging and not belonging, especially in the wake of the Holocaust; how it is preoccupied with Nazi imagery, comic books, and Brill Building songcraft; and why it looks to comic Lenny Bruce, art-rocker Lou Reed and self-proclaimed "Jewish anarchist" folk-punk Tuli Kipferberg as veritable patron saints.
Representing the U.K.
I intended to include Mr. Julian Gaskell and His Ragged Trousered Philanthropists in my December 30 post about Jewish punk bands I'd never written about, but I didn't hear back from Gaskell until January 2. The self-professed "nearest thing to klezmer available in Cornwall" plays punked-up klezmer and Gypsy folk music. Click here to go to the group's MySpace page and listen to some of their rockin' songs.

Gaskell says that many Britons aren't familiar with klezmer music, but the band has played at one Jewish wedding. Already interested in Eastern-European folk music, Gaskell stumbled upon klezmer at his local library five years ago. "I think I was looking for some fast, upbeat and melodic music that I hadn't played to death, and I found it in klezmer," said Gaskell.

Are they a punk band? Here's Gaskell's response:
That's a difficult one, there are so many different ideas of what punk is. Personally I think a lot of what our music is comes from punk; I spent years listening to, playing and writing music which is much more 'punk' in the conventional sense (i.e., sounding like The Clash) and this is still a big influence—the subject matter, performance style, etc., all come across as "punk" at our gigs. But this is still punk in the broadest sense, really you could say it's more like folk music played with a punk DIY aesthetic. A lot of people in the U.K. have a very narrow idea of what punk is (i.e., 1976) and that's not quite what we do.

Women in Jewish Punk
Following my supposed wrap-up post, heebnvegan reader Dina Hornreich e-mailed me to say, "I challenge you to include more Jewish women punks! Carrie Brownstein (Sleater Kinney, Heaven's to Betsy) and Lora Logic (X-Ray Spex, Essential Logic) are two that come to my mind. Also, Sharon Cheslow stands out in my mind as well!" Click here to read Hornreich's interview with Cheslow.

For the record, numerous bands mentioned in the wrap-up post include female members. Of course, how much that affects the band's voice and identity varies on a case-by-case basis.

More New Stuff
Moshiach Oi released a new song called "Baruch Hashem" and The Schleps put out a hardcore version of "Adon Olam" (both on MySpace).

On December 28, the Forward ran an article about Golem titled "A Euphonic Union of Klezmer and Punk." The article noted, "Golem is certainly not the only music group to attempt to redefine traditional Eastern-European Jewish wedding music, but no other band seems more convincingly and energetically to make the case that klezmer and punk rock share the same DNA. Experiencing the physical and vocal contortions of singer Aaron Diskin and the music’s frantic downbeat, the connection is clear." Golem will celebrate the release of its new JDub Records album, Citizen Boris, in Brooklyn on February 12.


  • At 4/24/2009 11:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hey-what about bands with Jewish Skinheads!?
    Bleach Battalion, Hard Times, etc
    Not only Punks are Jewish and help the underground scene!

  • At 6/05/2009 8:19 PM, Blogger heebnvegan said…

    I think I'll get in touch with Bleach Battalion and Hard Times, but what about the "etc."? Are there others you can tell me about? Thanks!


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