The Israeli Ensemble That Combines Jazz with Hasidic Melody

Feb. 12 2021

Drawing on the genre of wordless ḥasidic chant from which it also derives its name, the Nigun Quartet released its debut album last year. Matthew Kassel writes:

The idea of crossing jazz with Jewish [religious] music isn’t a new concept, but the Nigun Quartet—saxophone, piano, bass, and drums—stood out even in Israel’s crowded jazz scene thanks to its engaging shows approximating the loose, convivial vibe of a fabrengen—a kind of festive ḥasidic gathering.

The album requires that the listener do some work on his own—such as reading the liner notes that give the backstory behind each tune—in order to . . . simulate the experience of a live performance. But the sturdy arrangements and easy interplay suggest the group was more than ready to set these tracks down. The album invokes mid-period Coltrane, post-bop, funk, classical, and other elements that in many ways represent the lingua franca of modern jazz—all filtered through a ḥasidic folk prism.

For the four band members, that unique influence is what sets the Nigun Quartet apart. “The key to understanding our approach is to understand the function of the nigun,” Opher Schneider, the band’s forty-nine-year-old bassist and resident mystic, told Jewish Insider in a Zoom interview.

Schneider played jazz professionally—both in New York and Israel — before he abandoned music altogether at thirty-six and devoted himself fully to Judaism. After a while, the urge to play returned as he began to learn more about traditional klezmer from Eastern Europe as well as other forms of Jewish music—and he slowly made his back to the [jazz] scene.

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Read more at Jewish Insider

More about: Hasidism, Jewish music

How China Equips the Islamic Republic to Repress Its People

In its dedication to bringing totalitarianism into the 21st century, the Chinese Communist party has developed high-tech forms of surveillance using facial-recognition software, a vast system of “social credit,” and careful control over its subjects’ cellular phones. Even stricter and more invasive measures are applied to the Uyghurs of the northwestern part of the country. Beijing is also happy to export its innovations in tyranny to allies like Iran and Russia. Playing a key role in these advances is a nominally private company called Tiandy Technologies. Craig Singleton describes its activities:

Both Tiandy testimonials and Chinese-government press releases advertise the use of the company’s products by Chinese officials to track and interrogate Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic minorities in China’s Xinjiang province. According to human-rights groups, Chinese authorities also employ Tiandy products, such as “tiger chairs,” to torture Uyghurs and other minorities.

Iran has long relied on China to augment its digital surveillance capabilities, and Tehran was an early adopter of Beijing’s “social-credit” system, which it wields to assess citizens’ behavior and trustworthiness. . . . Iranian government representatives have publicized plans to leverage smart technologies, including AI-powered face recognition, to maintain regime stability and neutralize dissent. Enhanced cooperation with China is central to those efforts.

At present, Tiandy is not subject to U.S. sanctions or export controls. In light of Tiandy’s operations in both Xinjiang and Iran, policymakers should consider removing the company, its owner, and stakeholders from the international financial system and global supply chains.

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Read more at FDD

More about: China, Human Rights, Iran, Totalitarianism, U.S. Foreign policy