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

 

Salman Rushdie and the Western Apologists for Those Who Wish Him Dead

Aug. 17 2022

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder and supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, issued a fatwa (religious ruling) in 1989 calling for believers to murder the novelist Salman Rushdie due to the content of his novel, The Satanic Verses. Over the years, two of the book’s translators have been stabbed—one fatally—and numerous others have been injured or killed in attempts to follow the ayatollah’s writ. Last week, an American Shiite Muslim came closer than his many predecessors to killing Rushdie, stabbing him multiple times and leaving him in critical condition. Graeme Wood comments on those intellectuals in the West who have exuded sympathy for the stabbers:

In 1989, the reaction to the fatwa was split three ways: some supported it; some opposed it; and some opposed it, to be sure, but still wanted everyone to know how bad Rushdie and his novel were. This last faction, Team To Be Sure, took the West to task for elevating this troublesome man and his insulting book, whose devilry could have been averted had others been more attuned to the sensibilities of the offended.

The fumes are still rising off of this last group. The former president Jimmy Carter was, at the time of the original fatwa, the most prominent American to suggest that the crime of murder should be balanced against Rushdie’s crime of blasphemy. The ayatollah’s death sentence “caused writers and public officials in Western nations to become almost exclusively preoccupied with the author’s rights,” Carter wrote in an op-ed for the New York Times. Well, yes. Carter did not only say that many Muslims were offended and wished violence on Rushdie; that was simply a matter of fact, reported frequently in the news pages. He took to the op-ed page to add his view that these fanatics had a point. “While Rushdie’s First Amendment freedoms are important,” he wrote, “we have tended to promote him and his book with little acknowledgment that it is a direct insult to those millions of Moslems whose sacred beliefs have been violated.” Never mind that millions of Muslims take no offense at all, and are insulted by the implication that they should.

Over the past two decades, our culture has been Carterized. We have conceded moral authority to howling mobs, and the louder the howls, the more we have agreed that the howls were worth heeding. The novelist Hanif Kureishi has said that “nobody would have the [courage]” to write The Satanic Verses today. More precisely, nobody would publish it, because sensitivity readers would notice the theological delicacy of the book’s title and plot. The ayatollahs have trained them well, and social-media disasters of recent years have reinforced the lesson: don’t publish books that get you criticized, either by semiliterate fanatics on the other side of the world or by semiliterate fanatics on this one.

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Read more at Atlantic

More about: Ayatollah Khomeini, Freedom of Speech, Iran, Islamism, Jimmy Carter