In the 1920’s, when Jazz and Big Band music was at it’s apex, a new type of sound started to appear. Invented by church choirs across the south, it was pioneered by Blues luminaries like Thomas A. Dorsey, Sallie Martin, Dr. Mattie Moss Clark, Willie Mae Ford Smith. It was originally known as "holy rolling," but would evolve into what became known as Gospel. Gospel, originally a grassroots movement, would influence Ray Charles and James Brown to give us soul, help Elvis Presley swing his hips, and let singers like Wilson Pickett, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin and Al Green find their groove.
Today, another grassroots movement is emerging. A stranger genre, more obscure today then Gospel was 90 years ago– Jewish Modern Music.
Like all good grassroots movements, Jewish Music, or JDub to some of it’s fans, has had it’s own Thomas A. Dorsey– an Alternative music sensation named Matisyahu who has been capturing the interest of orthodox Jewish teens who otherwise might not pay the slightest attention to music. Matisyahu has not only provided Jews a look into the music world, he has provided the music world a look into JDub music, and all that it has to offer.
The Jewish reggae star is, despite his platinum albums, national acclaim, and worldwide tours, still only part of a fringe music type, one that is still growing out of it’s stages of infancy– for now.
One new band in particular, a rock group known as Blue Fringe, personifies the grassroots origin of JDub music. Four twenty-something year olds that met at Yeshiva University of New York City in 2001, Blue Fringe began their musical careers touring Jewish summer camps in places like Upstate New York. With a growing young adult fanbase, it was no surprise that Blue Fringe’s first album, entitled My Awakening, sold more then 15,000 copies, and firmly established Blue Fringe as the "best thing to happen to Jewish teens since Oreos were made kosher."
Blue Fringe is a major force today in JDub music, and some of it’s counterparts have also risen to prominence in the Jewish underground music scene, including the Jewish Rock bands Moshav, Balkan Beat Box, Beyond Eden, and Slivovitz…
More news on JDub as it develops. A new gospel? You never know.
Take that one home and chew on it. It’s delicious.
Till Next Week.
A last note- When I first heard Blue Fringe in 2002, at a summer camp in the Poconos, I asked their bassist, Avi Hoffman, if the band was a long term thing. No, he replied, just temporary to earn some cash. Fast forward to fall of 2005, I ran into Avi again. "Still temporary?" I asked.
Avi just smiled…