Ke$ha, naked ladies in France and the 1893 World’s Fair

Matt recently told me about Ke$ha’s new video, “Take It Off,” with the caveat that it is, if possible, worse than “TiK ToK.”  At first I wasn’t going to watch it, but it exerted a pull upon me not unlike that of a horrible accident on the side of the highway.  And then I was glad I had, because it’s intellectually interesting, if aurally assaulting:

If you have spent any time in an American elementary school, you will immediately recognize the tune: it’s “The Streets of Cairo, or the Poor Little Country Maid,” aka the “Hootchy Cootchy Song,” aka “There’s a place in France where the naked ladies dance/There’s a hole in the wall where the boys can see it all…”

But rather than naked ladies in France, there is apparently a place downtown where the freaks all come around–it’s a hole in the wall, it’s a dirty free-for-all where the preferred accessory is a water bottle full of whiskey in one’s purse.  There is also glitter on the floor.

Wikipedia has a pretty good rundown of the history of the melody: originally written for, or at least best known for its early appearance at, the 1893 World’s Fair (which took place just a few blocks from me!), it served as the music for two belly dancers (I don’t love this term, but I don’t know a better one) who appeared at said fair.  An alternate theory about the origins of the tune posits that it is related to one of several Algerian melodies that perhaps migrated to France in the context of the colonial encounter in Maghrebi Africa.

The ethnographic excursions at this fair were bound up in all the colonialist/Orientalist nonsense that was in full swing at the time, and long story short, this tune has since been frequently used to depict salacious “exotic”/Arab/North African female behavior of the kind that frequently shows up in Orientalist film, music, opera, literature, visual art, and so forth.  Think “Sheherazade,” harems, a dirtier version of Disney’s Aladdin, etc.  You’ve probably heard it in any form of media that wants to quickly depict deserts, sexy dancing girls, “the Orient,” snake charmers, and all the usual stereotypes.

Interestingly, Ke-dollar sign-ha positions herself in a highly sexualized, somewhat “exotic” role in this video (and in her public self-representations more generally).  She “goes hardcore,” wears clothes that fall on the unconventional end of the normal spectrum, frequently acts like a wild animal (that hair!  crawling around on the desert floor!  ripped clothes! that eye makeup!  think of the children!) and portrays herself as an out-of-control, trashy-as-all-get-out partier (this is now her second song where she’s referenced doing things with whiskey–using it as toothpaste and carrying bottles around in her purse–that fall firmly in the realm of “alcoholism”).

I also find her evocation (intentional or not) of the Hindu holiday of Holi really fascinating (and problematic), especially in the context of the “Hootchy Cootchy Song.”  One of the primary customs observed for Holi is the throwing of colored powders and water, just as Ke$ha, et al do in this video.  Somewhat like Purim and Carnival, Holi is festive and the world is a bit topsy-turvy for a set period of time as the forces of good/order and evil/chaos battle it out (good and order, of course, eventually win out).  This is, of course, a massive oversimplification, and you should go read about it if you’re interested, but it gets the job done for the point I’m making.

So, what are the implications of linking this exoticizing, Orientalist, sort of salacious song with Hindu religious customs and bratty female-rock-star behavior that tries to be convention-defying but (at least to my mind) ends up being trashy and boring?  I’m not quite sure, but I don’t think I’m down with it.

Participation, the Wauwatosa casserole brigade, and the notion of gospel brunch

A few weeks back, Matt and I went to gospel brunch at the Chicago branch of the House of Blues.  For those who aren’t familiar with the concept, gospel brunch is exactly that: you go to a brunch event at which a gospel group performs.  I don’t remember how we alighted on this as an option when we were trying to think of a performing arts event to go to, but alight upon it we did, both because we like gospel and because we thought it would be sociologically interesting.

As we made our way up to the near north side, we tried to guess what it would be like, who would be there and how they might react to or interpret gospel.  At first, with no prior knowledge of how gospel brunches work, we thought that the audience might be predominantly black; when we got there, we were surprised to see that not only was the audience predominantly white, but that the audience seemed primarily composed of white tourist types who looked very much like the soccer moms and Lutheran casserole brigade of my hometown, Wauwatosa, WI.  (Not that I’m knocking Tosans–I say this in a loving way!  But, you know, some of my friends like to refer to it as “Comatosa.”)

We waited in the lobby for a long time before we were allowed to go in and sit (which I thought odd); the food was served buffet-style, and was in my opinion pretty darn good although lacking in vegetarian options (unnecessary bacon in things, always so frustrating); and then we all sat down for the show.  The bandleader, of the group William Smith Jr. and the Renewed Voices for Christ, opened by introducing the group and welcoming everyone to the “ecumenical church of…” and listed just about every religion under the sun.  The music was fantastic, in my opinion: they had a mixed choir, a drummer, and an organist; all the musicians were truly excellent at what they did; the arrangements were tight and energetic; the repertoire selection was good, etc.  I bought their CD and have listened to it a couple times.

What I was really interested in was the interaction between the musicians and the audience.  The bandleader was really good about trying to have the audience participate, exhorting us to clap, sway, dance, sing responsorial phrases, and at one point had a couple people come up on stage and mock-conduct.  Here’s where things got awkward.

In my past experience (having a preschool teacher who was an excellent singer and did gospel with us, and doing fieldwork in a Jamaican Pentecostalist church, as well as going to various friends’ churches here and there), gospel is a participatory musical form: although there are designated “musicians” or “performers” in the church setting, everyone joins in one way or another, by clapping, singing along, pulling out a tambourine, dancing, or just active, engaged listening.  Those who raised their hand when the band asked who had been to gospel events before seemed to know this.  Matt and I, the family next to us, and various other small groups scattered throughout the crowd had no problem clapping, waving our hands, dancing or singing as we felt moved.

However, the casserole brigade folks were painfully reticent, to the confusion of the bandleader.  At first I chalked it up to the combination of intercultural awkwardness, perceived lack of musical knowledge on the part of the audience, or the desire to eat rather than participate in the goings-on.

A few days earlier, I had begun to read Music as Social Life: The Politics of Participation, by ethnomusicologist Tom Turino.  In this book, he introduces a four-part classification scheme for all musical types that I think is really useful: 1) participatory traditions, musics in which there is no distinction between performer and audience, such as, for example, the traditional Andean music that he studies, or Irish session music, and many more; 2) presentational traditions, such as European classical music; 3) high-fidelity recording, or recording that tries its best to capture an audio event accurately; and 4) studio audio art, or recorded music that does not pretend to have any fidelity to acoustically produced sound, such as computer-generated music.

What I realized about the gospel brunch after reading this book is that the very notion of the gospel brunch seeks to use a participation-based tradition in a presentational setting.  In my experience, gospel tends to run along a spectrum of participation: at one end is the model where the entire church participates in singing gospel hymns, a completely participatory experience; in the middle is the setup I mentioned earlier, where there are designated musicians but the churchgoers actively participate in “secondary” ways; and at the more presentational end of the spectrum, commercial gospel concerts where the audience nonetheless is often actively and physically engaged.  This expectation of a participatory experience is what conditioned me and those few others who did clap and sing along at the brunch.

However, Turino also makes the point that, in contemporary American culture, especially urban and suburban culture, the majority of the music we know is presentational or falls into one of the two recorded categories.  The average American musical experience includes attending concerts at which audience participation is somewhat limited (perhaps restricted to cheering or clapping) and purchasing recorded music.  The only participatory moments that many of us have might be at our preferred place of worship or if we happen to be musicians ourselves, which is not terribly common.

I realized that the people who seemed awkward probably came in with the expectation of having a presentational musical experience: the gospel group performs during brunch, and they expect to sit and appreciate it rather than participate directly, as they had probably been trained to do in other musical settings.  The difference between the varied sets of expectations was probably a major cause of the stiffness and tension.

After all, I grew up in the same kind of environment that I am assuming many of these folks came from–so why did I feel comfortable clapping and singing where others might not have?  It seems to me that the answer lies in my particular set of musical experiences, arrived at somewhat randomly: if I had had a different preschool teacher, or chosen not to take the course “Field Methods in Ethnomusicology” during the semester in which it had been decided that we would all do fieldwork in a particular type of church, I would not have known what to do or felt comfortable doing it, given that the majority of my musical training as both performer and audience member has been within the context of the highly presentational tradition of European classical music.

To me, this insight gives some hope.  Rather than attributing the reluctance to participate on the part of the white folks in the casserole brigade to racial issues, or to some inherent rhythmic deficiencies that people joke about white people having,

it’s about our exposure to diverse musical traditions and the communities in which they are embedded that helps us develop ease and comfort with each other and with each other’s music.  Granted, this doesn’t take away the complexity with which these encounters are often fraught, but it does speak to the power of relationship-building, of sustained engagement with the unfamiliar, and of not being afraid to mess up.

I haven’t really addressed here the complex issues of putting historically black musical traditions on display for paying white audiences, a topic that’s highly fraught.  I admit that the situation made me uncomfortable at first, especially because it brought up the specter of gospel tourism, something I’ve previously discussed: the increasing trend of white people going on tours of black gospel churches, gawking at what they seem to consider a primitive spectacle put on for their benefit.  In my previous post, I expressed my belief that learning about new kinds of music is a good thing, and building respectful relationships with members of the communities that make that music is also a good thing, but that objectifying and exploiting people is obviously not.

I would rather have a bunch of white suburban folks pay to go to a gospel event that is designated as a commercial performance–thus ensuring the consent and fair compensation of the performers, and not turning an overtly participatory event into an overtly presentational one–than go to a gospel church as a tourist.  The gospel brunch setup seems more fair.  The House of Blues setup is a space designated for controlled, consensual spectacle, as it were.  In this context, I felt that it was okay.

The final point that Matt and I pondered was, what is the motivation for tourists to come to a gospel brunch?  We went out of curiosity as to how such an event works, and a love of gospel, but we’re not tourists; it was something to do on a Sunday morning in the city in which we live.  We came up with a couple hypotheses:

  • If you’re a tourist, you have to eat on Sunday morning, and why not go to a brunch that also has some music?
  • White Americans have long been both fascinated with and scared of African-American culture, especially music.  Chicago is well-known for its excellence in several musical styles rooted in the African-American musical tradition: blues and jazz, among others.  Rather than going to a jazz or blues club on a weekend evening in a predominantly black neighborhood, which might not be considered “safe,” or a predominantly black church, which offers a very different worship model than your average white Lutheran church, the House of Blues, a corporate chain barely out of the Loop, presents a way of engaging with gospel that feels safer, easier and more comfortable–it’s perceived as just like going to any other concert.

So, in conclusion: stepping out of our comfortable molds is difficult.  People may not know the behavior that is expected of them, or the setting may conflate conflicting sets of behavioral expectations (which I think was part of the difficulty at the House of Blues).  Unfortunately, our society prescribes such rigid racial/ethnic/cultural boundaries that we often have few if any tools at our disposal when we want to try something new, much less build relationships with those who are not like us in one way or another.  On the one hand, an experience like this gospel brunch can reify some of these boundaries; on the other, it’s a better alternative for allowing people to begin to engage with new cultural experiences than gospel tourism.  This is compounded by the fact that American culture does not teach us how to behave in participatory musical settings, such that many people feel awkward and ashamed about their perceived lack of musical ability despite their desire to try to participate.

What could some solutions be?  Nothing simple, I’m afraid.  A true solution would have to encompass a vast and concerted effort to combat the racism that still lingers in our culture, and a similarly large-scale effort to build participatory music-making, and music education, into daily life.  In the meantime, conscious attempts at self-education and relationship-building, in both areas, would go a long way.

Another reason to love Lady Gaga

Apparently, according to Fred Phelps (of Westboro Baptist Church/”G-d hates fags” fame), the deity himself hates Lady Gaga.  Watch out kids, the “hussy’s pretentious prancing” could lead you into moral ruin.  Consider yourselves warned.

This is pretty predictable, given the intense social-conservatism-cum-insanity of Phelps and his followers (who, incidentally, protested at Penn Hillel a few weeks back!).  What I find more interesting is his choice of Lady Gaga to hate on, as opposed to other singers.

There are certainly other prominent artists who could conceivably raise his hackles: people like Adam Lambert, who’s unapologetically out and caused a stir in November with his homoerotically-tinged AMA’s performance (good for him!), or perhaps better yet, Katy Perry, who used to be a conservative Christian but now a) kisses girls and likes it, and b) dates skinny guys with long hair (!).  Or, you know, any pop artists who have overtly sexual lyrics.

Lady Gaga, however, is adamantly pro-empowered female sexuality, often explicitly assuming sexual control in her videos, evangelizing about masturbation, openly identifying as feminist, and doing a lot to challenge the normative male gaze/crazy amount of cookie-cutter sexualization that young female celebrities (and women, period) have to deal with.

I’m not sure how much her message comes through–I feel like a lot of people put her in the “crazy antics” box and don’t pay much attention after that–but I certainly appreciate what she’s trying to do, which is pretty unique and quite important.  And it seems to me that her ideas about female sexual power, more than the fact that she doesn’t often wear much beyond tights below the necessary bits (not that the two aren’t related), is what’s ticking off the good Rev. Phelps.

Announcing the Philadelphia Sher Project

After a long hiatus while I finished up my semester (my second-last at Penn!) I’m back at eartotheground.

On Sunday, I had the privilege of playing in my synagogue’s klezmer band for the début performance of the Philadelphia sher at our annual Chanukah party.  The sher is a traditional Eastern European/Ashkenazi Jewish social dance in 2/4 time for four couples, with an accompanying set of tunes. Eastern European Jews who came to the United States brought it with them, and by the early twentieth century, Philadelphia had its own characteristic sher medley, as did New York and other major cities.

The sher was hugely popular at weddings and other social events and quickly became beloved by the Philadelphia Jewish community and beyond, eventually becoming the preeminent American sher medley. Unfortunately, widespread performance of the sher died out by the 1960s due to the pressures of Israeli music and dance, assimilation and suburbanization. It is kept alive in klezmer circles at events like KlezKamp, but not often performed at everyday parties and events.

Over the last few months, the Simcha Band, Rabbi Lauren Grabelle Herrmann and the Religious Life Committee of Kol Tzedek, and I put together a grant application to the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia’s Kehillah of Center City to fund an exciting community-based project built around the sher–and we received $2200 from them for this project and a concurrent prayer leader training program!

Sherri Cohen, the Simcha Band’s trombonist, and I have been taking lessons with the eminent klezmer trumpeter Susan Watts, whose family has deep roots in Philadelphia’s Jewish music scene, and learning the sher.  Naomi Segal, a member of Kol Tzedek, re-learned the sher (which she danced as a kid growing up in Philly) and taught it to the congregation on Sunday.  People had a great time dancing it and the band (featuring Susan and her mom, fantastic drummer Elaine Hoffman Watts) certainly had a great time playing it.

Right now we’re recruiting volunteers from Kol Tzedek, the Philly Jewish community, and beyond to help with this project.  Community members can get involved in any number of ways:

  • Coming to Kol Tzedek events where we will be performing the sher (TBA here, or if you get in touch with me)
  • Learning how to perform it with the Simcha Band
  • Volunteering to learn the dance and teach it to others in the area
  • Getting involved in the historical and archival research on the sher and on klezmer in Philly that I’ll be conducting beginning next month
  • Conducting oral interviews about Philly’s Jewish music scene with members of the Philly Jewish community
  • Designing the final web archive, where we will be storing educational materials, video, audio, sheet music and historical and ethnographic information about the sher

By April, we hope to have:

  • Published (online and in hard copy) the sher music, recordings, performance notes, video of events at which it was performed, instructional video, and a history/ethnography of the Philadelphia sher.
  • Performed and taught the Philadelphia sher medley at area Jewish events and simchas, along with a short historical presentation.
  • Established a foothold for the Philly sher as a meaningful, living, breathing part of Philadelphia Jewish life, and self-sustaining methods for its transmission to future generations of musicians, dancers and partygoers.

There might also be a documentary film somewhere in there, depending on how things go.  Stay tuned for the launch of the official Philadelphia Sher Project blog within the next week or so, with photos, video and audio of this year’s Chanukah festivities!  Drop me an email or comment here if you want to get involved with this project at any level.

Kosher punk

heeb’n’vegan posted a review of several Jewish punk concerts back in August and I am now finally getting around to discussing it.

This trend isn’t surprising to me at all, besides the fact that it’s surfacing in the late 2000′s as opposed to the 80′s or 90′s (but I could be wrong, seeing as I was but a wee child back in that day and was primarily listening to Paul Simon, Mahalia Jackson and Raffi on LP and cassette tape, and not Jewish music).

I’m writing a chapter for my thesis right now on why explicitly-Jewish hip hop makes sense in the context of the klezmer revival (and why the klezmer revival makes sense in the context of the folk movement of the mid-20th century).  There have been two broad trends in Jewish-American music in the 20th and 21st centuries (basically since mass numbers of Ashkenazi Jews came to the US): 1) less-observant Jews making music that is a hybrid between whatever music they were making before, i.e. traditional secular music from their home in Europe, and American popular styles; and 2) Orthodox Jews (mainly since the 60′s) making kosherized versions of popular styles so that the kids don’t go off the derech–i.e., regular pop music has lyrics that the Orthodox community considers objectionable, so they make music that sounds just like regular pop music, but has “Torah-approved” lyrics.

This seems to be primarily an example of the latter.  The band Moshiach Oi! (Messiah Hey!, more or less) has songs like “I Wanna Learn Torah” and “Shabbos,” which have straight-up Orthodox lyrics and straight-up punk aesthetics.  Their song “Am Yisroel Chai” (the people Israel live, which is the title of a folk song that they reinterpreted) has lyrics that to my mind showcase the worse side of Orthodox ideology:

We stand for life, they stand for war

We stand for peace, they stand for more

We stand for G-d, they stand for death

We’ll scream “Am Yisroel Chai!” with our last breath

Right, because all the goyim clearly have no morals.  Moving on.

The band CAN!!CAN seems to be doing a bit better, viewing the use of punk as within the evolving, innovative aspect of Jewish tradition–and using punk to welcome people who might be otherwise alienated from the Jewish community back in.  I won’t argue with that.

Jewish punk seems to be in the stage Jewish hip hop was in back in the 80′s: some Jewish musicians are playing non-overtly-Jewish punk, and there are some Jewish punk bands that are overtly Jewish, often parody mainstream punk bands (like the band Shabbos Bloody Shabbos) and don’t incorporate Jewish aesthetics, though their lyrics are almost exclusively “Jewish.”

Back in the 80′s, we saw hip hop bands like 2 Live Jews making songs with titles like “Kosher as We Wanna Be” and “Wash This Way” (a takeoff on “Walk This Way” referencing netilat yadayim).

Now we have much better-sounding stuff from Jews exploring Jewish identity while using hip hop and traditional Jewish music (however that’s defined) as a more fluent vernacular:

Give Jewish punk 10 years and I expect great things.

Taqwacore

Like Jewish hip hop, Muslim punk or “taqwacore” is about finding one’s place at the intersection of a global religion and a nation-state in which that religion is in the minority.  I’ve heard of taqwacore a few times before, but it seems to be getting more buzz lately and I thought it was worth a shout-out.

Taqwacore as such is the brainchild of a guy called Michael Muhammad Knight, a convert to Islam who became disillusioned with his faith and, in 2003, published a novel called The Taqwacores in which a bunch of Muslim kids who feel like they don’t fit in anywhere else move into a house together and do their own thing.  (Basically just like parts of West Philly, but plus Islam and probably more fun…anyway.)

The novel inspired a full-fledged genre of Muslim punk music, which is becoming more and more successful all the time; most of the music deals with issues of concern to American Muslims and generally sounds like regular punk music with a few nods to Arab influence here and there.  The musicians conceive of themselves as

stoking the revolution – against traditionalists in their own communities and against the clichés forced upon them from the outside – “we’re giving the finger to both sides,” says one Taqwacore. “Fuck you and fuck you.”

Here’s a review of an Al-Thawra concert earlier this year. As an aside that should be developed further at some point, I think it’s pretty interesting that this is (to my knowledge) the only music scene that has grown almost entirely out of an imaginary group of music-makers in a fictional work.  It’s almost too pomo to be happening in real life.

Unlike Jewish hip hop (which is the topic of my current research hence my constant reference to it), which tries very hard to contextualize itself within and connect itself to both mainstream American society and to the larger Jewish diaspora, taqwacore seems to be more about individual identity–more about asserting oneself against the larger Muslim and American communities.  (Not that there aren’t elements of both in each style.)  I don’t always like the strident individualism in the punk ethos, but I think in this case it can be really valuable for members of a community who are often seen by other Americans, and by the media, as monolithic, dogmatic and obedient (especially women).

Taqwacores don’t unproblematically identify as Muslim; they have many different views on the practice of Islam, on American culture, on music, and how they deal with all of the above and more.  They’re also really savvy about speaking for themselves–check out the Taqwacore Webzine–and seem to be making room for themselves and their unique take on American Muslim identity.  Perhaps their paradoxical “shared sense of isolation” will be the tension driving a new way of thinking about Islam in the American public sphere.  We can hope, right?

The pitfalls of gospel tourism

Fiqah over at Racialicious and Possum Stew has an extensive, fascinating and much-needed take-down of Harlem gospel tours, from a personal perspective.

As you may know, there are plenty of African-American, largely Baptist, churches in Harlem which are well-known for their excellent (primarily gospel) music.  It’s not necessary to be a believer to appreciate the talent and incredible sound, and Fiqah herself describes how she’s not religious, but rather goes to church with a friend occasionally just to appreciate the music.  This doesn’t seem at all problematic to me; a few people going occasionally, behaving respectfully toward church community members, and appreciating good music can only be positive.

However, to make money, some churches have opened up to “gospel tours,” which essentially means white Americans and European and Asian tourists paying money to come in and hear the music.  But Fiqah describes some downright disrespectful behavior: nonstop talking, cell phone conversations, and worst of all, acting like the service and the music were spectacles to be gawked at instead of human beings making some good sounds in the service of their beliefs.

When people’s experiences on these tours have been written up, it sounds uncomfortably like old-school ethnomusicology (read: “I went to a faraway place with strange brown-skinned natives and listened to their crazy music.  They are so sensual and primitive!”):

I meet Tim Rawlins at the Memorial Baptist church choir practise. He’s rare proof of the fact that white men can sing gospel. He says I’ve got to surrender to the music – feel it – and forget I’m English.

Tim: “What I like about gospel music, is that it breaks from that old European tradition which separates intellect and reason from feeling and really in Gospel music you feel with great thought and you think with great feeling…”

That probably means loosening up physically too. When the elderly women start to practice I find myself entranced watching the soloist, Lonnie Gray. She’s 77 years old but she’s out there, her face enraptured, her hips swaying, moving with the rhythm – feeling it.

Please, spare me.

The takeaway: respectfully appreciating, enjoying, potentially participating in, learning about music of other communities, and hopefully thereby building relationships across communities = good.  Fetishizing those communities and reinforcing existing problematic power structures = emphatically not good.

Ethnomusicology has largely moved on from this approach; maybe we need to be doing more as a discipline to help educate mainstream society on respectful, egalitarian ways to learn about musical communities.

Nothing like a little racism…

…to get the High Holidays off to a great start, right?  (The answer is “Wrong,” fyi.)

Apparently Tel Aviv’s religious council is warning that shofars made in China may be smeared with pig fat (which is a little pas comme il faut, but not technically un-kosher, I believe, unless you’re snacking on your shofar–correct me if I’m wrong) and that one shouldn’t purchase shofars made in Morocco, because, according to a rabbi on the council,

It’s disrespectful bringing a shofar prepared by an Arab on Shabbat into a synagogue.

Right, I guess I forgot that “love thy neighbor” doesn’t apply during the month of Elul…

Madonna = Satan?

Polish Catholics–led by the usually-cool Lech Walesa–are protesting Madonna’s upcoming concert, slated for August 15: the Feast of the Assumption as well as the Polish Armed Forces Day.  They say her music is blasphemous/overly sexual/”a satanic provocation” (ouch!).

I understand their point, kind of.  Madonna’s music isn’t exactly in line with Church teaching, and Poland is a country that likes its Church.  If I were a Polish Catholic (and admittedly I’m 0 for 2 on that front) I would probably not care so much, and just not go to the concert if I disagreed with her message–and I don’t disagree with it, so that’s that.  Although I still probably wouldn’t go, because I’ve never liked her music, and her arms are too bionic for my taste these days.

I think it’s fine for Poles to register protest if they have one.  But frankly the only reason Madonna is playing a concert there (and basically the only reason she plays anywhere) is to make a profit.  If people are so against it, the best way to keep the concert from happening is to boycott buying tickets.  Overblown statements, such as this gem from Father Stanislaw Malkowski, just make the cause look silly:

This is an attack by the devil on our immaculate Catholic nation.

Her music not in line with your beliefs, Father Stosh?  Probably.  Devilish?  Meh.  Not likely.

Quick hit: Bob Dylan’s Xmas album

Bob Dylan (who was born Jewish but went through a Jesus phase back in the day and is now apparently going through a Chabad phase among others) has decided to record a Christmas album.  I know there’s a long tradition of Jewish folks writing/performing Christmas tunes, but this is kind of beyond Irving Berlin.

These days, Jews, for the most part, don’t have to apologize for being Jews the way they did in Berlin’s day.  We don’t have to assimilate as musicians by writing Christmas songs, or recording them, for that matter.  So why is Dylan doing this?  My money is on shock value, novelty, pure aesthetic enjoyment, or hopes of making lots of money.  We’ll see.

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