Written during Israel’s strict Covid lockdown, it has some of that “all alone yet together” feeling that so many families experienced
Among the 14 songs on ARI GOLDWAG’s latest album, IT’S GESHMAK TO BE A YID, a diverse variety of styles and genres becomes a musical journey. With fresh voices, superb string instrument arrangements by Leib Yaacov Rigler, and inspiring lyrics by new lyricists Esther Teichtal and Riva Borbely, the sounds and accompanying music videos are very much 2022, yet Ari reveals that you’re not mistaken if you think you can hear an echo of the 1990s within in as well. Parts of two songs were actually composed 20 years ago or more. Ari composed the core of the title track when he was still a yeshivah bochur, choosing the words from the Hadran said at a siyum, because “the source of the uplift and happiness in our lives is when we are centered in Torah,” he explains. The music video for “It’s Geshmak to be a Yid” features a good friend, Zezy Fuld, who is an enthusiastic daf yomi learner himself.
An old friend, Chesky Leibowitz, is the composer and vocalist of another song on the album, “Achas Sha’alti,” with a similar theme. Like almost every song on this album, it has a bridge of English lyrics. (“Time after time, day after day... there’s one place I want to return to...”). Ari realized that while the words of the pasuk “Achas sha’alti me’eis Hashem, osah avakesh, shivti beveis Hashem…” roll off our tongues with fluency, it’s that familiarity that can make it hard for the meaning to actually sink in. “I want the songs to speak to the audience, and for that to happen, we need the language to go direct,” he says.
Older Goldwag fans will be happy to see the return of Dror Kivodi, who wrote “Shallow Waters” on his debut album, Lishuascha Kivinu, as well as “Higher Ground” on Lo Nafsik Lirkod. On this newest album, his contribution of “Golden Apples” — a reference to “tapuchei zahav,” as Mishlei refers to words of wisdom — is a fun song with a swing rhythm. Ari, who wrote the arrangements, says he had the inspiration of MBD’s “Lonely People” playing in his head and borrowed a similar rhythm and style.
There’s a charming “Hamalach” composed by Yeshaya Levin, who also shines as a child soloist on the track. Then there’s “Thank You,” a song of appreciation to all Ari’s listeners and fans, especially those who have joined his musical journey by participating in crowdfunding the album. He initially wrote this song in recognition of one specific contributor to his campaign. Written during Israel’s strict Covid lockdown, it has some of that “all alone yet together” feeling that so many families experienced as they could not unite with relatives to celebrate simchahs and milestones.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 904)
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