And when Daniel Brenner, vice president for education at the Birthright Israel
Foundation, told JDub heads Aaron Bisman and Jacob Harris that he was interested in doing a project with the nonprofit music label, the buzz of synergy filled the air.
The result is the most ambitious Chanukah program yet for the label, a set of concerts planned Dec. 8 around the world -- Los Angeles; New York; San Francisco; Seattle; Boston; Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia; Moscow; Mumbai; Tel Aviv; Rio de Janeiro; Toronto; Sydney, and possibly others -- as a way of reminding Jews of their global connection to one another and a good reason to party in earnest.
"We knew we wanted to do something bigger and better, and Birthright came at the
right time," said Harris, the label's vice president. "Birthright has all these
alumni on the ground, so we're expanding our reach. And we're bringing them a
quality program for their alumni."
Brenner admitted that his original concept was a bit grander, perhaps a little
too much so.
"I had the wildly ambitious idea of doing this all around the world on the same
night in 50 cities," he recalled with a laugh. "I had to be talked off that
cliff. I certainly wanted the global Jewish peoplehood theme, which is one of
the things Birthright people get to experience in this one night."
In a sense, he noted, that is the key to the whole Jewish experience, the
fellowship feeling that exists despite the Diaspora.
"We're blown to the different corners of the world, and here we are seeing one
another for the first time. I wanted to recreate that feeling on one night," he
explained. "The secular analogue was Dick Clark and the New Year's ball dropping
around the world. I wanted that global sensibility. This is something in which
we are all together on this special night."
While the Clark analogy still holds, the result is slightly more modest,
although the program has continued to expand during the planning stages.
For Birthright, JDub was the perfect partner.
"I felt that JDub had already cultivated such a great group of Israeli and
American artists, this would be one way to kick-start this thing," Brenner said.
"And they've gone beyond their own bands and found some exceptional talent for
Bisman noted: "Our Chanukah efforts have often been about launching new bands,
but this is obviously different. We wanted to hit significant audiences in a lot
of different places at once. We tried to design shows that make sense of each
"We knew, for instance, that for San Francisco, we wanted to get Apollo
Sunshine, because their indie-rock sensibility blends so well with the city's.
We want to make interesting shows. It was not easy, but it was fun," he added.
Ultimately, it always comes down to what is possible.
"It depends on who's available on the date and who's in town," Bisman said, "We
wanted to have more Israeli bands involved, but to fly in an Israeli band for
one show is just impossible."
The choice for Los Angeles is a particularly interesting one. The headliners are
JDub artists Balkan Beat Box, who have played the city several times before. And
the presence of one-half of the Israeli rap group, Soulico -- the other members
will be at the New York concert -- makes perfect sense, since both groups offer
spirited Israeli takes on hip-hop.
So why not have the Cambodian surf-rockers, Dengue Fever, play on the same bill?
It may seem counterintuitive, but both Harris and Bisman think the blend is
"The pairing speaks to the overall mission of JDub, promoting new Jewish music
and cross-cultural dialogue," Harris said. "[Dengue Fever's] manager is Jewish;
they are an indie-rock world music collective that is very interesting. They
reached out about playing with BBB and Golem [another JDub band] specifically."
And what they're doing with Cambodian music is related: "There's a rich ethnic
history and a sense of being a Diaspora music that doesn't fit within the
mainstream Western world"
"With Balkan, you need another band, a bunch of different voices," Bisman added.
In general, JDub has been working to expand its presence in Los Angeles. In the
past year, it has hired its first full-time staff person for Los Angeles, and,
as Harris noted, "We're trying to get local artists involved, doing parties like
we did when we got started in New York, and our bands are going to be doing a
lot more West Coast touring."
Although the label's Los Angeles profile was already simmering, JDub expects it
to blow up very big with this event.
"I think L.A. is going to be the biggest party of all the Chanukah shows," Harris predicted. "I expect there will be nonstop dancing on the eighth."
The Los Angeles show, featuring Balkan Beat Box, Dengue Fever, Soulico and the Festival of Rights, will take place on Dec. 8 at the Echoplex, 1154 Glendale
Blvd., Los Angeles. Doors will open at 8 p.m.; show will begin at 9 p.m. For
more information, phone (213) 413-8200 or visit http://www.goeight.com.
Balkan Beatbox live in France