Arts & Culture

DJ Eric Rosen on Dark, Sexy, and Jewish House Music

DJ Eric Rosen’s mixes are my kind of music: electronic, acid-jazzy, smooth, silky spins that make you sway. Upon listening to his mix LoveMusic, I was in love. I read an interview by Monica Rozenfeld in PresenTense Magazine and was … Read More

By / April 7, 2009

DJ Eric Rosen’s mixes are my kind of music: electronic, acid-jazzy, smooth, silky spins that make you sway. Upon listening to his mix LoveMusic, I was in love. I read an interview by Monica Rozenfeld in PresenTense Magazine and was filled with my own questions for Eric, which I then got a chance to ask him. Fuelled by his passion for Judaism and love of G-d, this DJ’s thoughts and music are as deep as the deep blue sea.

When you told me you were a DJ, I assumed your music would be "Jewish" — meaning you would be sampling from JDub artists, traditional melodies, or Hebrew pop but most of what I’ve heard does not include any of this Jewish music. I’m excited that you will be doing some of this in the future. But is there a reason why you didn’t go there to begin with?

I don’t rock bar mitzvahs. I’ve never dropped Hava Negilah at a wedding. There are no outright pieces of Tehillim and Shema in the songs I play. (Well, at least, not yet.) But my music reflects my spiritual journey and experiences as a practicing Jew who strives to always be learning, growing and developing.

From Miriam at the Red Sea to Matisyahu’s recording studio, the Jewish people have been making music. The Jewish people have been kicked out from country to country for as long as we have been the Jewish people. From this perspective of being a people on a journey, the closest thing to "true" Jewish music we probably have today is the proverbial jam band, working it out and breaking sweats with jams that go on and on and never seem to end. This is a lot like house music: one track mixes into another, into another, into another, into another… I heard one Rabbi say that DJing is probably the closest we have to emulating the transitory wandering Jewish experience around the world.

On the other hand, there is lot of sexy Jewish hip-hop being played at clubs today that create the same physical response on the dance floor as any other kind of hip hop, regardless of the fact that the lyrics are "Jewish" and the music is made by Jews. If you take the music behind some of Matisyahu’s tracks, minus the vocals, and drop the track at a hip-hop club, with sweaty people freaking each other to it, is his music still holy?

DJ Eric Rosen

Your music is certainly universally appealing. Is a non-Jew experiencing something Jewish listening to your music?

Judaism is about tikkun olam (healing the world), not about racking up the converts and making everyone Jewish. Non-Jews are made B’tzelem Elokim, in the image of G-d, just as much as Jews are, and they are on just as much of a divine trip as anybody else. To the extent that music makes people feel more connected, they become closer to G-d. People are hungry for spirituality and music is a universal language that everyone can understand. So in this way they are experiencing something not only Jewish, but also G-dly and unifying.

I hear. Considering the power of music to affect our state of mind, people can often achieve a meditative, trance-like state on the dance floor. Is this what you are referring to as the sense of "unity"?

Yes, prophets used music to raise themselves spiritually so that they could receive prophecy. They achieved a meditative trance-like state with the help of music, and this was their launching pad into a direct connection with G-d. Music touches us so deeply because it transcends culture, language, and the things that separate us as human beings: it helps us to become one. This is why nigguns, or lyric-less songs, are so powerful. There comes a point where the inner truth of something can’t be communicated through words and has to be experienced.

When we connect with music we are tapping into the highest of cosmic sources. That is why it is important to keep the instrument-of-the-self tuned and in-tune with one another. Although we no longer experience prophesy, we can still experience transcendence through music and gain insights into ourselves, each other, and life in general.

You’ve said that house music is the antithesis of "angry" Metal music but there are downbeat and "evil beats" that are part of electronic music. Do these play a role in your mixes?  In other words, is there room for "dark" if not angry?

My DJ mixes are the soundtrack to my life over the last twelve years, and reflect whatever I was going through at the time. I am mastering my latest mix right now that is called SoulSpeak that was one of the hardest musical projects I have ever done. It spans the course of relationships and reflects the spectrum of love from the intoxicating high of someone new to the deepest lows of heartache.

Darker music serves a purpose to relay expression of the darker times in life and communicate to people that life can sometimes be hard. Sometimes things aren’t always happy and cheery, but at the end of the day, the world was created out of love and positivity, and love always wins. So too, any dark music that I use is only for the sake of contrast between lighter tones and vibes. The energy of music is created by the person playing it, so if the DJ is angry, the music will be angry. Put a canvas in front of an angry person and you’ll get angry art. Of course there is room for ‘anger or dark’ in any kind of music. As long as people create music, it will be influenced by people and their souls.

Life is about ups and downs. We complain about the downs we experience from time to time, but you and I both know that if the vibe of life were totally flat-lined, we’d complain that it was boring and that nothing exciting every happened. Nothing in this world truly stands alone: as evil is here so that we know good; dark helps us recognize and experience the light, and this is just as true with music as anywhere else.

Related to dark, there is sexy and sensuous in your music too, do you believe this sensuality is also part of experiencing or connecting with G-d?

Sex is the holiest thing that we have on earth because it is the physical expression of the cosmic equation of Love…of two becoming one. Therefore, sensuality and sexuality in their highest forms are expressions of the desire to connect to G-d. The lush tones of jazz, the voluptuous basslines in funk music, the dubbed out breakbeats in hip-hop music, even the rhythmic nature of niggunim and people banging their hands on the Shabbos table has structural parallels to the physical expression of love. Instruments playing together we perceive as unified, synergized expressions fused into a single experience, making us feel connected to each other and to G-d.

I know you are in school for business and apparently very gifted at marketing. What role do you see your DJing taking in the future?  Where would you like it to go?

Music is the soundtrack to my life. As long as I’m alive I’ll be making music. Whether this translates into a family band after I get married or playing center stage at Jewlicious, music will always be a huge part of my life.

One thing that is on the horizon is mixing my music with my business adventures. I’m working on a CD for Threaded Heritage Clothing. I don’t have a working title for the mix yet, however I am going to select music from a variety of culturally and religiously distinct artists that are all aligned in the mission for world peace. Much like the Connected mix that I did in 2005, the Threaded Heritage mix will be a musical metaphor for what’s possible in the world when all of the elements of humanity work together rather than against each other, and appreciate and celebrate our similarities rather than fight about our differences.

 

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Between DJ gigs, Eric Rosen is the Director of Brand Marketing for the Jewlicious Festival and Threaded Heritage Clothing. He is also working on an MBA from the University of Southern California. Take a listen to twelve mixes Eric produced over the last eleven years. Enjoy, feel free to share with friends, and as always, listen with love ?