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Filipino Choir Boys

For some reason this year has produced a bumper crop of Hanukkah-themed CDs. Why? And are any of them any good? We got young adult novelist Matthue Roth to investigate. Check back all week for more reviews. Hooked on Chanukah: … Read More

By / December 10, 2007

For some reason this year has produced a bumper crop of Hanukkah-themed CDs. Why? And are any of them any good? We got young adult novelist Matthue Roth to investigate. Check back all week for more reviews.

My menorah can beat up your menorah.Hooked on Chanukah: My menorah is more fabulous than your menorah.Under consideration today: Various artists, Hooked on Chanukah

Last night we had a Chanukah party. We didn’t plan on it being this way, but it turned into a marathon—from the family-first moments where my sister and cousin were there and we were setting up, to the first shift (parents with little kids), the second (the party kids—you know who you are), all the way till the end of the night, when it was just a few of us sitting around, drinking up the last of the mulled wine (Manischewitz, of course). My wife Itta put on the new CD we’d just gotten—Hooked on Chanukah, Sameach Music’s holiday comp and possibly the most true-to-Scriptures compilation, featuring songs like “Al Hanisim” and “Lichtalach” alongside standards like “Macabee” and, of course, the ubiquitous “Maoz Tzur.” At first, it was oddly appropriate for the end of the night mood—jazzed, sort of bouncy, but mellow, just the right combination of laid-back harmonies, acoustic guitars and keyboards that you’d expect a CD with a neon yellow menorah on it to offer. The real surprise came when Daniel, our downstairs neighbor—who, by the way, is half Filipino and half Chinese—began to belt out the generations-old Yiddish-tinged melodies. In Yiddish. Daniel, it turns out, speaks more Yiddish than anyone else here (including, I would like to point out reproachfully, my Yiddish-educated wife, whose parents spoke in Yiddish when they didn’t want her to understand what they were saying. Yeah, way to pass on our people’s traditions). He started studying the language with a friend, half as a dare, half a way to fill up free time constructively. As a matter of fact, our first conversation was predicated on us comparing our apartments’ gas hookups and me seeing the Yiddish word “pripetchik” written out on it…. So, that was the end of our party. I’m cleaning up dishes, my wife’s moving chairs back into place, and Daniel is belting out “Lichtalach” in a voice usually reserved for particularly intense rounds of Rock Band. The salsa horns of “Yevanim” simmer in the background, fading into the Billy Joel-like piano of “There’s a Light”—except, not the version from Rocky Horror. Yes, as someone raised on secular music, I still find it slightly creepy that prepubescent boys are used to hit the high notes in songs—the “women’s parts,” if you will. But the music and the general air of party-ness on this compilation are good-natured and convivial. It almost makes you want to get hooked on Chanukah. Almost.

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