Global Chanukah Groove


The buzzword in business circles is synergy. That’s what JDub Records was looking for when the not-for-profit label began to think about its third annual Chanukah event. And when Rabbi Daniel Brenner, the 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 them, the buzz of synergy filled the air.

The result is “Go Eight,” the most ambitious Chanukah program yet for the label. A set of concerts staged on Dec. 8 around the world — New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Boston, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Moscow, Mumbai, Tel Aviv, Rio de Janeiro, Toronto and Sydney — the program is 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,” says Harris, the label’s vice president. “Birthright has all these alumni on the ground, so we’re expanding our reach.”

Rabbi Brenner admits that his original concept was a bit grander.

“I had the wildly ambitious idea of doing this all around the world on the same night in 50 cities,” he recalls with a laugh. “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 notes, that is the key to the whole diaspora Jewish experience.

“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 explains. “The secular analogue was Dick Clark and the New Year’s Ball dropping around the world. I wanted that global sensibility.”

Aaron Bisman, the label’s CEO notes, “Our Chanukah efforts have often been about launching new bands, but this is obviously different. We tried to design shows that make sense of each city. We knew, that for San Francisco we wanted to get Apollo Sunshine because their indie-rock sensibility blends so well with the city’s.”

What the label has done to spread the Israeli presence is to take the rap group Soulico, one of its newest bands, and divide them in half, with two of the members performing here and the other two in Los Angeles.

But it’s the choice of non-label bands that suggests how clever Bisman and Harris are. Consider the L.A. concert, where Balkan Beat Box is backed by the Cambodian surf-rockers Dengue Fever. What’s the connection?

“The pairing speaks to the overall mission of JDub, promoting new Jewish music and cross-cultural dialogue,” Harris says.

The New York party (8 p.m. at Webster Hall, 125 E. 11th St. [212] 260-4700, will also have a live video feed from its Tel Aviv counterpart playing behind the musicians. You might think that would make Hadag Nachash feel right at home, but according to bandleader Sha’anan Streett, they already do.

“We’ve been in New York for Chanukah before,” he says. “What I noticed the first time that I thought was really cool was that almost every building — banks, stores, offices — had a menorah and a Christmas tree in their windows. We don’t see that in Israel.”

And talk about cross-cultural dialogue and synergy, Hadag Nachash will share the bill with the Budos Band, Staten Island-based funksters that mix Afrobeat, Latin and Ethiopian sounds in a steamy stew of dance music.