Talk of the Shtetl



“No matter where I go, I’m going toward Jerusalem.”

The first song starts with a sultry tribal beat and acoustic guitar, then builds into a chorus of voices singing these words in Hebrew. To Zion, the new 5-song album from Darshan, is a small wonder, a collaboration between folksinger Shir Yaakov, poet/rapper Eprhyme, and a host of musicians that include a hip-hop producer, a saxophonist, a violinist, and the aforementioned choir.

The combination of spoken vocals and sung choruses is reminiscent of hip-hop, but in Darshan’s hands, it sounds just as much like a variety show. “Chad Gadya” begins with the traditional Passover folksong, but quickly morphs into a modern story of a troubled youth. “Ghetto Nightingale,” featuring vocals by Chana Leila, tells the tale of an Eastern European Jewish girl in the 1940s (“She was the talk of the shtetl/Headed for the next level”), then turns the focus to contemporary Jews who can’t stop talking about the Holocaust, but don’t pay attention to the richness of Jewish life before the Holocaust (“Most people swear by ‘Never Again’/ But sometimes you come across ‘remember when'”).

Darshan’s first mini-album, Lishmah from 2010, was a fun experiment in singing and rapping. On To Zion, they’re no longer experimenting–now, they’re pros.

Congratulations to Rebecca from Portland, who won a copy of Linda Pastan’s Traveling Light! Keep reading Jewniverse for more cool giveaways.

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