Idol Chatter


Even if Christmas doesn’t represent an annual temptation for Jews, there’s one area where Hanukkah can’t hold a candle (sorry) to Christmas: Christmas music trumps “I Have a Little Dreidel” every time. Most Hanukkah songs sound like they were created by your grandmother on Long Island. (Sing the songs with a New York accent, and you’ll see what I mean.) On the other hand, “Silent Night”? Gorgeous.And then came Adam Sandler. He put on his yarmulke and celebrated Hanukkah with the owner of the Seattle Supersonica and hoped he’d get a harmonica as he drank his gin-and-tonica, and…well you know. Score one for Jewish holiday songs, but it was more about Sandler’s comedic approach to Hanukkah than it was about creating evocative music.This year, two Hanukkah songfests have emerged– in two different media–to musically reinvigorate the festival of lights. (And, full disclosure, three of the featured artists are friends of mine.)PBS’s special “Lights: Celebrate Hanukkah in Song” features Hanukkah songs from Mare Winningham, Michelle Citrin, the Klezmatics, Jewish rocker Josh Nelson (not to be confused with “kosher gospel artist” Joshua Nelson, who is also featured in the special) and cantor Alberto Mizrahi, among others. The concert was recorded live in Los Angeles, and was created by LA-based Jewish musician Craig Taubman. “Lights” has already begun airing on PBS (check here for airdates in your area).Dropping “Songs in the Key of Hanukkah” in time for holiday revelry is Erran Baron Cohen, a talent independent of his famous brother Sacha, who borrows from traditional melodies and enriching them by adding the more contemporary sounds of hip-hop (courtesy of Hasidic rapper Y-Love), tango, pop, electronica, reggae and klezmer. Two standouts: “Ocho Candelikas,” a traditional Ladino (Spanish and Yiddish) song, is given a Shakira-esque attitude with vocals by Yasmin Levy, and the distinctive piano-and-multi-ethnic tones of Idan Raichel massage “Relics of Love and Light” in a song that wouldn’t be out of place on contemporary pop stations.Check out “Dreidel” (with featured artists Jules Brookes and Y-Love) here.

These musical endeavors ain’t “Silent Night,” but they hopefully indicate that when it comes to holiday singing, Jews won’t be stuck with the same old “I Have a Little Dreidel” forever.Sacha Baron Cohen at

Join the Discussion
comments powered by Disqus