“Matishayu and Maccabeats: A New Spin on Hanukkah Music!”

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My wife less than fondly remembers about singing in the Christmas concerts of the 1970s at her grammar school in a small town in rural southeastern Connecticut. “Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel” was a sparse offering and an accommodation to the few Jews in the audience. After looking at recent Hanukkah music offerings, we’ve certainly come a long way!

Before we move on, it is worth noting that “I Had a Little Dreidel” reached near universal status. So popular was “The Dreidel Song” that people thought it was an unattributed folk song. Its origin is with Eastern European Jewish entertainers who wrote many Hanukkah songs in Yiddish, which were then reissued in English to great success. The Yiddish and English versions were composed in 1930 by Mikhl Gelbart and Samuel Goldfarb (supervisor for the entertainment department at the New York Bureau of Education) and the lyrics for both are by Samuel S. Grossman. Grossman adapted the lyrics to English with very little change, except that the Yiddish version had the dreidel made out of lead (Yiddish blay, leading scholars to believe that the Yiddish lyrics preceded the English) while the English version describes it as being made out of clay.

So where are we today?

Recently released, “Happy Hanukkah,” is a new reggae song by Matishayu, the proceeds of which through December 16th (the end of Hanukkah) will benefit the victims of Hurricane Sandy. See happyhanukkah.matishayuworld.com

The Klezmatics, a popular Grammy Award winning Klezmer band, performed Hanukkah songs that showcased a selection from the many lyrics written from 1949 through the early 1950s by Woody Guthrie, the iconic American folk troubadour and songwriter. The result was the 2006 album, “Woody Guthrie’s Happy Joyous Hanuka,” comprising many different songs, including “Happy, Joyous Hanuka” and “Hanuka Tree.” This album gets a gold star! It is phenomenal!!! See http://www.klezmatics.com.

Let’s not forget YouTube sensation “Candlelight” featuring the Maccabeats, an all-male A Cappella singing group from Yeshiva University in New York City. In “Candlelight,” the Maccabeats parody of the music of the hip-hop song “Dynamite” by Taio Cruz, the lyrics reference latkes, candles and a telling of the Hanukkah story. Completely captivating, I have watched clusters of young kids of all ethnicities singing this song on the streets of New York City. see http://www.maccabeats.com

So Get Rockin’ With Hanukkah!