Rockiah – A New Jewish Rock Group in Ramat Bet Shemesh

Those who attended the Shemeshfest Sukkot festival last week at the Bet Shemesh ampitheater were treated to a talented local rock group named “Rockiah” – the English name of the band is a play on their Hebrew name ???? (The Earth’s Firmament), and their American rock music roots.

Rockiah are Yehudah David (vocals, guitars), Zvi Newman (bass), and David Epstein (drums). Eli Krantman joined them on backing vocals.

Yehudah, Zvi, and David all live in Ramat Bet Shemesh and are olim from the USA.

I spoke with Zvi about the origins of Rockiah and what they hope to accomplish. Zvi told me they are all married with kids and come from different backgrounds, but their music speaks one language.

“Rockiah is about fusing the raw power of rock music with the spiritual inspiration of the Jewish mekorot (written sources). Yehudah is influenced by Van Halen and other power-pop artists, so his guitar playing is among the wildest on the scene. Dave’s drumming is influenced by punk, so we have a harder-driving sound in our shows – and his aggressive fills make you take notice. I’m influenced by John Entwistle of The Who, so the bass surprises the crowd with “stolen” solos that bubble up from underneath. And Yehudah’s singing overflows with pure heart and soul.”

“Rockiah’s music is written entirely by Yehudah, while the lyrics are straight out of the Psalms and various prayers. It’s meant to be lively and catchy for the audience, and it’s challenging for the musicians – the chords change every few seconds, so we have to be on our toes. Also, we love to improvise solos off the top of our heads – but all of this is meant to augment the uplifting, danceable essence of the songs. You can drive, work, jog, or clean the house to Rockiah, and come out of it very inspired.”

“At the end of the day, we try to give a fresh and energetic musical foundation to the experience of the holy as espoused by the lyrics. The Jewish content takes rock to a higher plane.”

Rockiah - Bonei Yerushalayim
Rockiah - Bonei Yerushalayim

Rockiah is now promoting its new CD and plan to join the performance circuit.   Their debut album, Bonei Yerushalayim, was released just a couple weeks ago and is available online at shemeshmusic.com and at GalPaz stores. You can hear sample tracks at shemeshmusic.com before purchase. You can also learn more about Rockiah on their Facebook and Myspace homepages.

We wish them much success!

Listen to Israel Radio on the Internet

I remember as a kid in Chicago how I used to walk around the house (and neighborhood) and try to find the best spot for reception on my shortwave radio. In those days, tuning in to Israel Radio was like catching an ephemeral glimpse of far away land.  At 4pm in the afternoon, I would tune in Reshet Bet and listen to the 6am Boker Tov announcement which included the incredible recital of the Shema and then the top of the morning news.

Nowadays, perhaps the mystery and anticipation are gone, but the fun is still there. Now you can listen to many thousands of radio stations around the world with a simple click of a link on your internet browser. In fact, now that I live in Israel, I listen to Chicago radio stations with the same nostalgia as I did as a kid tuning in from the other side of the world to hear the sounds of Israel.

Here are the most popular Israel Radio selections available for you to tune in live now. Simply click on a link, and your Windows Media Player will open and begin to play the selected channel.

1. Arutz Sheva Hebrew – Voice of the right of center in Israel
2. Galei Zahal – Army Radio, news, interviews, music
3. Galgalatz – Army Radio, mostly music
4. Kol Hamusica – Classical Music
5. Reshet Bet – Israel’s main news and talk channel
6. Reshet Dalet (Arabic) – news and talk in Arabic
7. Reshet Gimel – Israeli Music
8. 106FM Tel Aviv – Local Tel Aviv
9. 107.5FM Radio Haifa 107.5 – Local Haifa, Webcam of Studio
10. 88FM – Jazz Music, News

Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson Coming to Israel

Now that Sir Paul McCartney has come and gone, the road has been paved for other 66 year old rockers to step foot upon the Holy Lands of Tel Aviv.

Laurie Anderson (O Superman, Brave Heart) is an experimental musician who is also the wife of famous (Jewish) 60s and 70s rocker, Lou Reed. Laurie will be playing Nov 3-4 in Tel Aviv at the Heichal Tarbut and at the Moadon Redding in “Little” Tel Aviv.

Her husband, Lou Reed, is said to be accompanying her on this trip, and may join her onstage. Lou Reed is one of my favorite rockers from the late 60s and 70s. He was part of the legendary group Velvet Underground, which had some success with Sweet Jane and Rock and Roll. His solo career is best remembered for his signature hit Walk on the Wild Side, and the collaborative effort, Perfect Day. Lou was born to Jewish parents in 1942 in Brooklyn, NY.

One can only hope that these tickets will be a little easier to come by, and won’t break the bank as much as did Sir McCartney last month.

Reva L’Sheva

Reva L’sheva was (and is) one of the premier Jewish rock bands, fusing their influences from Reb Shlomo Carlebach and the Grateful Dead into a Jewish Soul Rock experience. Like the Diaspora Yeshiva Band before them, Reva L’Sheva is a pioneering Jewish music experience that shuns the traditional (and lame) vocals-centric, horn-accompanied Yeshiveshe music.

Like many bands, Reva L’sheva has had several lineups, although it always has centered around the band’s lead-vocals, guitarist, and front-man, Yehuda Katz.

Here’s me with the band in 2002 at Newark Airport, awaiting a El-Al flight to take us home in time for Sukkot. That’s Yehuda on my left.

Reva Lsheva & Me at Newark Airport 2002
Reva Lsheva & Me at Newark Airport 2002

Here’s a photo from their 2003 Sukkot Festival concert at the Bet Shemesh Ampitheater.

Reva Lsheva 2003 - Bet Shemesh Sukkot Festival
Reva Lsheva 2003 – Bet Shemesh Sukkot Festival