Judaism and Rastafarianism – an unlikely pair one might think – yet, musically and historically, they are a complementary one made for a holy musical matrimony. Reggae bassist, David Gould (formerly of John Brown’s Body), with his Ithaca-based band The Temple Rockers, along the likes of Jamaican singers Linval Thompson, Wayne Jarrett and Ansel Meditation, explore these similarities with his highly anticipated album Festival of Lights, released this week before the holiday season. The album is a compilation of traditional Hebrew songs and reminiscent sounds of ‘70s Reggae perfect for this year’s Hanukkah (or Seder) Dinner.
… a compilation of traditional Hebrew songs and reminiscent sounds of ‘70s Reggae …
The similarities between the Jews and the Rastas are palpable, as both site the Old Testaments, share symbols like the Star of David and customs like growing dreads or payots, as well as both musically use minor modes. Listening to the album, it is easy to forget that this is a reggae version of Hanukkah songs. When approaching this project, Gould wanted to use traditional Jewish songs that would work well with a reggae beat. “I only came up with eight familiar songs that I knew from my youth that I felt could get across as reggae. I needed to dig deep to find four other Hanukkah songs that resonated with me to transform into reggae riddim.”
The album starts off with a reggae drumming song (“The Blessing”), which sets the tone for the rest of the interlocking album – each song an example of a beautiful cultural exchange. The combination of classic reggae rhyme and Jewish melody (which Gould dubs “Temple Rock music”), is best exemplified through their single “Almight Lights”, featuring Wayne Jarrett. Elements of classic 70’s reggae can be heard with Jarrett’s scat vocalization while the lyrics pay homage to the most holy night in Judaism: “Banish Darkness, Banish night / Hanukkah is the feast of light / Almighty light.”
… each song an example of a beautiful cultural exchange.
For Gould, it was important for the reggae artists to not only understand Hebrew music, but to also sing it as well. This is best exemplified in “Spin Dem” (featuring Linval Thompson) and “Do you Know Why?” (featuring Ansel Meditation). “Rock Of Ages” is The Temple Rockers’ rasta interpretation of a traditional Hebrew melody, “Ma’oz Tzur”. This song immediately dances in your ear, with catchy fanfare horn remembrance to those you would hear in at any high Jewish holiday, while sprinkling classic reggae elements of wailing electric guitar and organ.
The Temple Rockers produced a record that exemplifies musical ability enough to take two cultures that, on the surface, seem at odds, yet could not be any more similar and connected than ever. Festival of Lights is now available off Fresh Roots Records on vinyl, CD or digital download. To get your copy, visit the links below or visit www.thetemplerockers.com.
Purchase or stream Festival of Lights album:
- The Blessing
- Days Long Ago (feat. Linval Thompson)
- Rock Of Ages (feat. Wayne Jarrett)
- Do You Know Why? (feat. Ansel Meditations)
- Pour Some Oil
- Spin Dem (feat. Linval Thompson)
- Festival Song
- Who Can Retell? (feat. Ansel Meditations)
- Almighty Light (feat. Wayne Jarrett)
- About the Miracles
- A Lickle Jug
- I Have a Candle
Disclaimer: All views presented in this album review are those of the reviewer and not necessarily those of Top Shelf Music.