Introducing a project seven years, and more than seven decades, in the making

I want to share something new with you today, but to understand where it comes from, you have to understand where I come from.

My grandfather Rabbi Israel David Rosenberg was a Jewish composer. It was said that he could remember any melody after hearing it just once. This talent was particularly useful when he was escaping the Holocaust, as he and his fellow yeshiva students did not exactly have an abundance of musical instruments and songbooks available while fleeing Hitler’s advance. Over his life, he wrote many songs that are still sung today. His “Shir ha-Geulah,” composed in Shanghai during the Holocaust and set to words of redemption and encouragement, has been re-recorded by everyone from Hasidic pop stars to noted pianists.

I do not have my grandfather’s talent. I sing, but do not even play an instrument, and have only a rudimentary understanding of musical notation. Nonetheless, for many years, I have composed melodies in my head, often set to traditional Jewish lyrics, like songs sung on the Sabbath. Seven years ago, I had the crazy idea to try and record some of them. It did not go very well. I had never been in a studio, and it showed. But what I lack in experience, I make up for in stubbornness. I kept re-recording the compositions until I finally figured out what I was doing, and then found a team of much more talented collaborators—producer Charles Newman and singers Abbaleh Savitt and Arun Viswanath—to cover for me when I did not.

Today, after seven years, I’m almost ready to release the result: an album of original melodies for some of Judaism’s most beloved Shabbat standards. The project carries on my family’s musical tradition, but it is also very different from the sorts of Hasidic tunes my grandfather composed. It takes traditional texts and gives them a more modern feel, with folk, Irish, EDM, and even Mormon influences. For this reason, you certainly don’t have to be Jewish to appreciate the music, and that’s particularly the case when it comes to the single I have to share with you today, whose chorus is, well, universal.

The song is called “D’ror Yikra,” which means “proclaim freedom,” and its lyrics were written over a thousand years ago by the Spanish Jewish poet Dunash ben Labrat. I think he has a bright future in this business. We’ve released a lovely animated video to go with the song, and you can get the track itself wherever you get your music, as well as follow me on YouTube and Spotify to keep up with future releases. (You’ll find more songs in both places, and if you like them, please share them!) I hope the music brings you as much joy as it brought me making it.

Yair