Thursday, February 24, 2005

"I don't like Yidden, and I don't want Moshiach."

Blog in Dm reprints an email from a reader:

It probably happened to every bandleader, but I confirmed this one with this musician's son. The father of the chosson goes over to the bandleader and says "Remember - I don't like Yidden, and I don't want Moshiach."

Funny, I thought I was the only one with that attitude.

When my almost-wife and I met with the bandleader before our wedding back in '94, we had firm ideas about what kind of music we wanted. (Actually, we had first looked for a klezmer band, but that didn't pan out.) Our "banned" list for the band specified Yidden, Moshiach, and Samchem. A bit unusual, but not hard to accommodate.

Actually, we said, we don't like anything by Avraham Fried or Mordechai Ben-David.

The bandleader, as the British say, was gobsmacked. "Then what will we play?" he asked, dumbfounded.

"Well, what did you play before ten years ago?" He was certainly old enough to remember.

We went over his playlist together and found no shortage of classic simcha tunes, heavy on the Carlebach and Hassidic Song Festivals, along with plenty of appropriate shirei moledet (Israeli folk songs).

What did we have against those songs? Aside from a general musical aversion to shiny shoe music, those three songs were individually offensive. Yidden is written to the tune of a German entry to the 1979 Eurovision Song Contest about Genghis Khan. Moshiach takes a sincere declaration of faith ("Ani Maamin...") and turns it into a superficial glitzy dance number. And Samchem... well, I just find it unbearably tuneless. It feels like a football chant. What more can I say?

Worse than the music, though, is the dancing. Each of the popular hassidic-disco songs has its own associated line dance. Either you know its complex steps or you don't. The men generally couldn't care less and just keep circling, but the women take this stuff seriously. The moment one of the modern hits starts up, the young trendies take over the women's side of the dance floor with the appropriate dance, crowding out anyone who doesn't know it - usually the older generation, family included.

Line dancing isn't terribly Jewish in the best of circumstances, and some of the specific dances which have taken hold are, shall we say, not entirely appropriate to an Orthodox affair. But the social aspect is the worst. A wedding is to be celebrated by the entire community, including the extended family. Not by the in crowd who are up on the latest simcha dances.

How did it all turn out? Nearly perfect. Everyone knew all the songs. Everyone knew all the dances, and joined in. It was a bit odd when we could tell from the intro music that the next number in the band's dance set was meant to be Samchem, but they just skipped it.

Late into the evening, after persistent badgering by certain members of the in crowd, the band did play one round of Yidden - and immediately the dance floor nearly cleared out as the trendies did their thing. We felt vindicated, the band returned to the playlist, and the dance floor filled up again.

The summary: Everyone had a good time. Guests said it was the best wedding they had been to in years. (I'm not making this up!) And they couldn't quite figure out why.

We knew.


Jack said...

Line dancing, oy.

MoChassid said...

When our son got married, we gave the band a long list of songs that they were forbidden from playing (virtually any shiny shoe song ever written) and a long list of songs that we wanted them to play (like you, lots of Carlebach and other Chassidic stuff). I think they thought we were nuts but they did what we asked.

Batya said...

Lines are the least of it; people are doing the same thing. It's the frenzied individual stuff that bothers me.

When we got married in 1970, even in NY, there weren't that many bands, so I was glad that my parents agreed to Mark III, the best NCSY band of the time. Considering that my parents aren't in "those circles," and I knew the band personally, I let them (and my in-laws) go without us to hear them. B"H they were impressed, also by the fact that they could play "ballroom" during "eating." So we had the most dancing wedding of the year!

Jack said...

I really wanted to get a band, but we ended up with a DJ. But it worked out quite well as he played only what we wanted.

Judging by how late people stayed it was a success.

Zman Biur said...

Don't know how it happened, but modern Orthodox women have been line dancing at simchas at least since the 1980s, and they haven't stopped yet. It's only taken hold even stronger on the men's side too.

Everyone knows Jews dance in circles!