By Rachel Wizenfeld
Eight is a magic number for all of us who just finished saluting Chanukah, and especially for Yehuda Solomon, who just released the 8th album for his band, Moshav, together with the band’s cofounder, Duvid Swirsky. An Israeli native who has dwelled in Pico-Robertson for the past 13 years, Solomon has been entertaining and inspiring Jewish audiences for years with his ethnic rock Jewish fusion.
Now he opens up with the Jewish Home about the meaning of his new album, New Sun Rising, his friendship with Matisyahu, and how he really feels about living in this neighborhood.
Tell us about your opening song, World on Fire:
It has a lot of meanings; sometimes I don’t like to tell people specifically what it’s about in order to leave room for imagination for the fan. The theme of it is that there’s a lot going on in this world, there are a lot of dangers and everything is moving really fast, and the song is trying to provide some hope that we can count on each other. That the only way out of any kind of mess is if we can all carry each other. That’s it in a nutshell.
Also, it was released in time for Chanukah, and the whole theme of light connects: providing light, bringing hope to the world through light. The world’s on fire, but we’re turning the concept of the world on fire from using that fire from a negative perspective into a positive light – a way to help each other.
Matisyahu (another LA-based Jewish musician who was also Grammy-nominated) is featured in the song. How did you come to work with him and what did he add to the track?
Matisyahu has been a really good friend of mine personally for at least seven years. I met him in San Francisco when we did a concert there together for Purim – we opened for him – and we met backstage and really connected. We’ve stayed in touch and he’s had me sing on some of his CDs. He loves that I’m Israeli – I bring a whole Middle Eastern flavor to the music and he loves that – so whenever we’re in the same city he’ll ask me to come on stage and do some wailing or chanting. He’s LA-based but he’s always on tour – he’s the hardest-working man I know.
I recorded this song with my band and sent it to him – I thought he’d relate to the style and beat. He thought it was great, a real hit, and wanted to add something to it himself. This song felt the most right to include him on.
How do you feel about the overall album? Any other themes you can point to?
This is our 8th official album, which is also cool because we released it for Chanukah, and it’s all about light. We worked hard on it. We took about two years in the making of it and we worked with really talented people.
The album is all about hope and light and pushing away darkness and spreading the light. There’s also another message: in order to make a change, you have to start where you are. Maybe that’s why we chose to use our neighborhood for the “World on Fire” music video [word to the wise: the video was not intended for a frum audience]. Maybe hiddenly that message is you got to start where you are, in your home or in your personal life. There’s another lyric in “Chicki Boom Boom” (the album’s second track) that to love someone you got to love yourself, and to help someone you gotta help yourself. That light has to start inside of you.
What’s your experience living here in Pico-Robertson?
I think this is one of the greatest Jewish communities in the world. I lead the services at the Happy Minyan on a weekly basis, unless I’m on tour, and I just love the synergy there. You can just count on people. People are real here. And in terms of being an Orthodox Jew there are amazing teachers, people that you can just count on. My experience has been unbelievable.
We came here in 2000. We grew up on a small American Moshav between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, actually it’s where the Maccabees lived, and we came here to live our dream of playing music and living off of our music. It’s hard to do that in Israel. Israel is our home and always will be, but right now we’re based here to live our dream of spreading our music.
My family always asks me, “How are you living here, away from Israel?” Then my youngest brother came here one year for the High Holidays and we led the services together at the Happy Minyan, and he said, “Now I get it.” The Jewish community here just feels really amazing.