Yom Hadash is a young band from New Bedford, MA, making huge waves in the contemporary Jewish music scene.
Self-described as a "new day" in contemporary Jewish music, they combine rock and pop rhythms with uplifting, inspirational lyrics as well as traditional Jewish liturgy. Their recent album When We Were Young displays their influences ranging from SAFAM (a legendary Jewish
band) to the Beatles, with an energetic delivery aimed at uniting the various divisions within Judaism and celebrating a common heritage.
I spoke to songwriter, bassist, and vocalist Jonathan Nelson about the band and what they are trying to accomplishin within the realm of Jewish music.
Paula: You call yourselves a "New Day" in contemporary Jewish music --
what do you mean by that?
Jonathan: When we say the "new day" in contemporary Jewish music, we believe we
are bringing a fresh and exciting approach to Jewish music. By bridging
the traditional Jewish melodies of our childhood with some major musical
influences in the rock world (The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Paul
Simon, etc.), we are creating music that is both spiritually fulfilling
for us as Jews and exciting to perform and listen to.
Paula: How do traditional Jewish influences affect your music?
Jonathan: We are very influenced by the traditional melodies from the
synagogue. Those songs and prayers from the religious service, and the
memories we have of singing as kids in Hebrew school have contributed a
great deal to our songwriting and overall sound.
Paula: In your music, I can hear a lot of popular influences -- The Beatles, for one, and straightforward rock and pop. You do it very
well. My question is: why did you choose to channel your talents in
Jonathan: Adam, Dave and I have been playing in bands together since high
school doing everything ranging from Beatles and Led Zepelin covers to
original folk/rock. My brother Josh and I have been singing in coffee
houses for the last 8 years together. We decided that forming a Jewish
band would allow us to write and perform our original music while
strengthening our Jewish identities, and to get our foot in the door of
a musical genre which we believe is going to become more popular and
more accepted by mainstream audiences in the near future.
Paula: What are your goals, as a band, as artists?
Jonathan: Our goal as a band is to continue touring, distributing our debut
C.D. and exposing people across the U.S. and Canada to our music. As
artists, I know we all have our own goals in addition to being members
of Yom Hadash. One of those goals is to form a record label/production
company to help foster other Jewish bands and make this genre more
recognized in the popular and world markets.
Paula: I find it very interesting that you take Jewish liturgy, and put
it to a rock beat -- how do you decide which liturgy to take, and
what is the process like of trying to write music for it?
Jonathan: When we decide on what liturgy to use in our songs, it's a team
effort. One of the bandmembers will bring in the music for a song and
we'll discuss it (what direction we feel the tune should go in, etc.)
and then we will all toss some ideas around while looking through the
Siddur (prayer book). We will pick liturgy for a specific song together
depending on what message we want to get across or how we feel at that
time. It is as special and rewarding for us in writing the songs as it
is in performing them.
Graphic used with permission from Yom Hadash.