Craig Taubman is one of the most significant performers and interpreters of today’s Jewish sacred music. His contributions into the world’s and American culture are reasonably important. Taubman’s activity in both musical and general cultural spheres has a great significance through the prism of the important role ethnic music for today’s multicultural processes. Taubman was born in the second half of the XX century. Thus, the social, political, and cultural context was perfect for his realization as a great Jewish-American musician. With the help of the state of Israel, Taubman received a good music education in Los Angeles and Israel. This artist connects both the American and Jewish spirits in his masterworks. Taubman’s style is eclectic and it includes the Jewish, World, Folk, and Chuldren pop-music. As a good example, one can mention his “L’cha Dodi”, a spiritual song performed during the evening prayer before Shabbat. Taubman uses sax, piano, and the tof, and interprets the traditional song in a jazzy manner. In such a way, the song becomes vivacious and inspiring, demonstrating through itself the unity of the American popular music and Jewish sacred songs in Taubman’s art. This musician has also made some significant contributions to Los Angeles’ social and cultural life through his musical and social initiatives. For example, Craig Taubman wants to build the Pico Union, the multi-faith cultural art center where all people would be equal and happy. In such a way, Craig Taubman is an example of a musician who propagates the idea of equality and multicultural world not only directly, with the social acts, but also indirectly by using different styles in his music.
The globalization provides new challenges in all spheres of social life, including the cultural one. The appearance of new forms for some cultural phenomena that existed before is a reasonable sequence of cross-cultural interrelations. In the USA, such processes began in aggressive forms since the first contacts between the Native-Americans and the conquerors. Furthermore, today the dialogue between the cultures does not lead to some culture’s dominance and it stands on the principle of egalitarianism. As a good example of such a dialogue, one can name the Jewish-American sacred music. Craig Taubman, the head of Los Angeles Jewish musical band “Craig ‘N Co”, is one of the most famous Jewish-American musicians in the world. His specific style represents the main tendencies characteristic of the transformations of the Jewish sacred music within the context of the American popular music development. Taubman’s activity in both musical and general cultural spheres has a great significance through the prism of the important role of ethnic music for today’s multicultural processes.
Craig Taubman’s musical style is the result of the interrelation and synthesis of the Jewish sacred music and American popular music. Thus, to understand the context that presupposed the appearance of Taubman’s music, it is important to research the Jewish sacred songs in their connection with the American popular music and to understand in which way their synthesis could take place. Another important detail is to underline the general cultural context of the second half of the XX century in its relation to the issue.
The Jewish sacred music on the American ground has become a part of the American complicated culture since its first days. As Abraham Zebi Idelsohn (1992, 317) claims, “the Synagogue song, as all other spiritual values, was transplanted into these home of worship newly sprung up on American soil.” That means the specific American direction of the Jewish-American music transformation in contrast to the usually underlined conservative character of the Jewish orthodox religious culture.
In the second half of the XX century, the Jewish culture became widely recognized and accepted all over the world. The appearance of the independent Jewish state of Israel became one of the steps to the common acceptance of the Jewish culture’s specific prestige. In this way, the political aspect of the Jewish culture provoked the global Jewish revival. Certainly, the support of the state of Israel allowed many Jewish communities in diaspora to grow and even flourish.
The appearance of the American popular music became the second factor for the researched phenomenon’s establishment along with the mentioned Jewish revival. The American pop-music became an alternative to both classic and folk. The inclusive specifics of pop-music allowed it become a framework for many other musical traditions’ transformations. Thus, the Jewish spiritual music developed simultaneously with the American popular music. This fact allowed those musical traditions find some common points and become an integral musical phenomenon represented in today’s music by Craig Taubman with his band “Craig ‘N Co” as well as by other Jewish ethnic musicians.
Craig Taubman’s Biographical Details
Craig Taubman’s life perfectly reflects the main musical tendencies in America of the second half of the XX century. He was born in 1958 and he started to play guitar when he was fifteen (“About Craig” 2015). After that, Taubman realized that he possessed a musical talent, and started to develop it. He learned to play music in UCLA, Northridge University, the University of Judaism in Los Angeles, and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem (“About Craig” 2015). It is clear that without the state support of the Jewish culture, Taubman could not have acquired so many skills in the field of the Jewish sacred music. Especially, it concerns his studying in Jerusalem. Thus, the political context became a factor for the great musician’s development.
After receiving music education, Taubman became an important figure of the musical life in Los Angeles and the American context. Rabbi David Wolpe invited Taubman to perform the sacred music at the monthly Friday Night Live service in Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. Taubman provided the synthesis of the traditional Jewish and American popular music, and in this way attracted many people to the Synagogue. Thus, for example, he limited his orchestra by “a guitar and an upright bass” (Torok 2015) instead of the full list of traditional instruments used for such ceremonies.
The most important Jewish musicians who influenced Craig Taubman’s style were Shlomo Carlebach and Debbie Friedman (Musleah 2015). Rahel Musleah (2015) claims that they were “pioneers who reinvigorated and democratized Jewish music, using biblical and liturgical texts in singable settings.” As for Taubman’s contributions in this sphere, he successfully popularized the Jewish music and in such a way ensured its equality with other participants of the cross-cultural dialogue.
The Analysis of Craig Taubman’s Music
In the eclectic style of Craig Taubman’s music, one can find the combination of Jewish, World, Folk, and Chuldren pop-music. In fact, the synthesis of these genres under the general cover of the Jewish spiritual songs is the result of the tendencies already mentioned. At the same time, Taubman mostly uses a guitar (the instruments of his band’s members are optional and they depend on each particular piece of music performed), but it is not crucial.
As a good example of Taubman’s music, one can name the Jewish sacred song “L’Cha Dodi” (the evening Shabbat prayer) (2013). Taubman uses sax, piano and the tof, and in this way, he creates extremely vivacious and positive melody that fully corresponds to the sacred meaning of the song. This prayer is the invitation of the beloved one (in some respect it concerns God) to come to the praying community in the evening before Shabbat (“Lecha Dodi” 2015). Taubman uses non-traditional devices, especially for the orthodox Jews, and his music sounds more like Jazz than as a prayer. According to Rachel Musleah (2015), Taubman once said: “our challenge is to make the old new and the new holy.” In this respect, his music that revives the tradition and involves the new musical devices into the religious ceremony is the best way to face this challenge successfully.
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Taubman and Los Angeles
It is difficult to overestimate Craig Taubman’s contribution into the culture of Los Angeles. He had his musical education in Los Angeles, and accepted Rabbi David Wolpe’s offer to perform the spiritual music in the central Synagogue of the Southern California called Sinai Temple (“About Craig” 2015). Today, Taubman tries to create the Pico Union in Los Angeles – the multi-faith cultural art center that would realize the motto of every Jew as Taubman understands it: “love your neighbor as yourself” (“About Craig” 2015). In this way, Craig Taubman provides significant help to the city in general as well as he influences the whole world by his music and other directions of his artistic and social activity. Taubman also facilitates the creation of the multicultural world through the integration of different musical styles into one eclectic style that includes some parts from each epoch and national tradition. Thus, the musician helps to bring peace and compassion to the world through his art.
Craig Taubman is an important figure of the world Jewish sacred music, and his influence on the social and cultural life is quite significant. He appeared in the epoch when his activity could get both social and political support. Through his eclectic style, Taubman demonstrates the fullness of the world. Thus, despite any stereotypes, he uses the today’s musical devices for the Jewish prayers in his temple. In such a way, Taubman in some degree is a reformer and a very illustrious representative of both Jewish and American cultures that have been synthesized into one Taubman’s style.