Sunday, September 5, 2010


In 1983, when I started the Top 100, I had just moved from the small town I grew up in, to go to art school in the big city of ‘s-Hertogenbosch. With it came a shift in my musical interests as I clearly sought to distance myself from the narrow mindedness of my teenage years. My broadening of music interests coincided with a general shift towards an eclectic taste, towards globalization. (Twenty years into the post-modernist era—some of its characteristics caught on to a broader audience. Ironically many musicians then, especially those with a different cultural background than the dominant white European male, started to reference their specific cultural heritage.) I started to look into the vanguard of modern music. In the mid-eighties this consisted of the modern classical, especially minimalist practices, art-rock by bands like Sonic Youth, and Free Jazz. I didn’t get into the Free Jazz until much later but the former two dominated the first Top 100. Tehillim by minimalist Steve Reich was in 1983 my first number one. Tehillim for me represented my foray into eclectic taste. I did not consciously know back then that Tehillim was for Steve Reich his first exploration of his own Jewish heritage. Maybe I did know it, but I ignored it. Maybe, beside a break from the narrow minded small town teenager, it also hinted to my intention to break from the lingering bigotry (there was a latent antisemitism among some of my friends). There certainly have been many Jewish performers in the Top 100 since—Bob Dylan, to mention one, has been the most listed musician in the top 100’s history—but it took another 26 years before the issue of a Jewish music was tackled again. Last year the overtly Jewish Piram by John Zorn with his ensemble Masada, was ranked high in the Top 100. In my research for the commentaries for Zorn’s music I came across his belief that the popular music as we know it today has strong Jewish roots. When I read it I dismissed it immediately as Judo-centric nonsense because I strongly believed that the roots of our popular music came with the slaves brought into America from Africa. I dismissed the possibility of a Jewish colored history too easily I realize now. Many of the earliest 20th Century songwriters as well as performers had strong traditional Jewish roots. With reading Henry Sapoznik’s book Klezmer! Jewish Music from Old World to Our World I now embrace this possibility and get excited by it. And when the Klezmer tune Doina by Joseph Moskovitz claims its inclusion in the Top 100, I realize to my own consternation I never had Klezmer music in a Top 100. The process of breaking down the barriers in order to be able to appreciate all music is thirty years later still continuing and, I suspect, will continue for years to come. I get excited when a whole new vantage point makes itself available and sheds new light on issues I thought were set in stone.

Joseph Moskovitz
6" x 4.5"
ink on paper, 2010

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