Part 1: CDs and Downloads
So you’ve decided to explore Jewish music. Great! Now to go find some.
Here are my favorite sites to download Jewish songs and buy Jewish CDs. (If you’re the streaming type, there are Jewish Internet “radio” stations, and I will discuss those in Part 2.)
Of course, you can try Amazon, iTunes, and other mega-outlets that pretty much carry everything. But they are not going to have as wide and deep of a selection of Jewish music as sites that specialize in it.
Israel-music is what it says it is: the place to find Israeli music, from Aviv Geffen to Zehava Ben. They have old school, and they have new stuff. They have the brand-new Subliminal album, and they have Shoshana Damari’s greatest hits. They also have a ton of videos, in case you wanted to watch Toy Story in Hebrew.
Tzadik is a record label founded by jazz jegend John Zorn. His taste runs toward the eclectic and experimental. The Jewish acts he signs are among the most innovative in existence, and they often cross-pollenate with each others’ bands. The standards are high, but other than that all bets are off. Each approaches Jewish music from a different angle— jazz, rock, blues, even country— but the results are never less than mindblowing. If you are bored by Jewish music, come here and prepare to be amazed.
Soundswrite is the home for the contemporary American Jewish singer-songwriter in the Debbie Friedman style. The basic mode is acoustic folk-rock, but there are handmade Sephardic, Ladino, and Mizrachi offerings as well. The vibe is very summer-camp and family friendly; kid-focused material abounds. You can even search by Jewish holiday. This site is a must for Jewish educators and parents. (Also check out jewishmusicdownloads.com for more similar material)
Hebrewsongs is not a site for purchasing material, but for finding the words and melodies to Jewish songs. Some 5,000 are archived, and they include traditional folk favorites, children’s material, and all the great songs your Israeli dancing class could ever want.
CD Baby is not a specifically Jewish site, but it is a huge market of artist-produced CDs. I found a recording of the Psalms made on a lyre the guy made himself, based on the image on the back of an ancient coin. I found Jewish country music and Jewish reggae. Once you search a keyword, it can refine your search by genre or who else you like. If you like garage sales and thrift shops, come poke around and see what you discover.
Hatikvah Music is the site for those who think music went downhill sometime around Britney and the Backstreet Boys, or even before. Heck, Don McLean, who thought “the music died” when Buddy Holly did, would be at home here. This is the great old stuff, the Yiddish and klezmer, the cantorials and chalutz-era music. The stuff you find in Bubbie’s attic… or can’t find even there. The site frequently reissues old records on CD, and collects rare tracks in convenient and polished packages, like the new “Jewish Soul” album of classic pop artists who recorded Jewish songs. There are also plenty of Catskills-style comedy recordings, too.
Jewishmusic.com is the home of Tara Publications, and is a great source for Chasidic and yeshivish music. Lots of Yiddish and klezmer material, old-timey Israeli and Sephardic music, and liturgical standards. They also sell sheet music.
jewishjukebox.com/Music-all.asp is the online base of Sameach Music, a long-standing Jewish music producer. Aside from the expected categories mentioned above, they also sell Jewish rap and reggae. And they have the largest selection I have seen of lectures on Torah topics and learning.
Jewishstore.com and Alljudaica.com are online Judaica stores. So is The Source for Everything Jewish, jewishsource.com, which has a local outlet, Hamakor. While none of these specializes in Jewish music per se, the overall selection is very good at all of them, with a nice mix of classic and new, kitschy and classy. There are also a dozen CDs for sale at the Spertus Museum’s online gift store, Spertusshop. If you are shopping for gifts in general at these sites, you might consider giving CDs, and you can probably find some that your recipients would like without leaving the site.
www.harryc.com/jewish-music.htm is the Jewish music page of an obsessive website called Harry’s Black Hole. The Harry C in the URL is Australia’s late Harry Ciechanowski, who it seems just loved to collect links. His interests ranged from carnivorous plants to Star Trek, and they were wide enough to encompass Jewish music as well. I admit I did not visit each of the 70-some Jewish music sites he flagged, but can I just say: “Wow. That’s a lot.”
There is Jewish music for every taste, and now it is easier than ever to find and hear. If you still don’t see your musical preferences in any of the above sites, let me know in the comments below, and I will see what I can find for you.