Torah music with an African touch

April 20, 2020 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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South African musician Jonathan Birin, one of the best known and admired names on the South African Jewish Music scene has created an innovative new album, ‘Simcha Africa’ (“Africa Joy”).

Jonathan Birin

On ‘Simcha Africa’, Birin has taken 10 well known Torah songs and re-recorded them in a vibrant range of South African musical styles like Mbaqanga and Kwela, as made famous by bands like Johnny Clegg’s Juluka and Savuka and Mango Groove, as well as the unique sound of Cape jazz, evoking musicians like David Kramer and Abdullah Ibrahim.

To achieve this, Birin has called on some top South African musicians including trumpeter Sydney Mavhundla (Mango Groove), drummer Rob Watson (Johnny Clegg band), bass guitarist Fana Zulu (Hugh Masekela band) and Phil Holdern on saxophone and pennywhistle, to help him create his own Jewish music version of Paul Simon’s classic album ‘Graceland’.

Songs on the album include ‘Boi’, ‘Lecha Dodi’, a reggae song called ‘Oseh Reggae’, ‘Hashem Melech’ and Kol Sasson’, among others.

Other well-known names who contributed to the album include Speedy Kovac (trombone), Aldert Du Toit (guitar), Avi Avidani (drums), EsramErasmus and Basi Mahlasela (percussion). Lead vocals and keyboards are by Jonathan Birin with backing vocals by RJ Benjamin, Joel Sacher, TK Goodman, Luyanda Makapela, Sabela Mathembu, Joe Cohen and Joel Scheftz.


‘Simcha Africa’ is available on CD from selected stores and for download from
CD Baby. Available for streaming on Spotify ,Google Play,YouTube, Deezer and Jmuse.

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