I know that we are all feeling the exodus, as our sandals are picking up the desert sand, as we wade through the wadis, trudging along for a brighter side of freedom. Just like the slaves in the American south, the Jews who left made sure to raise their heads up in prayer, awe, and of course through song!!! The Holy Day of Passover is quite a feat of faith, lasting a bit over a week (In Israel we only do one Seder, but outside of Israel we still stick to the “custom” of keeping two days of Passover), as our digestive tracts call out in agony….”No more Matzah please.” I love the time of year as well as the food is amazing, yet they don’t call Matzah the bread of affliction for nothing.
Passover is one of the Jewish Holy Days, including Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur, where most Jews of all stripes celebrate. American Jews who assimilate still celebrate in their own way the Passover exodus, and the story which unfolds. However, the story is great but the night is also filled with song. Some of my fondest memories hark back to those days at my uncle and aunt’s place in the West Rock neighborhood of New Haven, Connecticut. New Haven was quite the slice of Americana life, as we all congregated around this holy table along with our many friends and relatives. My uncle Josh, a talented and amazing Chazzan/Cantor, was the highlight as we all corralled around him singing the choruses, beckoning for him to sing lead. He would belt out these majestical pitches invoking all the souls and Jewish spirits of the past, present and future. But, besides his singing I decided to take an analytical look at the use of Passover in popular song. Here’s what I can dish to you, as long as its Kasher L’Pesach (Kosher for Passover).
We can admire a lovely Jamaican Reggae sound from the great group the Congos. In their song “Feast of The Passover” they hark to the heights of Mount Sinai and the collective meeting “up on the mountain.”
The song was originally recorded for their 1977 album, Blood & Fire, and is given an extra credit twist of a spiritual dimension in that it was produced by the ingenious Shaman of Reggae Music, Lee “Scratch” Perry. The song ignites the combination of the exodus with the feast, which is the center piece of the Holy Day among other great signs coming from the mountain top. Pesach with a Rastafari slant, seeing us blaze our trails through pure smoke, climbing higher on the spiritual ladder.
Taking a completely different turn on the concept of the Holy Day comes from one of the darkest bands. Joy Division was named after the comfort women who cavorted with the Nazi soldiers, stationed far away from their fraulines. Undoubtably they would take a contorted approach to Passover, on their song “Passover.”
It is very tough in fully explaining the lyrics, or most lyrics for that matter, of the highly talented yet very fragile lead singer, Ian Curtis. Curtis, who hung himself not long after the release of their first album, was a tortured soul, yet his words could spurn such thought and unease in our lives. The closing line to the song invoke a sense of hopelessness, yet it also longs for a change. He sings in the last part that,
“This is the crisis I knew had to come,
Destroying the balance I’d kept,
Turning around to the next set of lives,
Wondering what will come next.”
To me this means that the Jews, and the Egyptians, who felt safe in the new culture were too comfortable. Hence, the new souls (Jews) will usher themselves for a new future.
Now I want to name drop some MC’s in the rap game who drop some lines which make me feel Passover-Fresh Yo!!! Let’s check this dude Fonz-E Mak and his Passover dropping in his song “Bad Day.”
He kicks it in right quick, spitting the bars in the very start of the track. He belts it out at the top of the track, yelling out…
“Ding,Ding the bell rings so the class over,
Been getting love for the past eight days,
By some chicks who were Jews so imma assume it was Passover.”
Wether it’s spiritual, or in the case far from it, it’s still interesting how African-Americans are still very knowledgeable of Jewish Holy Days.
Another example, and more to the root of the PAssover story, is a song by Dre Murray titled “Maybe One Day.”
The song’s rap, along with the silky smooth chorus sung by Christon Gray, tries to passionately call for an optimistic outlook on life. What if one day we could all get along? Sounds nice, but my main concern is with the Passover imagery he uses in the song. In the first verse he speak of this by rapping that,
“I Feel it coming in the air,
Everybody stay down,
Maybe it’ll Passover us and finally skip town,
Blood on the door.”
This is a direct reference to the Angel of Death passing over the Jews’ houses, slaying every first born of Egypt, during the darkness of the tenth and last plague to hit Egypt like a ton. It should be noted that his last line speaking of “Blood on the door” means that he in fact had done what the Jews had, therefore he is safe from the fiery sword of death. Striking, and passionate, the song is interesting in its own write.
Another passing reference is used by the legendary dup of Pete Rock & CL smooth, on their song titled “All Souled Out,” from the same named album.
Although this is more of a throw away line, CL still makes sure to shout out the festivities, although don’t get the bread part twisted. He raps that we should “Share the bread and wine like the Passover.” Although we can’t eat bread, we make sure to keep it gully with plenty of wine and plenty of Matzah. Shout out to Soul Brother #1!!!
There are other fun ditties of Passover joy, such as from the Texas-based indie rock group The Black Angels. Their debut album titled Passover has quite an interesting version of the song “Passover.”
Anyway, this is just a snippet for today as I rest my soul, and my vocal chords, and celebrate the Passover Sabbath.
Peace and happy Holy Days,
#Passover #TheCongos #JoyDivision #Fonz-EMak #DreMurray #PeteRock&CLSmooth #TheBlackAngels