By COLlive reporter
Thank you very much for taking the time for this interview, it’s an honor for us.
I feel that in recent years the production level of Frum concerts has really been taken to new heights. What are your thoughts on that?
It’s interesting that you’re asking that, because I always feel that in Israel the production level for Jewish concerts is on a higher caliber and more professionally done than in the States. It’s possible that in the US there’s just more of an emphasis on events such as weddings than on concerts. That’s why for my concerts, it is important to us to bring the entire staff – the band of course, but also the light and sound technicians, everyone from the production team and directors and stage managers to the photographers. I’m excited about our upcoming tour to the US, because I feel there’s an opportunity here to do something as close as possible to what we are doing in Israel.
What can you tell us about the preparation for such an impressive tour?
We’ve been working on it for a while; it’s not so easy to get everyone a visa and organize that everyone should be able to travel and be away from their homes and families all at the same time. We’ve been working on it very hard and for a long time, because we want to do the maximum for our crowd.
What’s special about what we’re doing is much more than just the production, it’s about the music itself.
Often musical performances in the States are more as part of a fundraiser or gala event, with various presentations by MCs or other programming items, and there’s sometimes less space for the music itself. What’s unique about what we’re doing is more than just screens and lighting, but most importantly, it’s the level of the music, the energy and chemistry between everyone involved that creates this magic that everyone understands but no one can explain.
In all our concerts, my manager Or Davidson and our production team always go all out to create the best possible musical experience and to provide real value for the crowds who come and buy tickets.
A large part of our readership is Chabad, and of course, the singer we are most personally familiar with in Crown Heights is Avraham Fried. Can you speak a little about your connection with him?
Oh wow, you’re asking about my connection with Avremel… He’s a real role model for all of us younger singers; he’s a known personality who achieved a high level of status and success, yet still he is an “on the ground” person, always with a smile and a generous heart. I had the privilege of meeting and performing with him at the very beginning of my career, this is going back around 8 years. That was a very exciting experience for me. Avremel is someone with real Yiras Shamayim, he’s an incredible artist with an exceptional voice and songs. His unique greatness, and something every artist and singer aspires to, is to be relevant even 40 years into his career, and in my opinion, he is at an all-time high and he keeps surprising with bigger and better events and songs. We sing together at the “Tzama” event in Israel in Yud Tes Kislev, and every year I discover new layers of depth. Every Chanukah we do shows together for tens of thousands of people in the Yerushalayim Arena which is always a highlight for me. I love him, and I love working with him.
How are you finding your experiences with the crowds here in the US?
Lately I did a show at Kings Theater in Brooklyn with 3200 people, and we saw something amazing happen at the event: there were many people in the crowd who didn’t speak Hebrew, and yet they knew the songs and were singing along! There was a great atmosphere in the room, something we can’t wait to do again. That event really gave me insight into what was going on here in the States, and motivated us to keep up the efforts and do more. I want to show gratitude to my fans in Chutz La’aretz, as well as do my unique “Shlichus” to touch as many Jews as possible.
You have accomplished something quite amazing in Israel and around the world, sweeping away even non-religious crowds with religiously and spiritually themed songs. Do you think this has opened the door for other performers of a similar style to really break out?
Absolutely. There’s a lot of demand for it. In the end, am Yisroel wants substance, they want the stuff from Jewish sources. When I started I wasn’t sure exactly where it was all going, but I had a sense that something new was starting. I thought I might have some part in it, but I knew that this was something that was happening regardless. 20 years ago this entire conversation wouldn’t be happening, we wouldn’t be talking about non-religious crowds going for this kind of music. It was around a decade ago, when I was just starting, that I sensed there was this demand and yearning for something deeper, for substance. I jumped into the water, and we had tremendous Siyata Dishmaya.
More people have since followed this path.
Of course, there were also people who were doing this before me, people like Shuli Rand and Eveitar Banai. It’s a wonderful phenomenon, songs that speak plainly about Emunah and that can touch the hearts even of people who are otherwise far.
I think that because of the internet and the way music has gone digital and is consumed on Spotify, Apple music, and YouTube, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone turns up with some substantive Jewish music and manages to reach the entire world, including non Jews. That would be a big Kiddush Hashem. I think we are definitely moving in that direction.
People used to say there’s no chance non religious people will ever listen to this style of music and to Chassidic music.
Exactly! But now it has earned respect, it has gained strength and backbone. It’s also about the quality of the music, which has gotten more worked out and accurate.
The reason this music has such wide appeal is specifically because of the Jewish content and the messages about Emunah. There’s just something about it that connects people, and often as I mentioned American crowds who don’t even necessarily speak Hebrew or understand the songs! You could see it in the passion of the crowds wherever we go in the world, you can see it when we are here in America. Who would believe we would be in such a place, it wasn’t even slightly possible 20 years ago. This is the next level, to take this content of Emunah and bring it to the entire world.
Who is a fresh young talent out there who you think is starting to make waves in this space?
Well there’s Akivah, though he’s no longer anonymous. His songs are filled with Ahavah to Hashem. We actually learn together Bechavrusa once a week.
There’s a new guy called Elitzur, his music is in a slightly different genre. There’s a certain raw honesty to his music, it’s something unique. And there’s Chanan Ben Ari, Natan Goshen, there’s Zusha, the list goes on.
And if we’re talking about opening doors, we are excited to be hosting Jeryko to open for us at the May 26th “mega show”, a concert with over ten thousand people at the Arthur Ashe Stadium celebrating Yeshiva University’s annual Siyum. He’s another example of a great new talent who is building bridges with music that contains powerful spiritual messages.
Can you tell us a little about your visits to Crown Heights?
On one of my winter trips to New York, I joined my friend Davidi Crombie, who is working with us in the United States, on a trip to the Rebbe’s Ohel. Since then, every time I come to New York it’s important to me to pray there. Sometimes our visits are after a long and exhausting trip and performance, but together with some of my musicians and our agent Ely Katz, we always make a special effort to go to the Ohel and Daven. I’ve seen many times how I davened there for personal matters, and Hashem answered my prayers. I feel a very close connection with the Rebbe and with Chabad.
What other encounters have you had with Chabad?
On one of my trips to New York I went to 770 on Shabbos. It was amazing to experience Chabad’s beating heart, and to see there the intense passion unique to Chabad in their incredible work for Klal Yisroel. I see them everywhere, I saw them in Mexico working with the Israelis and tourists, I see them everywhere we go. Shabbos in 770 was a special experience, to see so many Chabad Chassidim and to take in the Holy atmosphere. We did the Shabbos meal together with Avremel and his manager Yuval Stupel at a beautiful local family, who hosted us with wonderful Hachnasas Orchim. It’s an experience we’ll never forget.
Something I really admire about the Chabadnikim is their clarity of purpose. It’s something we really all have to learn from them. They have a clear “Shlichus”, they know exactly where they are headed from the moment they wake up and throughout the day. We all need to learn from their clarity.
You have achieved a lot of fame and recognition in the last few years. How do you manage to stay “on the ground”?
I probably got it from my parents, they are very sincere and simple people. I also actively work to maintain a practical mindset, and to realize that the same things that happened to me could happen to someone else. I don’t have a privilege over anyone, and every Yid is special in the eyes of Hashem. If I would get sold on honor and praise, that wouldn’t be the recipe for a good life. I try to think how this is all a gift, to be grateful, to remember that I am no better than anyone else. I try to be honest with myself in this regard, and to focus on my Shlichus of using the talents that Hashem gave me in uniting all Jews with my music.