By COLlive reporter
Rabbi Ruvi New is attending the International Kinus Hashluchim conference in New York not only the Director of Chabad of East Boca in Florida, but also as a recording artist.
On Thursday, the Australian-born Shliach has released his debut album, “Storm the World” featuring 12 original compositions of English lyrics with Chabad themes.
It began as a self-titled Musical Tribute to the Rebbe at Chabad centers throughout North America and Australia and he soon found himself inundated with requests for recordings of his songs.
The final product was released this week, produced by Bentzi Marcus of 8th Day with an impressive selection of musical styles ranging from heartfelt to contemporary, and timeless lyrics with universal appeal.
Rabbi New took time to speak with COLlive.com about the long writing process, growing up in a musical family and who is his musical inspiration:
1. Congrats on the debut album. What made you create it?
It didn’t really start out as an album project. It was not long after Gimmel Tammuz 5754 (1994) and I started writing lyrics as a form of catharsis.
2. And how did it develop over the years?
I was living in Miami at the time, across the street from singer and songwriter Chanaleh Felig who was starting to gain a reputation as a composer. I sent her some of the lyrics and she composed some beautiful melodies and that’s when it started taking the shape of a potential project.
I started writing more, with the benefit of guidance from Avraham Fried. I was introduced to the legendary composer Yossi Green, who really took to the project heart and soul and composed additional melodies.
3. How did you balance work on the album with your Shlichus?
With great difficulty. In fact, from a practical standpoint the project sort of hung out there for 20 years, primarily due to my Shliuchus responsibilities. On the other hand sharing the Rebbe‘s life and teachings is the core of our Shlichus and as I started to share the songs at various Chabad Houses and saw the power of music as a medium to connect people to the Rebbe, it was clear that this was a unique project whose time had come.
I had been in touch over the years with Bentzi Marcus regarding the possibility of doing the album together, and at a wedding in Los Angelkes a year and a half ago, Bentzi looked at me and said: “that’s it, let’s do it”! So, very much in “L’chatchila Ariber” mode, we decided to go for it. Funds were raised from family and friends, including the album dedication in my brother Chaim New‘s memory by Ronnie and Sarah Tatarka as well as many others who generously dedicated individual songs.
Bentzi was now the official producer and arranger of the album, and thus began a series of trips to Los Angeles to record. Bentzi literally invested his heart, soul and of course talent into the project and I hope the listener will appreciate that.
4. You feature a few accomplished musicians on the album. How did that happen?
I remained close with Yossi Green over the years and when he was asked to sing on the album, it was an instant yes. Having the likes of Benny Friedman,
Eli Marcus and Shmueli Marcus, who are all incredibly talented and are the new generation of Jewish voices on the album adds immeasurably to the quality and color of the album. As fellow Chassidim, they were happy to be a part of an album like this and I am very grateful to them all. And that’s one of the benefits of your producer being their brother and cousin…
5. Who is your musical inspiration?
I was fortunate to grow up in a home filled with music and song, starting with my mother who is a professional singer, my sister who taught me my first guitar chord, and my father who made sure my brothers and I would fill the Shabbos table with song. My uncle Reb Shmuel Betzalel Althaus was the most melodically gifted person I’ve known. Hearing him Daven for the Amud and sing at our Shabbos table, sort of wired melody into my soul. In the 70’s, I grew up with MBD and then in the 80’s with Avraham Fried, both of whom continue to be my most admired singers. Lyrically, Abie Rotenberg is a great talent and role model.
6. You have both spoken and sung at Chabad centers. How well do you think music is integrated by Chabad?
Nigun is a part of Chabad “culture” and expresses the deepest yearnings and aspirations of the soul. The extent to which it’s integrated at a particular Chabad House, has to do – probably more than anything else, with the style and personalities of the Shluchim. Through my travels thus far, I and the Shluchim that I have had the good fortune to visit have certainly seen unique impact music can have as a medium to connect people to the Rebbe.
7. What are your plans for the future – musically speaking?
This is not the launch of a musical career per se. With the release of the album, I hope Shluchim, Anash and anyone who knows of the Rebbe or would like to learn more about the Rebbe, will be inspired personally and look to share that inspiration with others.
The album can also be viewed as a musical learning tool and I strongly encourage people to read the intros to the songs that provide significant background information, as well as the lyrics themselves.
To date, I have typically done two tours a year, around Yud Shvat and Gimmel Tammuz. I look forward to doing that in increasing measure B’ezras Hashem.
Most of all, the Rebbe demanded action. I hope this album will give us all a surge of energy to Storm the World with goodness, kindness and holiness and bring the world closer to the day when we will all sing the song of Redemption.