Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter



Finding Harmony

Shlomi Gil

Yonatan and Aharon Razel, brothers with distinctive styles, have captured the spotlight of the Jewish music scene, creating songs that speak to religious and secular alike

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

 Mishpacha image

BROTHER TO BROTHER “Since we’re so aware of each other’s tastes and tendencies, we’re able to harmonize really well,” says Yonatan. “I can sort of predict which chords Aharon will pick, and he’ll guess how I’m going to improvise on a theme. In a profound way, we each complete the other” (Photos: Eli Cobin)

Y onatan and Aharon Razel, two brothers with their own distinctive styles, have captured the spotlight on the Jewish music scene. Yonatan is the contemplative soul-singer whose music is shaped by classical motifs, while Aharon fuses popular rhythms and his driving guitar with spiritual messages. As they’ve found their individual places in the modern musical landscape — creating songs that speak to religious and secular alike — they’ve also learned to harmonize the many mutual threads in the spiritual messages they weave with their music.

In their own words, they trace the journey of their private symphony…

On How It All Began

Yonatan: We were born in New Jersey, in a highly musical home. Our grandfather, Mark Rosler, was a major influence on us. A Holocaust survivor and deep believer, he was also a famous cellist, and eventually taught me to play the cello too. Aharon: Our parents believed in exposing us to the world of music and developing our talents and self-expression, so we were both writing music from a very young age. Later, our family made aliyah and settled in Nachlaot, which is a very musical neighborhood in Jerusalem, so we continued to write and play and sing.

On the Path to Yeshivah

Yonatan: I’m a bit older than Aharon, so it was a bit quicker for me to find a calling in music. I have classical training in piano, cello, composition, and conducting, and was already conducting professionally in high school — which I then continued in the IDF orchestra and the Israel Chamber Orchestra. Aharon didn’t take on music full time until he was finished school.

“Every Purim I compose a new tune and give it to my neighbors,” Aharon says. “I call it ‘shalach music.’ I select some text connected to the Yom Tov, and compose a tune to match. Then I record the new song and give out the discs to my neighbors together with my shalach manos”

Aharon: We took different paths to Torah too. My music career was very promising, but it didn’t satisfy my need for people and spirituality. I tried studying psychology — both my parents have advanced degrees in educational psychology — but eventually I realized that yeshivah was my real calling. I spent close to a decade in the Mir Yeshivah, and still spend most of my day learning.

I did things a bit differently from Yonatan. He took a long route to the Mir. But me — once I knew I was looking for a pure Torah source, I went straight to Tzfas, to a yeshivah for baalei teshuvah. That’s where I found myself.
So we took different paths, but we reached the same conclusion.

On the Big Break

Yonatan: I may be older, but Aharon broke in first. His debut album Many Waters immediately became a trendsetter.

Aharon: My album was this new genre of popular music with a chassidic undertone. It was fresh, it was different, and it took off in a very sudden and promising way. What’s funny is that even though the songs all had strong religious messages — think “Zman Hage’ulah,” “Hasneh Bo’er,” and “Eich Eleh el Avi” — they became very popular among the secular Israeli public long before they reached the religious community.

Yonatan: It took me a longer time to find my footing. I was known primarily as Aharon’s brother for many years, as one recording company after another rejected my music. They didn’t believe that anybody would be interested in the types of songs I was creating — not quite religious, not quite secular. Finally I signed a contract with the company Hatav Hashmini (Eighth Note), whose managers believed in me and in my music. And I’ve found an audience — mainly among the Torah-observant, but there are also Yonatan Razel fans who aren’t religious at all. They just want to hear music that reflects Jewish values; it speaks to them. (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 655)

Related Stories

Lifelines: Living with Dignity

C. Saphir

The news wasn’t a shock. Our 84-year-old mother had been fighting cancer for years, and the cancer h...

Cut ’n Paste: That Is a Seder

As told to Rayzel Reich by Mr. Ephraim Reich

“What did Zeide Chazkele have to do with Pesach? Sure, there are many great stories about him that m...

Full Support

Riki Goldstein

“Where’s the family loyalty, where’s their upbringing? Support them five years in Israel, bring them...

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.
CAPTCHA
Message


MM217
 
What’s in a Name?
Shoshana Friedman “What does Writer X have to say this week?”
Atonement — Fake and Real
Yonoson Rosenblum White confessionals and faux rituals
Four Walls Coming Full Circle
Eytan Kobre All the while, there’s been a relationship in the offing...
And Yet We Smile
Yisroel Besser We are the nation that toils to be happy at all costs
Out of This World
Rabbi Henoch Plotnick Dirshu Hashem b’himatzo — we are in Hashem’s company now...
Steven and Jonathan Litton
Rachel Bachrach The co-owners of Litton Sukkah, based in Lawrence, NY
Tali Messing
Moe Mernick Tali Messing, engineering manager at Facebook Tel Aviv
Sick Note
Jacob L. Freedman “Of course, Dr. Freedman. Machul, machul, machul”
Avoiding Health Columns Can Be Good for You
Rabbi Emanuel Feldman Only one reliable guide for good health: our Torah
Endnote: Side Notes
Riki Goldstein Most Jewish music industry entertainers have side profes...
Me, Myself, and Why
Faigy Peritzman Where there’s no heart and no love, there’s no point
Can’t Do It Without You
Sarah Chana Radcliffe When you step up to the plate, you build your home team
Eternal Joy
Mrs. Elana Moskowitz The joy of Succos is the fruit of spiritual victory
The Appraiser: Part III
D. Himy, M.S. CCC-SLP and Zivia Reischer Make sure your child knows his strengths
Hidden Special Needs
Rena Shechter You won’t see his special needs, but don’t deny them
Dear Wealthy Friend
Anonymous There’s no need for guilt. I am truly happy for you