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Endnote: Pinny Ostreicher’s Afikomen Present

Riki Goldstein

Popular musician, composer, and arranger Pinny Ostreicher, leader of the Sympinny Orchestra, looks back to the very first song he ever played

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

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"I f you don’t count drumming on the pots and pans, I received my first instrument, a melodica, when I was around five years old,” he remembers. “I had the afikomen and my parents offered me a trip to the top of the Twin Towers. I said ‘No, I want an instrument to play.’ And so I received a melodica (a portable keyboard played by blowing air through a flexible pipe that’s attached to the side of the instrument). My great uncle, Reb Dovid Felberbaum z”l of New Square, taught me how to play the classic song ‘Ki Lashem Hamelucha Umosheil Bagoyim’ and that was the first tune I learned. Next, someone showed me how to play ‘Moshe Emes.’ I picked up more songs by ear. I had no teacher, no lessons, but I just kept practicing. By the time I was 11 I had taught myself a little about harmony and chords and was proficient enough to play at a family sheva brachos, and at 14 I played for an entire camp kumzitz.”

When Pinny eventually went for his first lessons from a master pianist in Israel, the teacher said “About playing music, I have nothing to teach you. We can begin with musical theory.”

Encore advice

Which songs should you ask a singer to perform? Mainly his own, says composer and performer Boruch Sholom Blesofsky. “When singing at a wedding, I do a much better job of singing my own material than other people’s songs. I don’t think I sing other people’s music that well, and I think that may be true of a lot of singers who are also songwriters. Performing music that I have written myself completes a picture like nothing else.”

Michoel Schnitzler Still Sings the Oldies

“The hottest dance song this season is definitely “Ve’ahavtu,” followed by “Yoimom,” and they’re both Meilech Kohn’s. But people are starting to realize that the old songs had a certain uniquely leibedig appeal that they also want. Many times in recent months people have requested the vintage lively MBD and Avraham Fried or even Carlebach songs. I find myself singing ‘Kol hator nishma be’artzeinu’ and ‘He’ovar ayin vehe’osid adayin’ (from MBD’s ‘Kol Dodi’ and ‘Daagah Minayin’) — it’s interesting how those songs are now coming back.”



Every artist wants his album to be as perfect as can be, but sometimes he has to take a gamble. Is the song he’s deliberating over going to soar or flop? Is the intro going to hook the guys or be a sleeper? How do these entertainers know they made the right choice?

Benny Friedman

“We’re buying another song” 

We had an album ready to release, and we were going to call it Kol Haneshama Sheli — and then we got the song “Yesh Tikvah,” which changed our plans. Same happened with “Ivri Anochi.” The CD was done, and then Ari Goldwag sent me Ivri Anochi. I called my producer and I said “I got some bad news. We’re buying another song.”

Beri Weber

“It almost wasn’t there”

The most popular song on Beri Weber’s Ben Melech album? “Niggun Lev,” his spirited version of the Chabad niggun, “Ay, didi duy, ay didi duy, ay didi lai lai lai, Ay, didi duy, ay didi duy, ay didi lai lai lai…”

Actually, it was the one that almost wasn’t there, added just a week before the album’s scheduled release. “I originally had found it hard to connect to this song, and I thought maybe it had too much flavor of the shtetl for others to connect to, especially without words. But friends convinced me to get it out there,” Weber says.

This is the backstory: Beri was in Eretz Yisrael, driving back to his lodgings in Jerusalem, when his rental car broke down. He found himself at the side of the road, waiting for a hitch. “My friend was singing back-up to a badchan at someone’s mitzvah tantz, and I soon found a hitch to that wedding hall, where I could wait for my friend to finish up and go home with him. I heard the badchan sing this niggun, and I liked it. It was obviously an old chassidish niggun, but we erroneously assumed it belonged to the same chassidus as the badchan. Right before we went to print the covers for Ben Melech, I was informed that the song was a Chabad niggun, attributed to the Tzemach Tzedek, but traditionally sung with a much slower tempo. Whenever I go to a Chabad event, they thank me for bringing the Rebbe’s niggun back to life.”

Yisroel Werdyger

“They didn’t go for it”

On my second and fourth albums — Ashira and Avorcho — I took a risk and included a longer, more cantorial kind of song. One was “Hineni He’ani Mima’as,” composed by Yossi Green, and the other was “Uvenucho Yomar” by Meyer Adler. Producing this type of song takes much more work, time and effort, as well as more money. While I thought people would appreciate a more complicated shtikel, the response was limited to a much smaller group of listeners than I thought. Those who enjoyed it, enjoyed it immensely, but a huge majority didn’t go for it.

Levi Falkowitz

“I decided to make it my own”

The upbeat song “Kol Dodi” on Falkowitz’s Achakeh Lo album, with its Yiddish chorus of “Klap klap, effen of” — as a translation of the words Kol dodi dofeik, was a last-minute addition. “Yoeli Klein had already brought out the song as a single, so I was unsure what I could add to it,” Falkowitz explains of his hesitation. “But a couple of people pushed me to take the song and make it my own. The ‘Kol Dodi’ track now has the highest sales of that whole album.” (Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 686)

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