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Endnote: The Story behind the Song: Unsullied Soul

Riki Goldstein

“…the moment I heard the voice of Reb Shmuel singing it the real way, I couldn’t pass it up”

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

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After Purim, Simcha Leiner couldn’t get Shmuel Brazil’s “Elokai Neshamah” out of his head

Rosh Yeshivah Rav Shmuel Brazil has been composing songs for half a century, and Simcha Leiner feels fortunate that one of those classic niggunim is on his new album, Merakeid. Leiner shares how it happened.

“While being yotzei the mitzvah of ‘ad delo yada’ on Purim, my good friend Yoni Kutner decided to sing me a song composed by his rebbi. He sang me a few bars of his version of Reb Shmuel’s ‘Elokai Neshamah.’ A few days later, I couldn’t get the tune out of my head. I was trying to think where I heard it, and remembered that Yoni sang it to me on Purim. I asked him if he could get me the original, and the moment I heard the voice of Reb Shmuel singing it the real way, I couldn’t pass it up.

“I called Reb Shmuel that same day and begged him for reshus to use his beautiful, hartzige tune. It’s been a long time since he let anyone sing any of his songs, but he graciously made an exception and let me use it — on condition that I made sure that the song before and after would be great, since Chazal remark that ‘Tov l’tzaddik, tov l’shcheino.’”


Mic Drop
Shulem Lemmer stays connected in a crazy world

The final track on Shulem Lemmer’s debut album, Shulem, is a song that anyone who’s ever been inspired by an adam gadol can relate to. The song, “Tniyele,” was composed by a Belzer yungerman named Reb Hershy Rottenberg, while on his way home to Antwerp after spending Yom Tov with the Rebbe in Jerusalem. He yearned for the elevation he had experienced in the Rebbe’s presence, and found that he could still get chizuk by remembering the “tniyele” (a “tenuah” is a short soulful tune without words) that the Rebbe sings for Bircas Kohanim when he davens at the amud.

The song brings this “tniyele” to life, amid a beautiful setting and combined with stirring Yiddish lyrics: “Offen vehg aheim… Yezt bin ich einer alein ober der teniyeh ich gedenk — On the way home… now I’m all alone, but I remember the tniyele.”

Lemmer says that there have been varied reactions to the song, partly because the lyrics lend themselves to several interpretations. “Part of the beauty of the song is the way different people find meaning in the lyrics. One person told me that he lost his mother at a very young age and when he hears, “Now I am alone but I remember the tniyele,” he can see his mother singing to him when he was little. Many others can relate to Rottenberg’s longing for a sense of spiritual security in a degenerate world. 

Visitors Welcome

Violinist Yoni Lipshutz learned how music opens hearts and homes

What have I learned from going on tour? A lot about hachnasas orchim, for one thing. Our band, Simply Tsfat, has never stayed at cold, sterile hotels — Jewish people around the world have opened up their homes to us in a fantastic display of giving, when we travel to their communities to play our music. On one occasion, our hosts were not even present for our stay — they had simply opened up their home to the three of us (me, Yonatan Zarum, and Eliyahu Reiter) and left everything we might need. To all our gracious hosts: thank you!

A Kindness Along the Way

Sometimes it’s the unsung, uncelebrated deeds that boost a singer into the limelight.

Who helped these popular entertainers find their way?

Singer Levy Falkowitz:
“I have to thank my brother Yoeli, who’s six years ahead of me on the music scene. When I was new, his name was my introduction. He pushed me into music, spent hours and hours teaching me the business, and gave me a head start, which went a long way.”

Singer Rabbi Shloime Taussig:
“The way of the world is that many performers are highly protective of the territory they’ve built up, which means that if one needs to send someone else to fill in at a gig, he’ll either send someone inferior, or someone who has no desire to compete for that clientele. It’s pretty rare for a singer to graciously share his terrain with a colleague, and that’s why what my former singing partner Nechemia Brodt did for me is so amazing. He was able to fargin without concern for his own ego. 
His father, Reb Abish Brodt, is tremendously popular out of town, and when Reb Abish didn’t want to travel so much, he began to send his son, Nechemia. Once, Nechemia was invited to a certain city for a simchah but he couldn’t make it, so he sent me instead. The next time that family made a simchah, they called me back. I told them that I’d have to ask Nechemia, as it was his ‘account.’ He happily farginned. That actually jump-started my own clientele in different cities. Of course, all parnassah is bashert, but I can’t forget what a moiredig farginner Nechemia was.”

Producer Sruly Meyer:

“In 2003, I was a young graphic designer. Izzy Taubenfeld z”l, the distributor of Sameach music, took a chance on me and hired me to design Sameach albums. I met the people at Sameach and I started to branch out into music. I was a big fan of Jewish music, but had no experience then, yet thanks to Izzy’s faith in me, I gradually started doing both production and design for all the people I met along the way.”

Singer Dovid Gabay:
“When I started my career, I was learning in Eretz Yisrael. I actually began as a one-man band. I sang while I played and got a lot of experience controlling the tempo on the bandstand, as well as interacting with clients. Playing music was keeping me busy, but I decided pretty quickly that I just wanted to become a vocal artist, although to this day, I still love playing.

“I felt I had a future in the industry, but I really didn’t know much about the music business or how to break in. I knew Shloime Dachs pretty well, as we had spent a summer together, so shortly before I got married, I called him for his advice, and not only did he advise me but he went completely out of his way to recommend me to some of the bands at the top of the market. Shloime set up a few dates with Neginah Orchestra and they gave me my first break in the business. In the beginning they had me perform at a few weddings and dinners, and once they got good feedback from fellow musicians, they decided to start booking me on other events. I can say that Shloime definitely played a big role in bringing me into the industry, and for that I will be forever grateful.” (Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 690)

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