At a reception last weekend I had the rare opportunity to hear an African-American soul band sing Havah Nagilah at an Orthodox Jewish wedding in Old Greenwich, Connecticut.
Now, they could sing — I mean, really sing. But the oddness of it struck me. I had already heard (and written about) aTibetan punk band I discovered, and I own an LP of Harry Belafonte singing some of my grandmother’s favorite Yiddish tunes, but I felt, at that wedding, that I had hit a new multicultural high.
I just wish someone had given them a copy of the lyrics.
The author Stanislaw Lem described race as a deity to which we make burnt offerings. If so, that deity has become some Egyptian amalgam-God, with the head of an eagle, the body of a crocodile, the tail of a lion and breasts that look like Pamela Anderson’s. And we don’t make burnt offerings or sacrifices any longer — we make concessions.
Don’t get me wrong — if you’re a white kid from Litchfield and have a hankering to sing pre-Civil War spirituals, go right ahead. I mean, Asian hip-hop dancers are all the rage nowadays, and I have no problem with that. Just because you’re of Irish descent, it doesn’t mean you have to play the bagpipes. God forbid.
And that was, by far, the best rendition of Havah Nagilah I have ever heard. So what if the words were all slightly off? I never knew how much that song rocked before now.
That being said, I have put together some of my hopes and dreams for musical multiculturalism. I doubt any of these will actually happen, but I hope that, by putting it out there, someone will take the hint.
Donny Osmond sings the works of T-Pain
Osmond would shed that “white and nerdy” stigma and really show us his versatility if this would actually occur. He’s got a decent voice, so he wouldn’t need to be Autotuned all that much. And he might jazz it up a bit — Vegas-ize the hard-core rap of Mr. Pain.
Adele — the country album
This is not beyond the realm of reason. She might produce an album with Taylor Swift or something. The joy of hearing a white, British soul singer take on, say, “The Devil went Down to Georgia” would be so special.
System of a Down and The Klezmatics
This would be spectacular — an Armenian metal band and some Klezmer all stars playing together? It might sound like a cacophony of castrated cats or it might be the music that aligns the planets and brings world peace, like “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” said Wyld Stallyns would.
Itzhak Perlman plays with Michael Flatley
OK, so maybe that’s in bad taste. I might as well suggest that Stephen Hawking goes on “Dancing with the Stars.” Still, life would just be a bit better, should this actually happen.
Gaga sings Ray Charles
There would be something subtly off about this, but I can’t put my finger on it. I mean, they’re both great performers, right? Lady Gaga certainly has a decent voice. Ray Charles was one of the most celebrated musicians of the last 100 years. But still, I feel like it wouldn’t quite work, like the world might actually end if this happened, but for the life of me I can’t figure out why.
Jordan Fenster is the entertainment editor at the New Haven Register. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/JordanFenster