Jeremiah Lockwood / The Nigun Project

Nicely done cover

Jeremiah Lockwood / The Nigun Project
The Forward, 2011
Available from iTunes and

Grandson of a cantor, Jeremiah Lockwood has been exploring the space between punk and hazonos for several years. This past year he was commissioned by the Forward to explore the concept of Nigun, the prayersongs without words, often associated with the Hasidic movement. This recording demonstrates how seriously he undertook the project, and in the process, redefined how we think of nigun. Partnering with a wide variety of musicians, Jewish and otherwise, Lockwood succeeds in crafting a cohesive set of ten nigunim, ranging in sound with echoes of Sergio Leone spaghetti western soundtracks ("Melodies I have seen") to North African rhythms to shards of avant garde on "The Magid of Koznitz's Nigun."

Only some of these, as on the Modhitz-inspired "Through the Castle of Life," "From our Hiding Places" with Alexander Benaim or "Reb Nachman's Nigun" with Sahr Ngaujah, does the nigun overtly contain the "dai dai dai"s we most often associate with the medium, and even there, the beats or context cause us to re-listen. In some cases, as on "At the Table," Lockwood re-imagines an extant nigun unfolding, deconstructing, and rediscovering; leaving us with an entirely new sense of the melody. Likewise, "The Ba'al Shem Tov's Nigun" with North African singer Khaira Arby (with whom Lockwood's band, The Sway Machinery recently recorded a CD) there is a sort of call/response between traditional nigun form and North African chant, in this case, the Muslim prayer, "Ya salaam". In "Sing for your Life," there are verses laid down by guest MCs telling a Hasidic story about the Besht. But in all cases, these are true nigunim, meditative, evoking the spiritual.

This is easily one of the most imaginative and listenable Jewish music CDs I have heard all year. As seems appropriate, it has become a favorite work CD, when "nigun for the 21st century" eases focus and meditation. But it is also the sort of CD that, each time I sit and really listen, I find more to love and note. From the magic of "Surely there will be vodka" with Cynthia Hopkins, to the aforementioned "Baal Shem Tov's Nigun," this project is a treasure. Kudos to the Forward for commissioning these works, and especially, kudos to Lockwood for deconstructing and reimagining so organically what we mean by nigun. Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Ari Davidow, 24 Sep 2011.


  1. Melodies I have seen with Itamar Ziegler (Lockwood/Ziegler, from a compilation, "Yiddish Nigunim I have heard ... and seen," compiled by Moshe Gutman after the Holocaust) 3:14
  2. At the table with Brian Chase (Lockwood/Chase, after "Sefer ha-Nigunim") 4:10
  3. From our hiding places with Alexander Benaim (Lockwood/Benaim, based on trad., "Mi Mitzrayim G'altanu" melody) 3:30
  4. The Baal Shem Tov's Nigun with Kahir Arby and her band (Lockwood/Arby) 6:06
  5. Reb Nachman's Nigun with Sahr Ngaujah (Traditional; Lockwood/Ngaujah) 4:36
  6. Through the castle at night with Yula Be'eri (Lockwood/Be'eri, from Modhitzer Rebbe) 3:18
  7. Sing for your life Dan Wolf & Tommy Shepherd (Lockwood/Shepherd/Wolf, based on a Hasidic parable about the Baal Shem Tov) 4:38
  8. Silent song with Basya Schaechter (Lockwood/Schaechter) 3:58
  9. Sureley there will be vodka with Cynthia Hopkins (Lockwood/hopkins, after a Russian drinking song "rescued" by Hasidim and "made holy.") 4:20
  10. The Magid of Koznitz's Nigun with DROID, Amir Ziv, and Jordan McLean (Lockwood/McLean/Ziv, after Koznitz) 4:49

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