Maccabeats | Jewish glee group gives Hanukkah a new beat

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013 By


Between Jewish reggae and the Maccabeats, the Jewish festival of light is getting even more musical attention. Image: Flickr / jcarole / CC-BY-SA

When it comes to Hanukkah music, the Adam Sandler song has been the only pop-culture phenomenon so far. Yeshiva University’s Maccabeats a cappella group set out to change this — and succeeded. The video for the group’s “Candlelight” song has gone viral, making Maccabeats the hottest Hanukkah music around.

The Maccabeats

The Maccabeats are an all-male a cappella group formed in 2007 on the campus of Yeshiva University. The group has about 14 members and sings a combination of songs from multiple influences. The members use a philosophy of Torah u-Madda, blending traditional and secular wisdom, to inform their musical decisions. This leads to songs like “Candlelight,” the enormously popular re-mixing of Taio Cruz’s “Dynamite.”

Giving Jewish music a secular beat

The Maccabeats are just one of the most popular faces of a recent resurgence of Jewish music. Some have called the Maccabeats “Jewish Gone Glee,” but the reality is that spiritually influenced pop music has been around for a very long time. Only recently has Jewish music had ensembles that could match the secular recognition of some Christian pop groups. Just one YouTube video of the Maccabeats singing “Candlelight” has almost 900,000 views.

Maccabeats and Jewish Reggae

Though the Maccabeats are bringing Hanukkah and Jewish a cappella music to pop culture, they are not the only ones. Singer Matisyahu is an incredibly popular Orthodox Jewish musician. His chosen style of music? Old-school dancehall reggae, complete with human beatboxing and an energetic on-stage performance. When telling the story of how the hippie high-school dropout became a Hasidic reggae singer, Matisyahu explains that classic reggae often tells the stories of the Torah, and it was through reggae that he discovered his religion. One thing is for sure – through the Maccabeats a cappella or Jewish reggae, the lament that good modern Hanukkah and Jewish music is tough to find may not be around for much longer.

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