Even the Roosters Crow for RebbeSoul

by Brian on February 24, 2011

in Music

Why would a successful Hollywood musician and Jewish music pioneer leave behind a lucrative career and pack it all up to make aliyah? Bruce Burger, who goes by the stage name of RebbeSoul, can’t quite put his finger on it. Maybe it’s his Jewish soul, or that he fell in love with the people of Israel on one of his trips here to perform. Or perhaps he just figured his chances of finding a bride might be better in the land of the Jews.

Whatever the reason, Israelis are the clear beneficiaries. The 52-year-old Burger, who immigrated in 2007, is a musical virtuoso, and his skills were on display this week when he played a concert at Jerusalem’s Nature Museum. The show was part of Jewish Renewal community Nava Tehila’s spiritual and Jewish music performances, which are held on Tuesday evenings.

Burger’s repertoire consists of a mix of original tunes and reinterpreted Shlomo Carlebach melodies, played on acoustic and electric guitar, as well as a balalaika he received from legendary session musician Tommy Tedesco, the artist who performed the theme music of the 1950s television hit Bonanza. Burger was accompanied this week by percussionist Eli Melech and, on a few numbers, by Itai Kagan doing a mean live beat box.

RebbeSoul was one of the first bands to make Jewish music “cool.” Over a 20-year career including six well-received albums, Burger has emphasized a world music vibe. To wit: at his concert, he led with a flamenco-inspired guitar-driven song in Ladino, and later played a jazzed up “Kaddish” that featured recorded sound clips from Jewish communities around the world (including a traditional Ashkenazi melody and a wild Indian chant). Another of his songs, “Shalom Salaam,” which has lyrics promoting peace in Hebrew, Arabic and even Japanese, was a minor hit on college radio.

Perhaps the most amusing moment of the evening was during his rendition of the Yom Kippur prayer Avinu Malkenu. As he reached the pinnacle of his Jimi Hendrix-esque electric guitar riff (seriously, I’m not just engaging in fawning hyperbole), a rooster outside in the grounds of the Nature Museum began to crow. The timing was so perfect, for a moment, we all thought it was part of the song.

Burger lives in Zichron Yaakov and divides his time between Israel and overseas gigs in Europe and the U.S. And, oh yes, if you have a potential shidduch for a crazy talented musician with a Jewish neshama, visit his website and give him a call.

This article originally appeared on Israelity.

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