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Unread 08-20-2003, 06:22 PM   #1
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Avraham Fried

Hasidic music with a modern message

By Assaf Patrick

In the current lame state of Israel's music market,
it's hard to believe that a single by an Israeli
pop star could sell tens of thousands of copies.
And yet, a recording by Avraham Fried, among
today's better-known Hasidic singers, has already
sold 30,000 copies.

Every time "Aleh katan sheli"
(My little leaf) - Fried's
first song with Hebrew words
not taken from Jewish texts -
is played on ultra-Orthodox
radio stations, listeners phone
in to find out if there's been
a terrorist attack. The song,
with music and lyrics by Yishai
Lapidot of Oif Simhas, is

somewhat reminiscent of Arik Einstein's "Ouf
Gozal" (Fly away, fledgling): An old tree
counsels a young leaf to be careful of the
storms ahead, and offers a traveler's blessing.
Surprisingly, a clear religious Jewish message
is hard to discern in this song. But Fried,
with his Chabadnik perspective, claims that the
song teaches us that the best way to deal with
a storm is to hang onto the roots of one's
Jewish faith.

The song's symbolic treatment of how to deal
with hardships is what encouraged Fried to
record and distribute it during the intifada,
"to support our brothers in Israel." Eli
Mandelbaum, a producer at the Gal-Paz
production company, says that in the Hasidic
song market, like the American market, singles
are very popular and customarily marketed to
stores (and not just to radio stations, as is
the case with the Israeli secular music
market). "Aleh katan sheli" is the second
highly successful Hasidic single in recent
years - the first was "Hebron" by the popular
Hasidic singer Mordechai Ben David.

"Aleh katan sheli," which was released about six
months ago, is played unceasingly on the
religious radio stations, and has been adopted
as a kind of anthem by the Etzion state
religious school in Kfar Sava. "It was played
at the memorial ceremony for a graduate of the
school who was killed in action in Jenin," says
Fried. "The bereaved mother was very moved, and
since then, the children sing it every morning
before classes start." The Moreshet Web site
offers it as a cell phone ringtone download. In
the religious radio hit parade standings,
publicized on the same site, the song is in
third place.

"Hasidic music generally isn't sung in Hebrew,
unless it's a text from Jewish sources,"
explains Kobi Sela, settler radio staiton Arutz
Sheva magazine's music critic. "Hasidic singers
sneak one Hebrew song onto an album. Fried
brought out an Israeli song with a very current

Yuval Stoppel, who did the musical arrangement
for the song, claims that it has become a hit
mainly because of the words, and less because
of the music: "Usually, when people hear a
Hasidic song, it connects them with
`ai-yai-yai.' This time, we proved that Hasidic
music isn't just `mashiach, mashiach'." Stoppel
explains the indifference of secular stations
to the single as a marketing error by
producers. "In a certain sense, we have a fear
of the unknown, as if there's something
inferior about our music," he says. "We didn't
hire a secular PR firm, and that was our

Fried was born Avraham Friedman to a Chabadnik
family in New York. At the age of 8, he began
singing with his school choir, which toured
throughout the United States. At 13, his voice,
as well as his professional direction, changed.
"I thought I'd bring Jews closer to Judaism,
that I'd become a Chabad emissary in some
out-of-the-way place," he says. "I came to
singing accidentally. At a gathering with the
Lubavitcher Rebbe, he spoke the famous
sentence, `When the Messiah comes, no Jew will
remain in exile,' and I thought to myself,
`Wow, that's a good line for a song.' In the
end, it became the name of my first ensemble."

But even after he finished recording, success
was still far off. A career as a Hasidic singer
was considered of dubious merit among the New
York Chabad community in the early 1980s, so he
refused to market the cassette. The producer
made threats, and finally a creative solution
was found: Friedman would become Fried, so he
wouldn't have to worry about what they'd say at
the yeshiva. He recorded songs in Hebrew from
Jewish texts, along with original songs in
English and Yiddish; the latter, he says,
always carried a positive message to fend off
"tsuris" (troubles) and melancholy.

During 23 years of work, Fried has recorded 22
albums and cassettes (the Israeli and American
Haredi music consumer buys more cassettes than
CDs). These days, he performs dozens of
concerts a year for Jewish audience worldwide,
and the El Al flight crews are quite familiar
with him due to his frequent trips to Israel.

"The hard part is keeping to a high level of
hits in every album," says Fried when talking
about the secret of his enduring success. "I
don't argue with success; I try to be true to
my roots and not to change styles. I wouldn't
touch dance music, because that represents the
culture of secular clubs." He also doesn't
worry about keeping up with what's going on in
today's world music, and mainly listens to
Sinatra and male sopranos.

"We, as religious people, are not supposed to
idolize singing stars," says Sela about the
admiration enjoyed by Fried. "But Fried's
modesty appeals to a lot of people, and on the
other hand, his experience and charisma on
stage make him a real stage animal."

In Israel, Fried appears mainly at large concert
halls, like Tel Aviv's Mann Auditorium. The
audience is mostly national-religious, not
Haredi. Stoppel claims that 20 percent of those
attending Fried's concerts are in the 40-50 age
range and not religious but love Hasidic music.
In fact, once during an El Al flight, says
Fried, the pilot insisted on showing him around
the cockpit in appreciation for getting his

(under the picture the following was written
Avraham Fried says his recent hit `Aleh katan sheli' teaches us that the best way to deal with a storm is to hang onto the roots of one's Jewish faith.
(Guy Raivitz)
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Unread 08-20-2003, 06:36 PM   #2
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Re: Avraham Fried

Originally posted by bochur770

Every time "Aleh katan sheli"
(My little leaf) - Fried's
first song with Hebrew words
not taken from Jewish texts -
Its not the first!
What about Hebrew Gems?
Anyone else?........
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Unread 08-25-2003, 08:03 PM   #3
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hebrew jems is a translation of the original yiddish jems, the tunes were not created for him spesificly, unlike aleh katan sheli.
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Unread 08-25-2003, 09:37 PM   #4
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I was recently at a AF concert in Minnesota. It made history, being the first CONCERT he sang "Aleh Katan Sheli" at.
Mr. AskMoses
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Unread 08-26-2003, 10:28 AM   #5
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Re: Avraham Fried

Originally posted by bochur770
Hasidic music with a modern message

Mainly listens to Sinatra and male sopranos.

If these are his influences in his music, then what make the music chasidish?
Im Eshkacheich Yerushalaim, Tishkach Yemini.
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Unread 08-26-2003, 11:21 AM   #6
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Who said it does?
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Unread 08-26-2003, 01:39 PM   #7
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maybe it was a first for the usa, but he definatly sang it in concert before.
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Unread 08-27-2003, 10:17 PM   #8
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just because the article says he listens to sinatra and other singers it could be he was quoted saying it just because. it could be because he might like these singers but it doesnt mean that he reveres them and copies their music. if the music comes from AF then the music is chassidish if he is chassidish because it comes from his neshama, and songs come from the neshama, who said that the alter rebbe?
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Unread 06-01-2008, 12:11 AM   #9
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we just discussed this in class and the teacher said it doesnt matter who wrote the song, Jew or non-Jew, what matters is the mood the song puts you in. ie- does it make you feel wild, calm, relaxed. i've heard from lub. ppl that it depends on who wrote the music if it's kosher music or not, because music is the expression of the soul. is this a chassidic idea? what's the source?
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Unread 06-01-2008, 06:40 AM   #10
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the idea is that when someone makes up a song, it comes from their essence, their neshama. by listening to that song which comes from their essence, you're connecting with it- like when singing/listening to a nigun, you connect with the neshama of the Rebbe who composed it.
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