I could give you a long list of places to start when looking for the roots of the recent wave (and by wave, I mean two bands) of what I'm gonna go ahead and call “JewFro”, or Jewish music with a serious African fixation.
Just go ahead and look into what John Zorn had created over a decade ago with his record label Tzadik: A label that gave a home to Jewish musicians working within the boundaries of what Zorn dubbed “Radical Jewish Culture”. That may have been the beginning of this unorthodox movement, but it also evolves.
It took new turns with the release of The Sway Machinery's Hidden Melodies Revealed, a textured dedication to African music that spanned from the Sahara to the Mississippi Delta, but may have gotten more notice for it's players, who ranged from members of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs to Arcade Fire. And while lead singer Jeremiah Lockwood looks the part of a white guy fixated on dressing up as a Depression-era bluesman, his songs are straight cantor. His voice can fill just about any shul, and his lyrics are a blend of Jewish prayers, sang in Semitic tongues. Not exactly the common indie-fare you would expect in 2009.
Now, at the beginning of the Jewish new year, Hidden Melodies Revealed has a contemporary in the form of the self-titled album by the band Fool's Gold (pictured above), another band with a lineup that reads like Pitchfork's news roll. Reading down the list, members of Foreign Born, and ex-drummers of The Fall and We Are Scientists make up this collective who seem to be led by Hebrew singing bassist Luke Top. This new album that recently came out on IAMSOUND is another appreciation piece to the African content, and sounds like it could be on David Byrne's top five list for 2009.