Making the CD

Dancers at Kirtan Rabbi Live recordingWhen I set out to make a CD of the music we had been co-creating with our audiences over the last several years, I could not imagine it not being live. While kirtan is certainly best experienced raw and in community, the obstacles to capturing it on a recording are legend. Unlike with other musical “performances,” the engineers have to record the response of the audience and not just the “band.”

Secondly, the live sound has to be clearly separated from the recorded sound, so one can not use stage monitors, lest the sound bleed into the microphones. I was also warned — incorrectly, as I now hear from all of you — that a recorded, live kirtan, while a blast in the moment, will not easily render into music that one wants to pop in the CD player while, say, cooking dinner.

For these reasons and more, nearly all western kirtan CDs are studio productions.

But I simply could not wrap my head around the idea of taking our music, which so feeds off of the real performers — those who attend — into the studio. At least not this time. Plus, I wanted to offer a gift back to the community of the Upper West Side of New York. Kirtan audienceI had learned so much from all those friends and acquaintances with whom I had danced at the back of the synagogue and pounded Shabbat dinner tables.

The result: We went ahead with the idea of doing a live Hebrew Kirtan. I brainstormed with Ari Priven, the Cantor of B’nai Jeshurun, and we came up with a system whereby we would place the live sound upfront and use in-ear monitors for the musicians. Following other Sanskrit kirtan artists, I also decided to form a posse (choir) of singers who, in addition to my regular backup singers, could offer clear, tight response singing. We would also have two ambient, microphones out in the full community, so that they would be captured and included as well.

The result was an excellent, 14 channel capture of the energy and soul of that evening.