The Arty Semite

Monday Music: Chana Rothman's Pop and Politics

By Renee Ghert-Zand

  • Print
  • Share Share

Photo by Elise Warshavsky

Not every singer-songwriter can sing lyrics like, “You got a big heart, sweet like a Pop-Tart, bigger than Walmart” and hope to be taken seriously. But Chana Rothman can, and she does so on the bouncy first track of her new album, “Beautiful Land.” That track, somewhat reminiscent of Kimya Dawson (whose songs were featured in Jason Reitman’s powerful film “Juno”), is called “Shine.” The object of Rothman’s complimentary lyrics is a young person whom the singer is encouraging to grow up strong and proud of her individuality.

The Rothman we hear on “Beautiful Land” is clearly recognizable from her debut album, “We Can Rise,” but here she goes in new musical and lyrical directions. Her earlier music, though accomplished, was heavy-handed politically and religiously (there was no mistaking her left-leaning opinions), while her new songs leave more to the listener’s interpretation. If the former was a form of musical activism, the latter is a show of increasing artistry.

Listen to ‘Shine’:

“In the time between my first and second album, many things unfolded musically, professionally, and personally,” Rothman told The Arty Semite. “I got married, traveled to Jamaica and South Africa, moved to Philadelphia, took African drumming classes, and got pregnant. I also had a lot of different types of musical experiences.”

With regard to the more immediate, acoustic sound of the new songs, Rothman reflected that she “began connecting more with an acoustic, simple vibe with which to express my words and melodies.” She added that after consulting with producer C Lanzbom, “I decided that I didn’t want any drum kit or electric bass on this album… So the whole thing felt more mellow, organic, and fitting to the vibe I was feeling inside.”

On “We Can Rise” Rothman slid in and out of Hebrew, but this time she offers six all-English numbers. Following “Shine,” comes “Beautiful Land,” a polyrhythmic tribute to the people and landscape of Jamaica. Next comes the hip-hoppy “Inadequate,” the one track on the album in which she makes a return to socio-political messaging.

On the second half of the EP Rothman makes the greatest departure from her earlier work. “Come on Home” is a mournful gospel-like reflection on the Mourner’s Kaddish, with its emphasis on praising God’s name rather than directly memorializing the dead. On “Baby Do That Dance,” Rothman flexes her flirty, jazzy chops. The singer describes it “like being in a smoky bar on the Lower East Side with a diva singer who doesn’t take herself too seriously.” Finally, Rothman closes with “Remember Your Name,” a sensitive and heartfelt tribute to the late King of Pop, Michael Jackson, with a slide guitar solo by Lanzbom.

Listen to ‘Baby Do That Dance’:

“I feel that while ‘We Can Rise’ was an opening statement on the many ways to express faith and justice, ‘Beautiful Land’ integrates the many stories that have moved me deeply as a human, songwriter and musician,” Rothman said. We look forward to hearing where life will take her next.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Music, Renee Ghert-Zand, Chana Rothman, Beautiful Land

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.