Friday, November 18, 2011

Starve a Cold, Feed a Chanukah Fever

Mama Doni Band Rocks Eight Days a Festive Week

Chanukah is back! It actually never went away. The year 2011 is the (Jewish) year 5572. That's a lot of candles and kugel. Not to mention dreidel-spinning. And speaking of festive jewish holidays, you can't get any happier than Chanukah, no matter how you spell it.

The Mama Doni Band celebrated its favorite celebratory event in 2009 with an entire children's CD, CHANUKAH FEVER, (subtitled, "13 Macca-beats for the Whole Family!"). The CD is a primer to the holiday, reminding parents and relatives of what's behind all the hoopla and mishigas.

From a 2007 start as the music teacher for her children's preschool, Doni has expanded into a full-fledged frontperson for a traveling band of Jewish minstrels, performing at JCCs and temples from coast to coast, including Manhattan's 92nd Street Y. I stumbled across the band on a clip from E! Television's "The Soup," technically a credit to boast about - even if the band is overshadowed by the antics of the hosts of the morning show program where they were performing.

Mama Doni strives for authenticity with its message. You get the hebrew and the meaning to the family and community. The band is committed to preserving Jewish (not to mention Yiddish) spirit in a world filled with 24-hour Christmas music marathons. Not every jewish children's act is sponsored by Streit's Matzoh. Surely a kosher stamp of approval.

Oh yes, the CD. You get the funky title track, the vaudevillian-esque "Honey, This Ain't Money" (an ode to Chanukah gelt), and clever tracks breaking down dreidels, the legend of Judah Maccabee, menorahs, and latkes. Aah, potato pancakes. One-year-old Matt is demanding "real" food now and loves to share latkes with his older brother. It'll take another year before he can polish off an entire pancake by himself, though.

Mixing culture with children's music is a tricky deal. It's frustrating that Christmas music coopts the "holiday" theme every December. And even when Adam Sandler's "Hanukah Song" gets mixed in on a pop station, it's seen as an ethnic curio instead of just another holiday standard.

The optimists inside me hopes that CHANUKAH FEVER helps stem the tide caused by the annual avalanche of Christmas CDs from Justin Bieber and Mariah Carey, among others. Let's light a festive candle, ladle on the apple sauce (my choice) with our potato pancakes, and hear some happy hebrew tunes from Mama Doni and her band.
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