SPLASHNEWS-EXCLUSIVE!-Jewish Star Interviews

March 22, 2012 9 min read

SPLASHNEWS- While thousands of people enjoyed an amazing show at the Jewish Star Competition, we caught up with some of the judges and finalists. We take you behind the curtain and into the minds of the people that make the competition and Jewish music what it is today.

It was really great to see fresh new singers competing for the top prize but the truth is that even the finalists that did not win, really won in a big way. Ami Eller, a finalist, said “I’m happy for whoever wins; this is my first time performing in Brooklyn College so I definitely got my name out there”. What he said is absolutely right. Bottom line is thousands of people got to see these brand new singers on the big stage. Mendel Antelis is already working on a debut album  and when he releases it next year, people will already have heard his name and voice. Shimmy Markovitchas well, is now planning on pursuing a career in music and says, “I would love to put out an album!” The junior winner, Dovid Moskowitz was very excited to have won and also plans to continue singing. We shall see what the future will bring for these up and coming stars.

Lipa Schmeltzer put on a stellar performance and we got his comments after the show. 

-SPLASHNEWS-What makes this concert different than all others?

-Lipa Schmeltzer-It gives people that have talent to finally get it out and show it to others. If they are unique, they are making it to the big world! Regarding the winner (Choni Goldman), this guy really has it and I think he can make it big.

-SN-With so many new singers nowadays, how can someone really make it big?

-Lipa-There are a lot of elements involved but I think if you really put in the work, have a good selection of songs, and you really know what you’re doing, people will like you. There are a lot of stores, restaurants, wine stores but people have certain ones that they like and are more popular.

-SN-Why is there such an influx of Jewish music?

-Lipa-First of all, the community is growing. Second of all, every new thing by us takes a while to get accepted. It used to take guts for someone to get on stage and perform but today a lot of people say, “I can also do that”, and we see a lot of people getting up there.

-SN-Do you feel that you had a lot to do with that?

-Lipa-I definitely feel that I had a lot to do with changing the market. I think that myself together with others such as Yossi Green have a big part in forming where the music today is going.

-SN-Do you have a release date yet for your new album?

-Lipa-The official release date is around Shavuos but if it doesn’t sound 100% good by then, it may be longer for I am not settling for anything less than the best. It has to be something that I never made before and a huge hit. It will be a little different because it will have a lot of singable songs and won’t just be art. I realized that the way people listen to music has changed so I need to have catchy, easy to learn songs, but I also want the art so I will mix and blend both.

Mendy Pellin, one of the judges, gave a lot of flavor to the show and was hilarious. A couple people actually told me that he was their favorite part of the show!

-SPLASHNEWS-Are your lines prepared before the show?

-Mendy Pellin-No. My lines are not prepared whatsoever. This is my favorite show of the year because there is no pressure at all.

-SN-Are you nervous that you might say the wrong thing?

-MP-No. There’s no such thing as saying the wrong thing… well, there is actually. The reason that this my favorite show of the year (besides the Shalom Bayis Tour) is because you have 11 or 12 really nervous people doing their thing, and I can just sit back and whatever comes to my head I can say. I just have fun!

-SN-Why were you selected to be on the show?

-MP-I was selected on the show because they asked me to be on the show. I’m not really sure why exactly. But listen, I do a lot of production, casting for commercials; the actors come in and I can judge in like 30 seconds if they have it or not. I’m not taking it from a music perspective but from a star perspective. I’m here to say this guy’s got it or this guy doesn’t.

Choni Goldman is an extremely talented fellow from South Africa and the crowd reacted strongly to his performance. More importantly, the judges reacted and declared him this year’s Jewish Star.

-SPLASHNEWS-How does it feel to be the winner? Were you nervous?

-Choni Goldman-I am elated! When you’re on stage, you’re not really nervous, it’s more like you have to be just present and live in the moment. It’s an amazing feeling and I would just like it to last longer.

-SN-What does winning the contest do for your musical career?

-CG-Alot of music guys that didn’t hear of me before, now know that I am on the scene and we can work in collaboration.I also have a new car to get around to the studios!

-SN-Do you plan on running your music career out of South Africa?

-CG-I’ll be here for a few months but the truth is that with today’s technology it doesn’t matter where you are really. Of course for show’s it helps to be here in America.

-SN-How are you different than other singers?

-CG-I think I bring a lot of freshness; I am very versatile as I am comfortable with a lot of different genres.

-SN-Do you plan on sticking to one genre or will you move around?

-CG-I’m not sure yet, I’m still experimenting but I love rearranging music. I think for me, the music has got to be soulful. I like to have fun but I really have a very soulful side of me.

Yossi Green is one of the most prolific composers of our time and he used his musical expertise on the judges panel. Here are his thoughts on how he judged and on composing in general.

-SPLASHNEWS-When discussing the contestants you often mention connecting with song. Is it just connecting or is there something else?

-Yossi Green-It begins with connecting. If someone has the performance but doesn’t have the connection, it’s useless. Although the crowd may not appreciate it as much as I do; the connection is really the most important thing.

-SN-Being in the music world for so long, do you see today’s music getting better?

-YG-It’s getting better than ever. The only issue is that there is a lot of choice. When I was growing up there was a new album every six months and everyone bought it. Today there is so much going on and each singer has a few hundred people that love him. No one is really taking the full market.

-SN-What’s your advice to a singer looking to make it?

-YG-Everyone should continue doing it. Our biggest problem was that we didn’t have enough outlets to sell the music but now we are switching to ITUNES so this will make it immediately available to the entire world.

-SN-With so many new composers looking to get involved, do you see it as a competition?

-YG-There is only competition for bad songs. If you have six good songs there is no competition; if you need to put four bad songs on an album that has six good ones, there will be a huge line for the four bad songs. “Use my bad song! No! Use my bad song!” For a good song there is no competition. You can write a hundred good songs and the public will love every one.

-SN-Some people complain that singers are too into brand name composers. They would rather use a song that’s not so good but as long as it’s from one them, it’s okay.

-YG-It has nothing to do with who made it. A kid told me he has 180 songs and asked me for some tips for his demo’s. I said, “when you write a song sing it to your friends, if they like it, it will come out”. You can’t hide a good song. There is no such thing as tips or connections. People that complain about connections usually don’t have the goods.

-SN-Do you ever feel that you are running out of songs?

-YG-This past year was my best in terms of composing and selling. I sold between 40 and 50 songs in the past 8 months. Recently I was sitting with someone trying to compose a song and nothing was coming. I realized that sometimes we forget where it is coming from. It has nothing to do with us. It comes completely from the Ribono Shel Olam. He can write another million songs from that same piano. You have to step aside and let Him take over. When we think we are the one’s doing it, it doesn’t happen.

-SN-Why do singers put songs that are not singable on their albums?

-YG-I do a lot of these. Some songs are not meant to be sung. I am surprised that people try to sing Tanye. Singing is one thing and listening is another thing. The point of these songs is for people to listen and be touched by the singer who is singing the song.

Eli Gerstner is a musical genius and is the man behind many albums including the Chevra and the Yeshiva Boys Choir. There’s no question why he was selected to be a judge for the Jewish Star Competition.

-SPLASHNEWS-What do you see this competition as? What is the purpose of it?

-EG-There are people that ask me to produce them and they tell me that I can own their albums and will make the money. There is no money in selling CD’s today no matter who you are. The money is in the concerts. The potential of this competition is that we can see people now and love them so that when they put out their album, we already know them and can go to their concerts. Also each of them put out a video so we get to see the guy’s personality. If the guy is good guy you are rooting for him. You heard the crowd going nuts (besides the family members!) and cheering for the underdog. I think it’s because of these videos.

-SN-Why do singers put out music videos nowadays?

-EG-A music video is another medium to get the song out there. In the days that CD’s were selling amazing, no one put out a music because then you are taking away from your own song by giving it away for free. Nowadays, the gneivah is so rampant, it is out of control. Someone was letting people download peoples music for free and I asked him why. He said that “nebuch people can’t afford CD’s these days so he is helping them out”. Does that mean I can go into someones china closet and give all the silver away to poor people who can’t afford it?! Since when does the mitzvah of tzedakah mean you can steal?! Oh, by the way, this guy is charging $5 a month from the poor people so they can download the music!

-SN-When can we expect a new album from Yeshiva Boys Choir?

-EG-YBC Acapella should be coming out next week.

-SN-Why did you decide to put out an acapella album?

-EG-There is a need for it. Chevra Acapella is still selling amazing today and I just said before that cd’s aren’t selling so why is this cd selling? People that respect sefira buy acapella because you’re not allowed to listen to music during sefira, and those guys wouldn’t steal! On the new YBC Acapella, because it is more catered to kids, I am adding with my mouth drums and bass.

-SN-Did you use synthesizers and EQ on your voice for the drums?

-EG-No. It is completely my mouth, you will laugh the first time you hear it as it sounds like I am making a fool out of myself, but then you will appreciate it. I also did not go past that. There are no fake trumpets or guitars like other albums. I happen to be a huge fan of AKA Pella.

-SN-What’s your take on an album like that?

-EG-I think that anyone that listens to it (during sefira), knows the deal. Me personally, I don’t listen to it during sefira but I do listen it during the year! It’s an exciting cd and the talent behind that production is so incredible. I am putting this out knowing that kids are buying it for sefira and I took a step back.

-SN-There are a lot of singers but very few choirs. Do see a competition, or is there room for more?

-EG-At the end of the day it is siyatah dshmaya. You see really good cd’s that don’t sell and really bad ones that do. I never ever thought that I am having hatzlacha because of my music. At the end of the day as more choirs pop up, we are doing better. Is it because of the new choirs? No. We are all good friends. I love Yitzy Bald, I consider him one of my teachers. When NYBC came out I put it right into my car’s cd player. Not because I’m scared about the competition, but because I love it, I think it’s great.