Category Archives: Stuff

Unplugged

As promised, I’m back to writing a bit more often. Just wanted to give a little insight into my show last night.

It is a rare opportunity to do unplugged show. When I say “unplugged” I don’t mean “not able to hear” in a live setting, but rather a more stripped down performance of what usually are heavy electric guitar, bass, and drums driven songs. I find that while doing a performance with a full band may be exciting and full of energy, there really is something to the organic and “rootsy” feel of the acoustic and unplugged performance.

Such was the case on Monday night. Big stage, nice size audience, and me on acoustic guitar and my drummer Avidon on the cajon (pronounced cahone – a percussion box that you sit on and acts as a drum). First of all – all of the older folks in the audience loved the fact that the volume was never an issue throughout the 35 minute set, so plus one for me there.

But more importantly was the feel of the show. Even though I played my regular Jewish rock material, having it in a such a stripped down fashion really exposes the emotions I had put into the music when I had originally written them on my acoustic guitar in my room. There’s something so true and real about performing this way. This has been my second “unplugged” performance in the last two months, and I must say – I’m loving it.

On to Wednesday, with the full band, big sound, electric guitar, jam out… well there’s something to that as well. Audio to come soon.

Until then!

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Back to Business…

So I really need to apologize:

I started this blog as an experiment for a number of reasons.

1) It seemed like a great way to interact with people who listen to my music and kind of give a little bit of insight to what is going on in the world of “Aryeh Kunstler.”

2) Aside from music (and hockey…), I LOVE social media. I was a marketing major in college and by the time I graduated, there was this whole new world of potential for marketing in the realms of social media. Obviously, one of the biggest parts of that are blogs. So I really wanted to get a handle on what blogs are and see how I would do in the blogosphere.

As soon as I had really started the blog, life happened. Baruch Hashem, I had a baby and was thrown in the life of being a parent. While all that was going on, I was playing weddings, booking jobs, recording, and started working in social media. Suddenly I found no time to even work on my own music, let alone write a blog. But by now I have adjusted (somewhat!) to this craziness called life and I am truly determined to write more music and blog posts.

With that being said, I’ll give a little update as to what has been going on!

I have been involved in the making of three really cool music videos with the Neshoma Orchestra, one of which features me. It was truly an amazing experience and we are planning to do more soon. Here is the link for the video that I play rockstar in:

We are also heavy into the recording of V’Havienu 4. Vocals are just about done and we need to finish up the music, but I can assure you that there will be a whole new batch of V’Havienu chupa songs coming your way soon.

And starting after Pesach, the new album will really get under way. A bunch of songs are already recorded, a bunch half written, and a bunch that are just ideas, but it is on its way, and I plan on taking you into the recording process, up close and personally, in the coming months.

Have a great Pesach and you’ll be seeing more of me soon!

Aryeh

Inside

First off – sorry about the major lapse in posting. With the new baby and being crazy busy in the studio, the blog kind of took a major hit. Nevertheless, the most common posting on my facebook wall today has been about Matisyahu and his fresh and clean shave.

For those of you who somehow missed this, here is the picture that was posted on twitter earlier today:

I have been reading posts on this all day, ranging from sincere respect for the singer to real disdain for his supposed casting of his orthodoxy. In my humble opinion this picture and Matis’s post saying “No more Chassidic reggae superstar… Sorry folks, all you get is me,” is not something that we should be up in arms about.

We all go through our own journey in our short time on this earth. This includes ups and downs, trials and tribulations, and a lot of searching for who we are and what we want to be. Matthew Miller or as we know him, Matisyahu, has been through quite a lot in his lifetime. From growing up as a non-orthodox Jew to full fledged Chabad Chasid, to becoming a world famous music artist, pushing the envelope to where no one else in the orhodox Jewish music world has gone – Matisyahu has no doubt experienced an incredible journey that has led him to where he is today.

Very few people have stood in similar shoes as him. No one knows the real pressures of being on a major record label and being on tour for months at a time unless you have truly been there. Matisyahu has gone into a world sojourned by few. And I am sure throughout this process he has continued to discover himself  in different ways. Matisyahu was not born into Chasidus, so the fact that he left it means that at a certain time it just wasn’t right for who he wanted to be. And this public display of his newly shaved face is no different. This is another step on his journey. It’s not what is on the outside that defines us, but who we are INSIDE. At the end of the day only Matisyahu knows what this really means But to us observers, all it means is an alteration to the face of a man who sings some powerful stuff – stuff that I have been inspired by as an artist, musician, and JEW.

In A Name

So with the birth of my first child comes the challenge of naming him. This was not an easy task as both my wife and I had names we felt very strongly about to use for this new addition in our lives. A name is something truly powerful. In my opinion, it in some way, defines a person. I’ve heard that when a baby comes out of the womb, you can actually tell what the he or she should be called. Well in my case, I was able to tell the name I wanted and my wife was able to tell hers, so no solution there. However, sometimes the right name just makes its way to the top as was the case with my little buddy. After a day or so it seemed obvious this baby needed names befitting leadership. I don’t know why, but thats what I felt was necessary to help define the future of my child. And so we used the name my wife felt so strongly about, after her great-grandfather, who from what I hear was a truly incredible individual. Comprised of the names of two of the greatest leaders in the history of the Jewish people, the name Moshe Dovid was given to my son.

Coincidentally, Neshoma Orchestra, the band that I work for, put together a video for a client who was making a bar mitzvah for his son who is also named Moshe Dovid. Composed by the incredibly gifted Yossi Green, the song goes through comparing Moshe Rabeinu and Dovid Hamelech in how their actions in leadership were so alike. It’s no surprise that when music is playing, little Moshe Dovid is most calm. And this is the song I constantly play for him.

Wow

It’s been a crazy few days. I legitimately have an excuse for my little hiatus in blogging as the last week or so has been an insane blur. I am currently exhausted emotionally and physically – but for good things, and for that, I am so thankful.

The last few weeks have been filled with rehearsals. I was enlisted to arrange and coordinate the choir for this year’s OHEL concert. One of the downsides to being an “alternative” Jewish music act is that I rarely get to be on the big Jewish music concerts. 8th Day has broken the mold through their smash “Yalili,” so it’s nice to see the potential possibility for acts like myself to be on shows such as OHEL. Anyways, I jumped at the opportunity to be part of the show, as it really is a huge opportunity for me. My choir consisted of some of the most incredible and cooperative guys I have ever worked with. Every rehearsal was better than the last and I am really proud at all the effort that went in from my team. And of course, the concert which took place this past Monday was amazing.

Aside from the impending concert, I also had a slew of weddings and bar mitzvahs that I was playing within the week. It was hectic and exciting, but nothing matches up to the fact that my wife was due to have a baby right in this time period. On every gig, when my phone would vibrate, I would literally jump to see if she would need me to run off the bandstand to her aid. Well this past Sunday came along and I went trough with my usual Sunday deal of going to a wedding. First off – thank G-d that this was an afternoon wedding and secondly, the hall was literally 20 minutes away from the hospital my wife was eventually going to deliver in. Well sure enough, as we were starting the last dance set, with about a half an hour left to the gig, I got the call. I ran off stage with my guitar and bolted to the hospital. It actually worked out well being that this was a 2-guitar gig and no one really noticed that I had gone.

A few hours later I became a father to an adorable and healthy little boy, who is my little rockstar. Wow.

 

Best Job In The World

Sometimes we can really forget how enjoyable certain things are. For some people, work really isn’t a pleasant thing. But for some, we simply forget how lucky we are to do what we do.

Part of how I make a living is by playing weddings. Very often, it’s many nights in a row, with the same songs, in a different hall, and sometimes with different musicians. Things can get very repetitive and tiring, therefore making it difficult to really focus on how lucky I am to be doing this. I love music and being able to do it professionally, all the time, is such an amazing thing.

Part of what us musicians do is lift up people. Our job is to bring joy to the bride and groom, and give them the perfect evening of music so that they can dance and have the time of their lives on their most special day. I always try to keep this in mind. When I get into it, the crowd gets into it. And that will make the wedding more enjoyable to everyone, including myself. So, while writing this late at night after another great evening of music, I just wanted to put it out there that I truly have – The Best Job In The World.

Yearly Inspiration

About four years ago I got a phone call from a friend of mine who was running a small venue in a shul on the Upper West Side. He wanted to know if I would be interested in playing guitar with a certain artist from Israel when he comes to play at the venue. There would be no pay, but it would definitely be a great experience. I only knew a handful of this particular artist’s material but nonetheless I agreed to do the show. I spent the next week going over the music, writing out chord charts and playing along to the tracks I was sent in order to make sure I would be fully prepared for the show.

That Saturday night, in The ROC House, I met R’ Yosef f Karduner for the first time. Famous mainly for his incredible composition, “Shir Lamaalot,” Yosef loves in Israel and comes in once a year to do a number of shows throughout the tri-state area. He greeted me and thanked me profusely for playing with him that evening, even though he had never heard me play and could’ve been a terrible musician for all he knew. Right away I was able to tell that this gig would be different and would change my life.

I love music. There are so many different styles of music that I listen to and get inspired by, but I never experienced TRUE music like Yosef’s. His songs are deep and come straight from the heart. He always says that his songs are “given to him.” He takes no credit for the composition but directly attributes them to Hashem, who sends him the melodies and the choice of words to use. That night I felt music for the first time. I was engulfed in true and heartfelt melodies that took me to another place spiritually. So much so, I insisted in playing the next night with him in Brooklyn. Same songs, same inspirational lift.

So now every year when R’ Yosef comes to America, I take the time out of my hectic schedule of weddings, rehearsals, and recording sessions to be inspired. My wife, after seeing Yosef in concert for the first time last year, insists I play every show I can with him. It’s my yearly inspiration that carries me through the cold winter months when darkness comes in early, through the summer and the Yomim Noraim, back to when he returns November time. Playing with him also pushes me to write and compose TRUE music. My style is so different from his, yet as long as the music comes from a true place, it becomes something real. I highly recommend people to listen to R’ Yosef’s music, but more than that, to see him when you can. You will not be the same after hearing his story and his songs. They lift you up and inspire you.

Looking forward to next year…

A New Start

Ah, the feel of a brand new, blank page.

There is some sort of feeling involved when starting something new. I get that feeling every time I’m starting to write a new song and I open my notebook to write lyrics down. I get it every time I start some sort of new project. And I get it every time I wake up in the morning.

The truth is that I love Social Media and the potential it has for marketing literally anything. I have barely spent money advertising my two albums, mainly due to the fact that I felt I can really promote them heavily through Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube. From the way I see it, things have gone well. But there is so much more to learn in the Social Media marketing atmosphere. Recently I started working on campaign plans for a few companies and organizations, and through my research I realized that I have been neglecting a major outlet in Social Media. The Blog. I love reading blogs, I just never thought to do my own. What would I write about? Would anybody actually read what I took the time to write? (Well I guess you are now…)

Ultimately, I think that other than being a Social Media experiment, I think blogging can work as a way to actually put down my thoughts on a blank page. Not necessarily lyrics, although I am sure that I’ll end up posting ideas at some point. There is so much to write about in this world, and I honestly do think, just like with music, that if someone can take away something from any of posts I may publish, then it is all worth it.

With that being said, be inspired. It’s the only way to live.