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Boulder Jewish Festival, June 7

Denver-based klezmer band Los LantzmunTHIS Sunday marks the 15th annual Boulder Jewish Festival on Pearl Street near the courthouse.

The one-day event features all things Jewish including art, food, rabbis, kids’ activities, and music.

Oh, the music.

Sure, you can plan a stop at the festival for a lunch of knish, kasha, falafel and other kosher Jewish delicacies, but consider staying for the music.

True to tradition, this year’s festival will feature Los Lantzmun, a Denver-based band that plays “high energy Jewish world beat music.” They’ve rocked the Boulder Jewish Festival at least eight times.

Hal Aqua, the band’s leader and founder, describes the music this way:

“We’re interested in klezmer but we’re not a klezmer band. We’re interested in Spanish music, but we’re not a salsa band. We’re interested in Jewish influenced reggae, but we’re not a reggae band. It’s a fusion of all of these.”

Aqua turned his back on Judaism shortly after his Bar Mitzvah only to rediscover it through marriage and music. “I started listening to world music that had Jewish roots to it and I was amazed to find that I had these roots, too.” 

 Concert Lineup:

11     Boulder Jewish Day School Choir

11:15 Zadik

12      Los Lantzmun

1        Sababa (Jewish rock trio)

2:30   Eden

4        Har Hashem House Band

Holli Berman has interwoven music and Judaism for many years. She’s been the cantorial soloist at Har Hashem since 1997 and involved in Jewish liturgical music for much longer.

Her musical contributions to the festival date back to its inception.

“I’ve personally been there every single year since the festival started,” she says, including the year she was released from the hospital amid cancer treatment.

“It was so special to be able to step out of the hospital and see the community and feel the support and love. Now, the Jewish festival marks every year a celebration of recovery for me.”

Originally Berman performed as part of a group called Lynn, which was comprised of three women.

A few years ago, they expanded into the Har Hashem House Band: “three singers for three-part harmony, someone who plays acoustic guitar and keyboard, someone who plays electric guitar and mandolin, someone who plays the electric base, and someone on a drum kit.

“So seven people in all.”

The House Band features a folk rock sound wrapped around prayers and Jewish songs, but you’ll also hear them perform secular music from the Indigo Girls, Tom Petty, Crosby Stills and Nash, the Dixie Chicks and Fleetwood Mac.

WHILE the House Band gets a lot of play time at the synagogue during services, it’s not performance, it’s prayer. “Performing at the festival is completely fun. You see people from all parts of the community so it’s a cross-community experience.

“You’re putting your music out there on the mall so non-Jews are hearing it, too, so it is performance and exciting,” says Aqua. “First of all, there’s the Jewish connection, so I know a lot of people out there dancing, milling around. You know, members of the tribe.

“On the other hand, it’s open to everybody out on the mall and totally public and it’s such a friendly vibe.

“There’s something we’re putting across about our culture that is very positive and outward looking and not focused on ourselves.”

In addition to prior favorites, the Boulder Jewish Festival will feature a new group this year that hails from the East Coast.

Eden is a collection of friends who grew up on the same block playing music together. They formed the band about six years ago.

Dave Ben-Yshay, the band’s bass player and lead vocalist, says his group is looking forward to making its Western US debut at the Boulder Jewish Festival.

“We’re always looking for opportunities to get our music out there. We mostly play on the East coast-college campuses, JCCs, community events and a festival we did twice in upstate New York called Yidstock of Jewish Rock.”

Ben-Yshay describes the group’s music as spiritual and about religion as a part of life. “It’s not just a small portion, it’s life in general. We live our lives that way.”

The group is heavily influenced by alternative rock bands of the 1990s.

“We grew up listening to Third Eye Blind, the Wall Flowers, Gin Blossoms, and other contemporary rock bands. And we also listened to Jewish rock music,” Ben-Yshay explains.

“Rock music is a tool with which we use to express how we feel about everything.”

You can dance your way through the Boulder Jewish Festival this Sunday, June 7, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

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