Hardcore punks Moshiach Oi! have released a lyric video for “Sitra Achra is Dangerous“, off their latest album Rock Rabeinu. The clip, which evokes both street art and Breslov gedolim, was created by Fiverr user ‘guywhoedits’.
The lyrics are themed around spiritual warfare (“sitra achra” is a Kabbalistic term meaning “Other Side”, the realm of evil), with audio samples from an unnamed rav emphasizing the emptiness of the physical world. Musically, the song is one of the heavier on the album, bordering on metal in the intro, but their punk lineage is revealed through some Black Flag references – the opening chant is from “Rise Above”, while the verse guitar riff is modeled on “Six Pack”.
[Michael Croland was kind enough to share yet another guest post with JMU. My own thoughts on this album will be posted in the near future.]
Moshiach Oi! have narrowed their focus over the past nine years.
When I first found out about Moshiach Oi! in 2008, guitarist Menashe Yaakov Wagner described Moshiach Oi! as “perhaps the world’s first hardcore vegan straight-edge Orthodox Jewish punk band.” By the time I met and interviewed them a few months later, the label was more succinct: “Torah hardcore.” In 2009, their debut album dealt with a multitude of topics from an Orthodox perspective, including celebrating Shabbos, learning Torah, and wanting the Moshiach (messiah). In 2011, their sophomore album addressed varying topics such as Torah, idolatry, and Abraham. Reflecting front man Yishai Romanoff’s religious leanings, there was one recurring topic that stood out in five of the album’s songs: Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, a rabbi born in the 18th century.
With their newly released third album, Rock Rabeinu, Moshiach Oi! put the Rebbe Nachman theme front and center. “There is probably at least twice as much Na Nach on this album!” Romanoff toldJewish Music Underground earlier this month. “Maybe Michael Croland will be up for the task of counting how many times we say ‘Na Nach’ on the album.”
“Na Nach Nachma Nachman MeUman,” also known as the New Song or the Song of Redemption, can be heard in many songs on Rock Rabeinu. The title track discusses how rock (a pun on rock music and the Hebrew word for “only”) Rabeinu (Rebbe Nachman) matters. In “Rabeinu’s Army,” Romanoff sings that he’s “a soldier in Rabeinu’s Army.” “Country Petek” and “Smoke the Petek” deal with the petek, a note that Rebbe Nachman posthumously sent to one of his students, and the latter, quite amusingly, discusses “getting high” off of Rebbe Nachman’s teachings. “Ain Yeush” and “No Despair” deal with Rebbe Nachman’s teaching of not having despair.
The song “Rabeinu Rebbe Nachman” best summarized why this focus is so important to Romanoff. The lyrics explain that Rebbe Nachman sent a letter with the Song of Redemption and that it’s “the key to set us all free.” Singing “Na Nach Nachma Nachman MeUman” is the “key to the redemption of all humanity,” which is why they “spread it all around.”
Moshiach Oi! made a concept album about Rebbe Nachman. Singing “Na Nach” in different catchy melodies and cadences was certainly one way to do so, but with songs like “Smoke the Petek,” they had varied approaches. It’s still rockin’ music that’s meant to praise Hashem and bring Moshiach, but it goes about those goals in a more targeted manner.
Michael Croland is the author of Oy Oy Oy Gevalt! Jews and Punk, which was published last year by Praeger (an imprint of ABC-CLIO). Check out the book to learn more about Moshiach Oi! and other Jewish punk artists!
As previously reported, Breslov punks Moshiach Oi! will be releasing their long-awaited third album Rock Rabeinu later this month. In anticipation, I reached out via email, and the band’s co-founders, guitarist Menashe Yaakov Wagner and lead vocalist Yishai Romanoff, were gracious enough to answer some questions about the development of the album, its attention-getting title, and some of the live gigs they have in store.
Jewish Music Underground: It’s been six years since your last album, This World is Nothing. What’s changed for Moshiach Oi in that time?
Menashe Yaakov: I got married in September.
Yishai Romanoff: A lot has happened for the band members personally, as we have all started families. We also do not live as close to each other as we used to, which is part of why we have not played as much the last few years. But Baruch HaShem, we are still going strong, and we are very excited about this new album which took over three years to record. And we still maintain the same outlook and mission, to spread the light of Torah and of Rabeinu Rebbe Nachman in the world and bring Moshiach. Na Nach!
What made you decide that now was the time to go back into the studio? What was the mindset going into this record?
MY: We have actually been working on this album (writing and recording songs) since 2014. Once I felt we had enough songs, I decided to put out the record. As has been the case from the beginning with this band, Yishai set the tone, came up with the title and wrote most of the songs.
YR: Some of these songs were actually written around the time This World Is Nothing came out. Numerous factors held us up, but we started recording in 2014 and finally finished this year. Things really picked up the last eight months or so when we really started getting this finished. The mindset for me was that these songs all have a common message and that this is something the world needs to hear, especially now. Getting this done has also given me a lot of encouragement and strength in continuing on this path of Rabeinu and doing what I can to bring it to the world.
You guys are primarily a hardcore punk band, but you’ve experimented with styles like ska, folk, and alternative rock on some of your songs. You’re also obviously influenced by Rabbi Nachman and the teachings of Breslov. Are there any new influences, either musical or spiritual, that people can hear on Rock Rabeinu?
MY:Rock Rabeinu is highly focused on Moshiach Oi!’s core sound (hardcore punk) and core message (teachings of Rebbe Nachman). In addition, one song has a country feel, which transitions to reggae, then back to punk. Another song has a 6/8 rhythm.
YR: This album definitely has a few musical styles mixed in. Obviously a lot of punk, but also some ska, folk, even a little country. For anyone who was put off by some of the repetitiveness of our last album (especially with us saying “Na nach” over and over), there is probably at least twice as much Na Nach on this album!! (Maybe Michael Croland will be up for the task of counting how many times we say Na Nach on the album.)
What is the meaning behind the title Rock Rabeinu? Is it thematically significant to the record or just a cool-sounding name (because it does sound cool)?
MY: “Rock” is a play the Hebrew word “rak,” meaning “only,” which is definitely the theme of the record.
YR: It’s the title track of the album and has a double meaning. The word Rock in Hebrew means “only”, so Rock Rabeinu means “only Rabeinu.” As can be discerned from the lyrics, we believe only Rebbe Nachman can truly heal the spiritual sickness of this generation and lead us into the Complete Redemption with the coming of Moshiach.
What do you hope that people take away from the record?
MY: Hopefully, people will feel inspired to delve deeply into the teachings of Rebbe Nachman.
YR: Rock Rabeinu. Get the books of Rebbe Nachman and read them, talk to God in your own words, and follow this path till the Redemption, both our own personal redemption and the ultimate redemption of the whole world. Na Nach!
You’re also doing a record release show on Wednesday, August 16. What can you tell us about that?
MY: It’s an all-ages show at a Long Island venue (Creative Corner, 482 Hempstead Ave, West Hempstead, NY 11552) that has hosted us in the past and whom we have a good relationship with.
YR: We are playing the record release show August 16 at Creative Corner in West Hempstead. Don’t miss it! Who knows when we will play next? Also my dad, Andy Romanoff, who’s an acoustic singer-songwriter, is playing before us. It’s gonna be awesome.
Now be honest: Which conspiracy do you blame that you weren’t asked to play The Camping Trip this weekend?
MY: Beats me. Yishai, Mitch and I will be playing The Camping Trip with our band Blanket Statementstein.
YR: Three of the four members of Moshiach Oi (including me) will be at the festival. Maybe some Moshiach Oi songs will be performed? Who knows? Na Nach!