Interview with Yossi Piamenta
Conducted by Binyamin Bresky and Tzvi Turner
April 9, 2004
Jewish Community Radio: Mr. Piamenta, how are you doing?
Yossi Piamenta: Hag sameyach. Happy Pesach.
Jewish Community Radio: Youíre calling from Brooklyn, New York?
Yossi Piamenta: Yes.
Jewish Community Radio: Now you have two new albums out -- one that just came out a month ago and one that came out last year -- and theyíre very different.
Yossi Piamenta: The first one was a wedding album. It came out ten months ago. Itís Sason VíSimcha. This is what, from all my experiences, what is the best pieces of Jewish wedding. A real Jewish wedding. And it includes all the variety of the Jews, which is both Oriental/Middle Eastern and European/Ashkenaz. And include some beautiful chassidish medleys as well as yeshiva medleys. Then it has dinner pieces and a piece of klezmer. Itís a big variety of my experience in a wedding. The new album is the other edge. This is a rock concert in the city in the club and weíre jamming. Itís different all together. There, you play as a concert. And on a wedding, you play as a part of a simcha and you create the moods. You got five hours to cover. Itís very different moments between reception, chuppah, and the main dance and the dinner-time and the sweet table. Every moment has different vibes in the air and you got to match the moment on a wedding. The two of them are so different because the other one you sit down and listen at maximum, you know, you get up and move to the music but the music is the ikar. On the wedding album, the wedding is the ikar and the music is just to supply the right moment musically.
Jewish Community Radio: On Live in New York City, was that a private concert? Did you sell tickets to that? How did that work?
Yossi Piamenta: We sold tickets. You know, for four years I did not go to the clubs. And after four years it was my birthday, Rosh Hodesh Kislev, and I decided to do one evening in a club to the old fans who are asking me, why donít you make a concert like you used to.
Jewish Community Radio: So, what, you sent out a mailer? Or you just got in touch with the old fans?
Yossi Piamenta: I advertised in the newspaper and, baruch Hashem, it was full up. And the concert was cooking.
Jewish Community Radio: How come you stopped the concert to take a break in the middle, as many concerts do, and you did minyan? Iíve never heard of rock concert where you stop to daven Maíariv before.
Yossi Piamenta: I tell you, itís my habit. My concerts in the clubs are not only for the sake of music. But is also for the sake of getting the Jewish peoples that are all around, not religious, that theyíre into rock and roll and different style of life. When I go there, I donít even preach religion in my concert because itís a concert. Itís music. But the way I look, with beard and tzitzit, I look Jewish all the way and I donít hide it. I donít put any cosmetics behind it and baruch Hashem, I play good music with my band. I have excellent band.
Jewish Community Radio: Now you have an interesting background. Can you talk about that briefly? I know you used to play with a lot of the bands and then you became more religious.
Yossi Piamenta: Thatís right. I tell you in the beginning, I grew up in Israel. My house was little bit traditional but for sure not religious. We went out to picnics on Shabbat. But when I reach the age of twenty-five, I started to put on tefillin on a regular basis. So the first twenty-five years of my life -- and you know Israeli and Sephardic families, you cannot say that I was ignoring Jewish culture, but I did get and observe a lot of it -- but, bíemet, I did not keep the rules, the Jewish law. I was into music. Only music. You know, that was the style of life. My heroes were Elvis, and then the Beatles and then Jimi Hendrix. Include all the bands that came around it. I head all the guitarists in the world that were worth listening. And thereís a lot of them.
Jewish Community Radio: You had an inkling to play guitar right away? Were you born with the rhythm of the guitar?
Yossi Piamenta: Well, my first instrument when I was six, was drums and I only starting this. They never bought me a set and I didnít continue. And then when I was twelve, I got into guitar. Electric guitar. I heard stuff on the radio and the sound of the guitar was interesting. And my uncle, Albert Piamenta from Israel, heís a famous musician -- jazz player, saxophone, and arranger -- and he bought electric guitar. It was a Fender. And I fell in love with the voice and the sound.
Jewish Community Radio: I want to ask you, what is Jewish music? And when you have a song like off your album called Turkish Medley or Arabic Medley, is that Arabic? Is that Jewish?
Yossi Piamenta: The Jews you know, are spread all over the world. And when people live in a place for so many hundreds of years, they absorb the culture of the place. But also they give the place theyíre own culture, at least in their own music. So the influence of the whole world on Jewish music, I donít know of any other culture that is influenced by the total world as much as the Jewish culture. We get music from all around. Europe. Arab places. Africa. India. From where you donít have Jews. You have Jews all over. America. South America. Everybody gets something from that part of the world and infuse it into the Jewish culture. Itís a natural thing. And most of all in Israel, where you have a comeback of all the nations back to the place, it all blends into one thing. As long as there was no Israel, the culture was staying in their country and doing their own thing, but the rest of the world wouldnít know about it as much. In Israel it all got together. In Jerusalem you have shul from everywhere in the world. And they all sing their culture and they all blend together. And after sixty, seventy, a hundred years of being there, you get result of something thatís more delicious than any other thing.
Jewish Community Radio: When youíre living in New York and play for yeshivas, and they all kind of have that yeshiva sound with the keyboards and the horns, do they say ďwell, thatís not Jewish enough.Ē Or does anyone say, ďthatís too JewishĒ or ďthatís too SephardicĒ or ďthatís too yeshivishĒ?
Yossi Piamenta: Look, in the crowd you have people that are open, and you have people that are very much attached to their own origin culture. For instance, I can give you a fast example. A clarinet is an instrument that was invented 200 years. But if you ask whatís Jewish music, nobody can imagine Jewish music without clarinet. All the klezmer. To a lot of people in yeshiva, thatís sound Jewish mostly. But ask them, the Jewish culture is thousands of years. What was happening in Beit Hamikdash before there was clarinet? So in other words, the clarinet is a good as electric guitar. Itís an adopted instrument. The ikar, the main thing about it is not which instrument is that, but is what the music thatís been played. What does the heart of the player want to say to you with his instrument is more important then whatís the instrument. So Jewish music is something that is been done by the Jewish nation ever since. You know, in the Temple of G-d there was the biggest band in the world. Twelve-hundred piece band. All the choirs of thousands of people. Two thousand at a time, three thousand at a time. The Leviíim were in charge of that. And then there was stages where there was sacrificing on the mizbeiach. Korbanot. And you know, you have to do it with a full heart. So there was a band on the stage playing music to the people that came to confess. The music would put tears in the eyes of the am haratez, the simple people, that came to the Temple of G-d. So those tears were their teshuvah and the music would cause them to melt the hearts.
Jewish Community Radio: I think thatís what Jewish music is today. A venue to reach out.
Yossi Piamenta: Itís something to get to the heart of people with goodness. I mean the real Jewish music is doing that.
Jewish Community Radio: Everyone can reach out through music and thatís another venue. And if anyone does a job at getting simcha to people I think youíre the best one to do that.
Yossi Piamenta: Thank you very much for the compliment, but I must tell you, thereís plenty of good Jewish musicians.
Jewish Community Radio: Yes. I remember when I was younger, in Simchas Beis HaSheivah in Crown Heights, we waited until you came. It didnít start until you came.
Yossi Piamenta: I remember the days. We used to play from ten at night until five, six in the morning. No stop. One short break. It was marathon of music. All done by one band. And the crowd at the time got to over a hundred thousand people.
Jewish Community Radio: Thatís right. Mr. Piamenta, I want to thank for coming on. Do you have any final words?
Yossi Piamenta: I would like to wish happy, happy Pesach to all of am Yisrael. Itís about time to see good in the world. And I wish Mashiach comes immediately and we all be revealing and getting in the world the plenty of good that is there and get rid forever from the bad influences that are trying to attack us. We would like that the goodness will control the world. And thatís for the whole world. And to the Jewish people again, very happy Pesach and beautiful holidays and a kosher one. Eat matzahs. Donít eat bread this week.
Copyright 2004 Jewish Community Radio