On June 3rd, 2018 a Jewish music festival will pilot its first year, right in the heart of the City of Angels.
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I remember during my year in Israel when a few of the girls in my seminary decided to start listening to Jewish music and Jewish music only. As a newcomer to the whole Jewish thing, there was no question in my mind that this was not something I was ready to “take on.” The idea of restricting myself to only one kind of music felt imprisoning and monotonous. However in the past five years, the world of Jewish music has grown and bloomed. I’ve watched the artists I love take risks and sell out shows, I’ve followed bands around to whatever New York City venue they were playing, and I’ve even attended Jewish music festivals — Shabbat friendly ones — that provided an entire weekend of Jewish music. And this is only the beginning.
Ariel Perets, originally from New York, has always had a passion for music. While his background is in film and business, he found his way to Judaism through music. Ariel finds something particularly special about music that is “tapped in;” music that is connected to the source. This could mean many things to many people, but to Ariel, it means the Nigunim the Hasidim sing, the psalms of King David. Modernly, it means the Jewish musicians that have taken the scene by storm, welcoming their brothers and sisters in with open arms. Ariel now lives in LA and is ready to flood the West Coast with a Jewish music festival like never before.
The mission of the Junity Jewish Music and Arts Festival is twofold. Primarily, Junity wishes to unite Jews of all types through a common love of music. It strives to inspire people by filling central LA with reverberating chords and an audience of pounding hearts with souls on fire. Furthermore, Junity aims to create a platform where Jewish musicians from all over the country and Israel can share their music. Ariel was intentional about putting this festival in the middle of the city. Junity has chosen the urban route instead of the rural one. As opposed to other festivals which involve camping out overnight, Junity chooses to be accessible to families, city dwellers, and industry pros. It’s extremely important for artists with big talent to be given a place on the big stage where everyone can hear them.
While a music-filled camping adventure in the middle of nowhere will always pull at our heartstrings, Junity promises a different kind of magic. This time, it’s all about the music.
“What makes Jewish music, Jewish exactly?” I asked.
“It’s all about the creator,” Ariel replied.
Ariel grew up going to a lot of concerts. He had friends who were musicians and always found music to be an important part of his life. As he began to lead a more observant Jewish lifestyle, he made the decision to only listen to Jewish music. But to him, Jewish music simply means the creator is Jewish. A connected Jewish artist creates Jewish music. He sees no limit in his options of artists to choose from. Junity strives to show us how many amazing musicians have worked tirelessly to create music that is utterly full of soul and life. Perets says that Junity goers will be shocked when they encounter Jewish music and bands they’ve never seen before, or even more so, knew existed.
“As the Lubavitcher Rebbe said, labels are for clothes, not Jews”
Junity was created so all Jews of all ages, backgrounds, and beliefs could gather. Ariel believes strongly that “if you build it they will come,” and was overwhelmed by the amount of musicians that showed interest in performing. Jewish artists may have an overall smaller audience, when in reality their music can appeal to a wider and more diverse audience. Junity dreams to fill the air with spiritually uplifting tunes that will inspire the masses of Jewish souls and musicians.
There’s a place for Jews to share their songs, no matter what their style. Junity is all about giving Jews a place to play their music. And this is just the beginning. The first year of the festival will plant and sow the seeds for something bigger. Ariel envisions a multi-day festival that will travel to NYC as well as to Israel.
Already Junity has became much larger than anyone had originally imagined, with many more bands on the line up than expected and the addition of a Shira Tent — a place for female performers who observe the laws of Kol Eisha to be heard. As the world of Jewish music evolves, and festivals like Junity begin to grow, it has come to the attention of many that Jewish women refuse to be left behind. We now live in a world where women can, should, and must be included in the festival, and female musicians will only grow in their involvement.
Junity Jewish Music and Arts Festival will also feature Jewish film makers and artists. The turn out is predicted in the thousands, with room for many more. If you build it, they will come.