Sunday, March 20, 2011
Wicker Purim Event Launches The Living Room's Presence
Though much has been written about the redevelopment of Wicker Park's buildings into corporately leased or owned spaces, a three level space that formerly housed the Puerto Rican Cultural Center just north of the Six Points intersection of Milw/Damen/North is slowly transforming into a community space open to rentals for gatherings of all kind, from art exhibits to special events and musical acts.
The plan is for The Living Room to one day be home to a Jewish community center and preschool, to be operated by the neighborhood's chabad. Whenever I've mentioned chabad to fellow hoodrats, they are likely to say, "Oh, the people with the menorah mini-van," and they are correct. The chabad is very visible and often will drive through town blasting klezmer music as well as sending some of their youths out with pamphlets to fit in with the Green Peace and Planned Parenthood minions who hang out on the streets of Wicker Park too.
In 2005 or 2007, chabad held Jewish High Holiday services in a tiny vacant storefront on North Avenue near Akira. The following year services were in a former second hand music shop in a strip mall space now occupied by a pet food chain. Passover was once in a vacant space on Western soon to be used by a mobile phone company.
As a mostly non-observant Jew akin to the "Christmas and Easter" Christians, I've lived in Wicker Park going on seven years, in the same space, on occasion popping in on events like last night's Wicker Purim, a celebration of the Festival of Purim wherein in addition to readings from the megillah and Book of Esther there was an open bar, whiskey tastings, photo booth, and a buffet with falafel and hamentaschen (sp?) cookies. The evening's entertainment came by way of NYC-based rapper, Eprhyme, who played to a packed room, with sentence after rolling sentence containing original and insightful lyrics combining traditional Hebrew prayers with philosophies on work, society, current events, and more.
After the show, at the CD table, Eprhyme said that he's been rapping since the age of 12 or 13 and was first influenced by West Coast freestyle rap.
"It's [rapping] a different way to reach people and to reach within myself to embody the stuff I study and my experiences," he shared.
I then shared that I was purchasing his CD because I like the fact he was honest enough to say on stage, "Buy my CD. Make my wife happy." (It's not always easy being independent, something I can relate to these days, as I attempt to work on the Pipeline 100 project and "sell" what I love to do most while also doing it too.)
Eprhyme's first solo debut album, "Waywordwonderwill" which I'm listening to now, is produced on a Brooklyn, NYC based Jewish and World Music label, Shemspeed and promoted on a site called K. For a more in-depth piece on Eprhyme, check out this story in the Jewish Daily Forward.
Particularly inspiring were lyrics like, "Not by might, not by power, or material occupation, shall we become free" and "When we don't communicate, we all fall down."
My favorite song is track number 8, Pride and Prejudice, which was a bit less of a rap and more of a harmony, containing overlapping vocals by Nomy Lamm, who sounded like Jill Scott at the Wailing Wall.
As I am having difficulty locating P&P's lyrics, I'll just post fragments of what I heard while playing and replaying the song a bunch of times and likely annoying my neighbors:
"Stop me if I'm wrong, but doesn't everybody want to get along? We're all different that's what makes us great... I don't understand why it must be this way.... Is it part of your master plan for everything to be this way? It's gonna be okay baby, everything gonna be OK..... I've got love, I hate to hate."
Eprhyme's message is an important one in a time when the Jewish people are divided on many issues as well as assimilated. The chabad movement is attempting to build a bridge to connect Jews to each other and to their communities. For lack of a better way to describe it, I think it's close to win-win.