Meet Authors and Hebrew in Harmony Musicians Doni Zasloff and Eric Lindberg
Hebrew in Harmony—the new prayer curriculum for 4th-6th graders—features music from today's top Jewish musicians. This is part of a series profiling some of these talented artists.
Doni Zasloff and Eric Lindberg have had a banner year. Apples & Honey Press released the duo's first children's book, Sing-Along Alef Bet, featuring their upbeat lyrics and charming illustrations by Israeli artist Rinat Gilboa. They are also featured in video and audio tracks in Hebrew in Harmony, the new music-based prayer curriculum.
And the wife/husband team who form the band Nefesh Mountain just last week released their eponymous debut album, to great acclaim. Bluegrass Today called their unique Jewish-bluegrass music a "highly-effective blend of these two spheres… only rarely have we heard a prominent Jewish counterpoint to the gospel music that has been a part of bluegrass since Bill Monroe’s earliest recordings.”
"The hills are alive with the sound of Jewgrass," announced the Times of Israel last week in a feature story on the couple.
Who are your musical influences?
We have so many musical influences.. from both the Jewish and bluegrass worlds, as well as other genres like folk, rock, classical, and jazz. For us, the most inspiring music comes from an artist that is authentic and uniquely themselves, with a pure and honest voice. An artist who is not afraid to be themself.
For our new album, we were so very fortunate to have some of our own musical heroes collaborate with us. We felt that sonically and musically it was important to have a full bluegrass band be the foundation for the album. We wanted to have a real American bluegrass sound that was respectful to the genre and were so very grateful that we had Sam Bush on mandolin, Rob Ickes on dobro, Mark Schatz on bass, Scott Vestal on banjo, and Gary Oleyar on fiddle. These truly are the guys who have defined and even redefined the genre over the years, and we feel so blessed to have collborated with them on the album. We are also constantly being inspired and touched by the rabbis, cantors, and friends that we meet on the road.
How does prayer resonate with you, and why?
Music and prayer help to create a path where otherwise there is none. It has a profound impact on our souls and helps us get to a place of love, trust, and oneness. It helps us come to a place of gratitude and to be present in our surroundings and universe. Putting prayer in the context of bluegrass, Old Time and Americana music is our way of purely and honestly expressing ourselves as artists and as American Jews.
What's one instrument you wished you could play?
We both love the sound of the fiddle, yet neither one of us, as of yet, actually play it. Maybe one day!?
How did you meet?
We began playing music together in our “kids-and-family band” as Mama Doni, and along the way really became each others sole inspiration for writing songs and collaborating. Our mutual love for bluegrass and country music and our Jewish backgrounds gave us the common ground to embark together on this “journey to Nefesh Mountain.”
What's one technique you use to engage an audience?
We try to break down barriers between the stage and the audience whenever possible. The music itself is a way for us all to connect to each other and to something greater than ourselves. We love when the audience can participate with us - whether we are bringing people up on stage or inviting them to sing along from their seats - and we want to create an experience for us all. The most magical moments are when we all feel and sound like one voice together.
Watch "Old-Time Medley" (Down to the River/Modeh Ani/Halleluyah) by Nefesh Mountain.
Visit www.behrmanhouse.com/hih to hear some of Doni and Eric's music and explore Hebrew in Harmony.