Breindy and Matt nominated for a SAMA

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Jewish band Breindy and Matt has been nominated for the 2019 South African Music Awards (SAMAs).
by GILLIAN KLAWANSKY | May 16, 2019

“To our knowledge, this is the first time Jewish music has been acknowledged at the SAMAs,” says Matt. “Our songs are sung in Hebrew, and the words are from tehillim [psalms]. I think that’s quite amazing on the part of the SAMAs as it’s celebrating the diversity of music that South Africa produces.”

The two band members describe their unique brand of hypnotic music as “ancient-Hebrew, indie-alternative” but whatever they call it, their latest album, Ruth Ave, is breaking boundaries. It has been nominated for Best Alternative Album at the SAMAs.

“Initially we thought that we didn’t stand a chance because we thought our music was irrelevant in the South African context,” says Matt. “But at the end of the day we live here, we’re South Africans, and this is the music we make. Our traditions, heritage, and lineage are as valid as anybody else’s in the country, and it’s nice to see that recognised.”

The husband and wife duo heard that they had been nominated only on 27 April, despite the news being announced on the second last night of Pesach, 25 April. “We switched our phones on to the news,” says Breindy. “I was very emotional and shocked because you don’t have your hopes up high.

“We always wanted to submit our album to the SAMAs, but we didn’t expect anything, especially because it’s in Hebrew. It’s all very surreal, and we’re very excited about the nomination and the category. We’re very grateful for the feedback we’ve been given. People have been so supportive, excited and proud of us. It really means a lot.”

Ruth Ave, named for the street on which the couple live and work, was truly a labour of love. “It was a very personal project, and it took us just more than four years,” says Breindy. The couple say that making an independent album, especially one that took such a long time to come together, was challenging at times. “It can be a very lonely road for any artist,” says Matt. “You’re investing so much of your soul into it. So, the encouragement this kind of nomination gives us is very uplifting, inspiring us to carry on.

“To us, the SAMA nomination means the album is finding more of a home,” says Breindy.

In spite of some loneliness on their musical journey, Breindy and Matt enjoy their independence. “Because we weren’t beholden to anybody, it enhanced the creative process,” they agree. “No one told us how long our songs had to be, or what kind of sound they should have. It’s all of our own making. The album became part of our lives. Two of the songs are dedicated to our children who were both born while making Ruth Ave,” says Breindy.

“While the album’s personal, I want it to be listened to by anyone,” she says. “Sharing it with the world and releasing it inspires me because then people can hear the songs the way they understand them. We’re excited for the album to move beyond what it means to us, and have it become about what it means for someone else.”

Matt agrees. “At some stage, no matter how deeply involved or attached you get to this thing you’re creating, you’ve got to let go of ownership. Then it becomes everybody else’s, however they interpret or experience it.”

Breindy also speaks about the fact that three of the songs on the album are niggunim – tunes or traditional melodies without words. “I love doing niggunim because I find that can make the music more universal,” she says. “It’s not focused on the language; it’s just focused on the music. I have a feeling that that added to our appeal for the SAMAs.”

The words of Breindy and Matt’s songs with lyrics come from the psalms of King David. “The fact that the words we use are in Hebrew is not a haphazard thing,” says Matt. “It’s what feels most natural to us. I can’t imagine composing songs that aren’t in Hebrew – the language is very close to our hearts. The most natural place for us to start and draw inspiration from lyrically is the words of King David. I can’t think of anything better to make music about than that.”

Yet, the music itself takes inspiration from diverse sources. The fusion of traditional lyrics and unique melodies is what makes their music so alternative. “What I’ve always been excited about with our sound is that it’s a real fusion of the music that we’re influenced by,” says Breindy. “That’s largely alternative, avant-garde music, the music produced by bands like Radiohead and Pink Floyd.”

The couple itself represents the beauty that comes from merging different influences. Breindy’s the daughter of a rabbi, while Matt grew up in a less religious setting. Yet both families were very musical. “The biggest influence in terms of the Jewish music is my upbringing,” says Breindy. “I was brought up in a house where my father and my brothers would sing and harmonise. The girls would also all sing together at Beis Ya’akov where I went to school.” Matt’s parents are both musical and encouraged their children to take up instruments. “Breindy and I loved exploring that and merging those two themes together,” he says.

Breindy and Matt are hoping the SAMA nomination helps spread their reach. “We’ve always dreamt of playing our music in other parts of South Africa and the world,” says Breindy. “When I introduce us, I always say our goal is to break boundaries and go outward and reach many women of different backgrounds. That excites me. For the SAMAs to be able to see music as beyond limitations is exciting.”

Breindy and Matt adhere to the guidelines of Kol Isha and perform only for women.

The SAMAs will take place on 1 June at Sun City.


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