THE SWAY MACHINERY: News
THE SWAY MACHINERY AND CECI BASTIDA UNITE FOR ONE NIGHT IN BROOKLYN! - January 25, 2013
World-exploring rockers The Sway Machinery and Mexican Rock chanteuse Ceci Bastida are uniting for a one-night affair in Brooklyn!
On February 23, 2013, a unique concert/event will be taking place at the Paper Box in East Williamsburg, celebrating Purim, the Jewish masked carnivale-bacchanal holiday. Bastida and The Sway Machinery will be doing a concert together featuring a Brooklyn take on Bastida's L.A./Mexico beat-centric sound.
The Sway Machinery is a NYC based band that focuses on mining cultural memory in the creation of new and exciting musical experiences. The band has a unique and hard-earned pedigree rocking stages and dance floors from Timbuktu to Warsaw. The Sway Machinery has been producing Purim parties for years. Last year the band's show took over the Jewish Museum in Melbourne, Australia. The 2010 edition of The Sway Machinery's Purim party saw the band in collaboration with Dja Rara, the Haitian Rara carnivale-marching band masters.
This year for Purim, The Sway Machinery will be joined by Latin Grammy-nominee Ceci Bastida, one of the most exciting voices in contemporary popular music. Bastida was born and raised in Tijuana and now lives in LA. She joined the band Tijuana NO when she was just 15 and became one of the first women to rise in the ranks of contemporary Latin rock. She released the solo album Veo La Marea in 2010. The album, which included hot-button songs about immigration, the Mexican border and the drug war, featured guest spots by Diplo, Rye Rye, XXXChange and Tim Armstrong.
The Sway Machinery and Ceci Bastida met while working on recreation concert of the classic mid 20th century album, Mazeltov Mis Amigos, a Latin Jazz take on Yiddish standards. The musical chemistry was re-established this past December at a multi-artist Holiday show in San Francisco, planting the seeds for this new project. For The Sway Machinery, working with Bastida is in-line with a long term goal of igniting inter-cultural collaborations with artists working at the highest level of contemporary popular culture.
The night will be rounded out by DJ Joro Boro, spinning transnational dance hits.
Sponsored by Tablet, Reboot and the Idelsohn Society for Musical Preservation. Presented by Hear Entertainment.
THE SWAY MACHINERY THE HOUSE OF FRIENDLY GHOSTS, VOL. 1 FEATURING KHAIRA ARBY OUT MARCH 8 ON JDUB RECORDS! - January 30, 2011
The Sway Machinery-a Brooklyn-based collective that performs a cosmopolitan amalgam inspired by ancient Jewish Cantorial music, blues, afro-beat and rock-will release The House of Friendly Ghosts, Volume 1 March 8 on JDub Records. The new album, which features Timbuktu vocal superstar Khaira Arby, builds on the success of Sway Machinery's previous recording Hidden Melodies Revealed that garnered critical praise from the Village Voice, SPIN and Very Short List, among others.
Chronicling Sway Machinery founder and mastermind Jeremiah Lockwood and company's journey to Mali's Festival in the Desert earlier this year (to which they were the first Jewish band to ever be invited) and subsequent collaboration with Arby, the album explores the ideas of diaspora, pilgrimage and spirituality by pulling together an array of content including Arby's songs, Lockwood's compositions and field recordings captured along the way. While at the remote festival gathering, the band performed with numerous Tuareg ensembles and watched as its broad base of influences meshed with those of some of the region's most crucial artists.
The Sway Machinery consists of Lockwood (guitar and vocals, Balkan Beat Box), Stuart Bogie (tenor saxophone, Antibalas), Jordan McLean (trumpet, Antibalas), John Bollinger (drums, Barbez), Colin Stetson (bass saxophone, Arcade Fire). In addition to Arby, whose voice is featured prominently, The House of Friendly Ghosts, Volume 1 includes a diverse selection of special guests including original Super Rail Band guitarist Djelimady Tounkara, rising star Vieux Farka Toure, souko (one-string violin) master Zoumana Tereta, Gao-based Takamba band Super 11, as well as Sway Machinery's extended Brooklyn family of Matt Bauder, Kenny Warren and Rich Stein.
For Lockwood, The Sway Machinery is about excavating cultural history as a spiritual catalyst. Travelling to Mali and delving into the Tuareg musical and spiritual traditions, The Sway Machinery realized the parallels between their own lost Jewish traditions and the transmission of cultural knowledge amongst the Tamashek and Songhai people they lived, performed and travelled with while at the edge of the Sahara.
For more information, please contact
Brian Shimkovitz or Carla Sacks at Sacks & Co., 212.741.1000,
firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Hidden Melodies Revealed 2010--Featuring Special Guest Khaira Arby! - August 18, 2010
The Sway Machinery's unique New Year event returns to New York
September 8, 2010 at the City Winery (155 Varick St, Manhattan)
More a pulsating spiritual experience than a religious service, the music is a hybrid of Lockwood's diverse musical background. -NY1
As soon as Sway Machinery hit the stage, hundreds rose from their seats to dance in the aisles and the foot of the stage, in a truly unique way to bring in the New Year. -Jewcy.com
On September 8, 2010 The Sway Machinery will bring Hidden Melodies Revealed back to New York City after a triumphant 2009 run on the West Coast. This multi-media concert/event celebrates the Jewish New Year and the power of the Cantorial music tradition in a presentation that is part ritual, part rock concert. In a one night only production at the prestigious downtown venue City Winery, Hidden Melodies Revealed will unleash an all-out party that is both joyful and transformative and will include storytelling, animated film, and a hint of mass hysteria.
The Sway Machinery's unique musical vision recontextualizes Ashkenazic Jewish spiritual music in the broader spectrum of the world of music, finding inspiration for new versions of Cantorial classics in African popular music and the blues. The band's powerhouse line-up of New York City greats (featuring members of Balkan Beat Box and Antibalas) brings pure fire to the stage.
For this year's presentation of the concert/event, The Sway Machinery will draw upon its recent experiences in Mali, Africa, where the band spent a month performing and recording with local musicians. On this Rosh HaShana, the group will be joined by Khaira Arby, the "Nightingale of Timbuktu,” one of the leading female vocalists in the contemporary Malian music world. Khaira's ethereal vocal style will bring a new and unexpected perspective on the spiritual experience of the Cantorial canon The Sway Machinery draws from. Her participation in Hidden Melodies Revealed is an exciting new development of this ongoing project.
Last year, The Sway Machinery premiered Hidden Melodies Revealed in Los Angeles and San Francisco to standing room only crowds. The event premiered in 2007 at the Angel Orensanz Foundation, taking a packed house of New Yorkers by storm with its powerful blend of tradition and visceral performance. The event will feature Guggenheim fellow Shawn Atkin's film The Akeidah, which was commissioned especially for these events. The film takes a unique look at the story of the binding of Isaac, one of the traditional Scriptural readings for the New Year.
The Sway Machinery-back from Africa! - April 26, 2010
Playing in Mali
The Sway Machinery Play Festival au Desert
By Jeremiah Lockwood
Published February 10, 2010, issue of February 19, 2010.
Jeremiah Lockwood just returned from a trip to the West African nation of Mali with his band, The Sway Machinery. The band performed at the Festival au Desert and recorded an album with Malian guest artists.
Americans grow up hearing “Timbuktu” used to mean the most remote place in the world. Though readily reachable these days, the real city of Timbuktu, Mali, is indeed touched by the color of the exotically magical. The city is made up of red dusty bricks that look as though they might blow away if not for the binding spell of an incantation. But the true magic of this city is in its incomparable cultural riches.
On our first night in Timbuktu, our friend and tour guide, Mahmoud Arawane, had invited the great singer Khaira Arby to meet us on the rooftop of the house where we were staying. Arby came with her whole band, some of the best musicians in the area, and we played an impromptu concert together under the stars for an audience of a few European tourists and a group of young Tuareg men. The unexpected intensity of our reception, and the sheer joy of music-making in this fantastical atmosphere, made this one of the most exhilarating musical moments of my life.
At the Festival au Desert, held just outside Timbuktu this year, we performed for an audience of thousands. As the first performers of Jewish music to be playing at the festival, I was overjoyed by the welcome we received. The crowd, which was predominantly made up of traditionally garbed desert-dwelling Tuareg, seemed to be both intrigued by the unaccustomed American sound of our music and filled with a surprising affinity for what they were hearing. Despite the foreign rhythms and energy, The Sway Machinery’s integration of spiritual music into secular music culture is a very familiar idea to Malians.
The idea of playing with traditions and fusing disparate musical worlds is a staple of Malian music. When I introduced one song in our set as being by my grandfather, Cantor Jacob Konigsberg, many in the audience clapped and cheered. They did not need to have any notion of what a cantor is to feel the value of a young man carrying on family tradition. Seeing turbaned men pumping their fists in the air along with my grandfather’s “Aveinu Malkeinu Z’khor” is certainly one of the most memorable and inspiring images from our journey.
From a Jewish perspective, Mali is perhaps uniquely well situated in the Muslim world to welcome cultural interaction. I came to Mali making my Jewishness very public, and I met nothing but respectful curiosity and friendly interest. Mali has an amazing potential to be a point of positive image-changing in the world of Jewish-Islamic relations. It is an Islamic nation with an incredibly welcoming and warm society that is deeply comfortable with the notion of people belonging to different tribal backgrounds. I would be overjoyed to see more Jews making the trek to Timbuktu, which was once the home of a venerable Jewish community that thrived in the rich culture of this formerly dominant outpost of commerce and learning. The journey is deeply soul expanding.
While at the festival, I made friends with the great Tuareg musician Abdulla Ag Mohamed, percussionist and musical director of the band Tartit. Tuareg men have a charming habit of walking hand in hand together. While we were walking together, Ag Mohamed wanted to hold hands. I manned up and pushed past my cultural discomfort, and we walked together in this way, hand in hand.
Ag Mohamed invited me into a Tuareg tent, where men were singing together in call and response. He nudged me into the circle, and we clapped and sang along. Two little girls were accompanying the group with drums, under the watchful eye of their mother, who was coaching their playing. Everyone was laughing and applauding each other’s creativity with raucous catcalls. In my mind’s eye, I saw the needlepoint on my grandparents’ wall, and I could hear the singing of zemiros, or Jewish hymns, and the sound of nigunim, wordless melodies, with my grandfather and my cousins at my grandfather’s tish. I looked around the faces in the tent and saw the kindness born of mutual respect. And I was grateful because I had been blessed to fulfill a verse of scripture: “Behold how good it is to sit in the unity of brotherhood.”
Musician and native New Yorker, Jeremiah Lockwood lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two sons.
THE SWAY MACHINERY: PILGRIMAGE - November 13, 2009
Tax deductible donations are now being excepted to support this ambitions project:
In celebration of The Sway Machinery’s invitation to perform at the legendary Festival of the Desert (January 7-9, 2010) in Esekane, Mali, I am embarking on a new project, entitled Pilgrimage. The Pilgrimage project will consist of a real act of journeying by the band to the depths of the Sahara desert, and will also result in a new body of work that we will create while in Africa. Our journey will be documented through the recording of a new album by The Sway Machinery and through the making of a unique documentary film about our musical journey, to be directed by the extraordinary filmmaker Jonathan Hock.
The ensuing art products will enable The Sway Machinery to bring our unique exploration of the historic Jewish Cantorial music tradition to a wider audience than we have ever met before. Both album and film will engage our core audience of young music lovers in a dialogue about the nature of contemporary Jewish identity and question the usual narrative of Muslim-Jewish relations.
The Festival of the Desert is one of the largest music festivals in Mali, with an annual attendance of over 10,000. In addition to featuring the best of Mali’s music scene, artists like Ali Farka Toure and Tinariwen, the Festival has begun to attract international artists on the level of Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant.
The Festival takes place in an entirely Islamic nation and cultural milieu. The invitation on the part of the Festival to an unambiguously Jewish themed act represents an unprecedented hand extended across a cultural divide, a gesture that would be unthinkable in most of the Islamic world. The unique nature of the Festival in the Desert and its focus on themes of inter-tribal peace and healing within the context of Malian society creates an unparalleled opportunity for deep cultural dialogue and exchange.
The Sway Machinery will be the first performers presenting any aspect of Jewish culture at the Festival of the Desert, which takes place in the deeply traditional Islamic milieu of the Saharan Sahel. We will be serving as cultural ambassadors, bringing Jewish music traditions into an arena where they will be truly an unknown. Acting as both teachers and students, the band’s art will surely be impacted by the incredible potential for cultural dialogue implicit in our journey.
The film and album created on this journey will open up this fascinating and magical personal experience to the world. The art products of our journey will encourage viewers to re-imagine the nature of cultural divisions and to re-invest emotionally in the potential of art to heal. Viewers of the documentary film will be invited to celebrate the ability of the imagination to guide us along alternative paths that refute the notion of Jewish culture as something stagnant and conservative.
As the leader of The Sway Machinery, my goal for the band has been two-fold: to delve deeply into myself to create a new musical presentation of the Cantorial music tradition that I came to know through my family, and to foster a community of musicians who are empowered to create on their highest level. Our journey will strengthen the spirit of community not only among the creative voices involved, but through the dialogue we will open up to the world.
The issues the project frames include a meditation on the connection between creativity and sustaining identity, on ways in which borrowing and celebrating other cultures can help strengthen self-knowledge and commitment to one's own communal past, and on taking apart the narrative of enmity between Muslims and Jews and bringing a new and positive story to this issue. It is my goal to bring these issues to vivid life through my music and through the adventure I am undertaking.
The Sway Machinery is one of the premier acts to emerge from New York City’s underground music scene in recent years and has garnered a cult following among young music lovers well beyond the metropolitan area. Members of the group are prominently featured in such well-know bands as Arcade Fire, Antibalas and Balkan Beat Box. The band’s focus on rediscovering and celebrating the Jewish Cantorial spiritual music tradition has been central in the forging of the group’s particular and visceral sound. The band’s debut album, Hidden Melodies Revealed, came out on JDub Records in 2009 and the group has been featured as a headliner at major venues in the US and internationally.
Eight-time Emmy Award winning director Jonathan Hock (Through the Fire, The Lost Son of Havana) has made a name for himself through his creation of uncompromisingly personal depictions of the lives of public figures. His involvement with the Pilgrimage bodes extremely well for the artistic and commercial potential of the project.
The profile of the project has also been boosted by Cinetic Media, a leader in the media industries that brought Napoleon Dynamite and Super Size Me to the mass market. Cinetic has come on board in this early stage of the project, lending their expertise in the fundraising and development stages, with an eye to the potential for distribution. Already, the team is developing a plan for the film's release on the festival circuit and is seeking potential television sales opportunities.
ELI VALLEY VERSUS THE SWAY MACHINERY IN THE TEMPLE OF SELF HATRED - November 9, 2009
HIDDEN MELODIES REVEALED 2009 - July 28, 2009
JDub Records Presents: The Sway Machinery’s Music Extravaganza “Hidden Melodies Revealed: A Secret Celebration of Rosh Hashanah”
September 17th at the Wilshire Boulevard Temple in Los Angeles
September 19th in San Francisco
On the heels of their successful New York City events in 2007 and 2008, JDub Records Presents America’s only indie rock/Jewish cantorial music group, The Sway Machinery (www.swaymachinery.com, http://www.myspace.com/theswaymachinery), bringing one of the most unique celebrations of Jewish traditional music “Hidden Melodies Revealed – a Secret Celebration of Rosh Hashanah” to Los Angeles and San Francisco for 2009. This multi-media concert event celebrates the Jewish New Year in a presentation that is part ritual, part rock concert. The performance is scheduled for the night before Rosh Hashanah, on September 17. “Hidden Melodies Revealed” will also include storytelling and compelling animated film. The event will take place at 9:00pm at the Wilshire Boulevard Temple, 3663 Wilshire Blvd, and admission is free. An Open Bar Reception will be held in the courtyard of the temple prior to the concert at 8:00PM.
The Sway Machinery's unique musical vision re-contextualizes Ashkenazic Jewish spiritual music, the soulful vocal Cantorial style most often heard in American Jewish synagogues, into the broader spectrum of world music. The band finds inspiration for new versions of Cantorial classics in African popular music, Eastern European folk music and American blues. Their ever rotating line-up features an incredible roster of musicians for the Los Angeles event; led by blues guitarist Jeremiah Lockwood of Balkan Beat Box, along with John Bollinger of Barbez on drums, noted tenor sax player Matt Bauder, Kelly Pratt of the Beirut and Arcade Fire horn sections (and his own acclaimed project Plan B) on trumpet, and touring member of The Arcade Fire and frequent Tom Waits collaborator Colin Stetson on bass saxophone. Other exciting musical guests are expected and will be announced as they are confirmed.
Hidden Melodies Revealed will also feature a screening of Guggenheim fellow Shawn Atkin's animated short film depicting the dawn of monotheism, The Akeidah.
HIDDEN MELODIES REVEALED--OUT NOW ON JDUB RECORDS! - April 7, 2009
JDub Records to release The Sway Machinery EP on September 16 2008! - August 27, 2008
NEW YORK, NY (August 26, 2008) – JDub Records is proud to announce the release of The Sway Machinery's self-titled EP on September 16th, 2008. The release will coincide with Hidden Melodies Revealed, two multi-media performances taking place at Le Poisson Rouge in Manhattan on Rosh Hashanah, September 29th and 30th.
The Sway Machinery is an all-star collective of innovative visionaries lead by guitarist Jeremiah Lockwood of Balkan Beat Box. The Sway Machinery also includes Brian Chase of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs on drums, Stuart Bogie and Jordan McLean of the Antibalas horn section on tenor saxophone and trumpet respectively, and touring member of The Arcade Fire Colin Stetson on bass saxophone. The EP also features the extraordinary talents of Tomer Tzur on percussion.
The Sway Machinery's sound stems from Lockwood's rich musical relationships with his grandfather Cantor Jacob Konigsberg, and with his mentor Carolina Slim, the renowned blues player who fondly guided Lockwood's musical development. Konigsberg, one of the last great exponents of Cantorial singing, guided Lockwood into an understanding and love of the soulful and ancient heritage of Synagogue music. Lockwood's deeply personal relationship to these two musical traditions helped him to forge a unique musical language of his own, as he learned to move from singing in his grandfather's study to playing with Carolina Slim in New York City subway stations. The Sway Machinery was borne out of this dichotomy.
Though The Sway Machinery carefully cultivates Lockwood's deeply felt relationship to his musical roots, his accomplished colleagues bring to the table the sounds of afro-beat horns, unassailable rock beats and an astutely contemporary musical sensibility. Lockwood layers the haunting notes of his Cantorial-influenced vocals over the energetic, celebratory rhythms of afro-pop, hard-hitting drums and the blues. The EP showcases pieces based on mystical texts taken directly from the Jewish High Holiday prayers and reconfigures them in a startlingly new musical landscape. Lockwood's ambitious melding of styles results in what The Village Voice has called a most “joyful synthesis.”
This year Hidden Melodies Revealed will feature a powerful set by the Sway Machinery and the premiere of a new animated masterpiece by renowned artist and New York Times illustrator Andrea Dezsö.
This EP is the perfect opportunity to celebrate mesmerizing...ancient stories ranging from meditative and snaking to madcap and bone-rattling” (Village Voice) before The Sway Machinery releases their full-length album in January, 2009.
The Bluegrass Special feature on The Sway Machinery - June 25, 2008
The webzine, which focuses on American traditional music, featured Sway in its Gospel Set column, a wonderful departure from your usual Gospel fare!
Check it out at:
New recording session! - May 29, 2008
Purim Party Throw Down! - March 21, 2008
Hidden Melodies Revealed--a night to remember - September 18, 2007
Copies of the Hidden Melodies Revealed EP are still available! Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for info.
Hidden Melodies Revealed--OPEN BAR courtesy of Moet Hennesy Company - August 24, 2007
The bar will be offering Ardbeg "the Ultimate Single Islay Malt Scotch Whiskey" and Greenpoint Chardonnay and Cabernet Shiraz from Australia. Greenpoint , founded by Moet and Chandon, is a high quality cool climate wine that is committed to ecologically friendly wine making practices.
We are very happy to have this wonderful opportunity to charge the atmosphere even further with a small but potent infusion of lubricating spirits. Thank you Moet Hennesy!
Hidden Melodies Revealed--all star ensemble - August 24, 2007
Hidden Melodies Revealed---production under way! - July 19, 2007
On September 12, 2007 at 10PM, The Sway Machinery will journey into the realm of memory and destiny fulfilled, celebrating the lunar New Year with an event that pushes the boundaries of its exploratory music. After months of touring with other projects (including Arcade Fire, Balkan Beat Box and Antibalas), the band's members are re-uniting to create their most exciting project to date. More than a concert, this event will walk the balance beam between storytelling, theater, music and mass hysteria. Taking place on Rosh HaShana and employing the musical traditions of the Jewish New Year as its jumping off point, Hidden Melodies Revealed will unleash an all-out party that is both joyful and transformative.
Hidden Melodies Revealed will take place at Angel Orensanz Foundation, an historic Lower East Side Synagogue that has since found new life as an art and event venue. A deep sense of history burns through the space. The depth of its past is especially relevant for this event, as it was in this same building that Cantor Jacob Konigsberg, the grandfather of lead singer Jeremiah Lockwood, gave his New York debut concert in 1949 when the Angel Orensanz site housed the vibrant and celebrated Slonimer Synagogue.
This event will feature the debut of a short film especially created for the night by animator Shawn Atkins (The Traveling Eye of the Blue Cat) using puppets designed by Paul Andrejco (Puppet Heap). The film takes as its subject The Akeidah, the sacrifice of Isaac. Calling upon the traditional structure of the Rosh HaShana service, which has at its center a reading from the Torah, this film will serve as the reading from Scripture for the day, connecting the performance to the epic storytelling tradition from which it derives. The film will be accompanied by live music and a narrator, performed by Yula Beeri (Nanuchka, World/Inferno Friendship Society).
Hidden Melodies Revealed will push open the gates of the spirit and spill out into the senses. This is an event that will truly reward all who bear witness.
Jeremiah Lockwood with Balkan Beat Box in Paris on Internet Radio - July 19, 2007
Special Guest Brian Chase on Drums (of Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs fame) - May 2, 2007
The Sway Machinery at South By South West! - February 5, 2007
Also of interest: We are beginning work on a short documentary about the band, directed by Tatiana McCabe. More details soon to follow!
Linnea - December 12, 2006
Video on YouTube! - November 23, 2006
Podcast on Nextbook.org - September 25, 2006
The Sway Machinery reviewed in Village Voice and Culture Catch! - September 17, 2006
Our concert at Southpaw was also just reviewed on Dusty Wright's CultureCatch.com.
The Sway Machinery in England! - August 19, 2006
We will be playing on Wednesday August 23rd at the Spitz in London and then heading off to the Limmud festival in the English country side. Have a look at our Shows page for more details.