A friend asked me recently for suggestions of "good Chanukah music," aside from Peter, Paul & Mary's "Light One Candle" and the Stephen Colbert / Jon Stewart contemporary classic "Can I Interest You In Hanukkah?"
The challenge, of course, is that Chanukah is a minor Jewish holiday in the grand scheme of things. There are a few decent Chanukah songs, but this isn't the holiday that has inspired the greats of my tradition to plumb their musical depths.That said, I promised her I'd come up with a list of a few things, and I'm sharing it here in case anyone else has similar needs.
The first thing that comes to mind is Anander Mol, Anander Veig, a compilation of remixes released by Tablet magazine a few years back at Chanukah-time. At that link you can listen to individual tracks or download the whole album.
Bare Naked Ladies put a Chanukah song on their holiday album a while back, which is actually pretty charming.
If you are a fan of a cappella, you might enjoyS ix13's Chanukah (Shake It Off). On a similar note, there's the Maccabeats' All About That Neis. And, of course, don't miss this year's release, Hasmonean, a delightful Hamilton medley parody.
Nava Tehila, the Jewish Renewal community of Jerusalem, is led by a trio of extraordinarily talented musicians. Here's an excerpt from a concert they put on at a Benedictine monastery in Israel at Chanukah a few years ago, which begins with their performance of "Maoz Tzur" (a.k.a. Rock of Ages.)
The next track that comes to mind is Shir Yaakov's "Or Zarua." It's not a Chanukah song per se, but it is a song about light -- which seems fitting to me for these dark days as the winter solstice recedes.
Shir Yaakov is part of Darshan. Their album Deeper and Higher is terrific. I'm especially fond of the track "Before Darkness," which remixes the "Or Zarua" I linked to above. My other favorite track on that album is probably "For the Sake of Unification." Now we've moved firmly out of the realm of Chanukah music and into the realm of "good Jewish music to which one could listen at Chanukah (or any time)."
Another fun one to put in a holiday playlist -- again, not a Chanukah song, but one that makes me smile -- is this version of "Adon Olam" sung to the tune of Pharrell Williams' "Happy." (My other favorite setting of Adon Olam these days is this one by Cantor Azi Schwarz, to the tune of "You'll Be Back" from Hamilton.)
If you have recommendations of Chanukah music that works for you, feel free to leave them in comments!