Swaying to Jewish Tradition

Published: August 16th 2010
in Culture » Music

The Sway Machinery
Pic: FLIP Publicity and Promotions

The Sway Machinery’s sound is a fusion of different genres: Afrobeat, blues, electric, folk and rock. The unique mix of music is a testament to the different backgrounds of its band members. The Sway Machinery consists of six members who hail from separate successful music acts. For example, drummer Brian Chase is a part of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs while bass saxophonist Colin Stetson is from Arcade Fire.


But the presence of Jewish cantorial music is one of the heaviest influences in the New York-based band’s sound. And that’s all thanks to front man Jeremiah Lockwood. Lockwood, who moonlights as a part of the Balkan Beat Box, is the only Jewish member in The Sway Machinery. The New York native’s musical talent is one that runs deep in his family. His father is composer Larry Lockwood, while his grandfather is legendary cantor Jacob Konigsberg.


This year, Lockwood and The Sway Machinery will be performing for the first time at one of the biggest gatherings of Jewish-Canadian music, the Ashkenaz Festival. “I've always been an admirer of what the Ashkenaz Festival is achieving as a major music festival bringing really quality acts together with Jewish culture as its organizing feature, but not trumping aesthetic concerns. I think it's one of the few Jewish festivals that can really claim that distinction,” Lockwood says. “It's a great honour to be playing at Ashkenaz.”


It wouldn’t be the first time Lockwood has taken the opportunity to incorporate his music into his Jewish culture. In 2007, The Sway Machinery premiered the song “Hidden Melodies Revealed” (also the title of their debut album), which was a single that celebrates Rosh HaShanah. The band has also performed and recorded songs in Hebrew.


Lockwood, who describes the band’s aesthetic as action-oriented, plans to continue staying true to his Jewish roots in exploring cantorial music tradition. In The Sway Machinery’s upcoming second album, The House of Friendly Ghosts, Vol. 1, Lockwood penned most of the songs. He promises it to be more “personal and self-probing,” featuring singles in English, Hebrew, Songai, Tamashek and Arabic.


The House of Friendly Ghosts, Vol. 1 is expected to be released in 2011. For more information, visit www.swaymachinery.com.

Related articles: (Music, The Sway Machinery, Jeremiah Lockwood, Ashkenaz)

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