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On the Seventh Day God Partied

Simja DujovFilmed at Limmud South Africa

Parties are the place where we drink and laugh. Where we celebrate friendship. Where we listen to music and dance. Where we kiss a person for the first time. Parties are the perfect combination of Sacred and Shallow. And the DJ is the high priest of this lustful and holy experience. As a genre-defying, cross-cultural musician and a massive party DJ, Simja Dujov pushes the limits of contemporary Jewish music. Defined by the press as 'a real character' in the Buenos Aires night scene, Simja blends klezmer, gypsy and world music with a strong Latin flavour. His music has travelled through the world, having been invited to perform in festivals in the US, Canada, France, South Africa, Brazil, Chile, Germany, Belgium, and Spain among others, including SXSW and Oppi Koppi. Also a music, theater and radio producer and a festival curator (including the festivals "Urban Rosh Hashannah” and “Urban Pesach”), Simja presents a musical and inspirational talk on Parties as a Sacred Experience.

Simja Dujov composes, sings and plays klezmer, gypsy and world music mixed with new styles and a strong Latin flavour. A musical producer and curator of culture festivals, he has also participated actively in movie, theatre and radio productions. In his hometown of Buenos Aires he is the host DJ for the ultimate sensation band, La Bomba de Tiempo. Simja creates new possibilities with each live performance. Defying categorisation, Simja’s music embodies an authentic synthesis of his roots and environment, while providing a vibrant ensemble of the exotic, the danceable and the innovative.

Hello, I am a musician and a DJ. I come from Argentina, Latin America a place far away from the centre of the world, from the rear bottom, rear end of the world. And there are some stereotypes about Latinos, some are well-earned, some others not much, but they’re still prejudices. So, you can imagine the Latino Macho, the seductive people, the people who like to party, so if we can imagine a day in Latina America, how would it be? Sometimes we can have in mind something like this; other times something like this. Or maybe the morning after we can find in the streets something like this. This is some kind of a prejudice. In this context parties are relegated to a place of pure leisure to forget to unwind some bad things and grievances and cast off the alienation of modern work. But I think that parties are something much more intense and profound than just that. In the history of civilisation we find parties and carnivals as places and moments of gatherings, of meetings with families, friends with people intense and profound than just that. In the history of civilisation we find parties and carnivals as places and moments of gatherings, of meetings with families, friends with people and they are really sacred moment. So, there are reasons for parties and there are also structures; parties need a reason and a structure. You can imagine birthday parties, Bar Mitzvah parties, wedding parties, Christmas parties: they all have a reason and a specific date. So, imagine celebrating your birthday party six months after your birthday and people coming into your house, giving a present to you, saying happy birthday to you, even singing “Happy Birthday!” It wouldn’t be the same; it would be strange because this specific date and this specific reason is a convention that fits perfectly in our minds. So, Post Modern parties have this sensation that the reasons have been blurred and we just have this moment of pure relaxation and enjoyment, that the celebration is lost? So, if you search for the word ‘party’ on Wikipedia, in English, you’ll find a straight definition of a party, reasons for a party and examples but if you search for the same word in Spanish the first thing you find is: any reason, whenever possible is appropriate for a party. So, is this cultural language difference just prejudice or truth? I leave it up to you, I don’t know but sometimes I think that just meeting and gathering and sharing is the reason itself. The word for party in Spanish is ‘Fiesta’. We both use fiesta for a party but we also use fiesta for a holy, sacred day. So we can use it as a sacred or profane word. So, imagine the commandment being said; “remember the Shabbat, to keep up the party”. Wouldn’t it be cool? Or sometimes, even better, like imagine the Tablets; ‘Remember the Shabbat day, to keep it Holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work but the seventh day is a Shabbat to the Lord your God, on it you shall not do any work for in six days the Lord made Heaven and Earth, the sea and all that is in them and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Shabbat day and made a party. So, Post Modern parties are these moments that we wait for during the week, we choose our best clothes, we choose our best make-up, we try to look prettier in order to worship happiness. We gather with some friends, with people and we go to another place with more people because there is some minyan needed for a good party, like; we need a good bunch of people with the will to have fun. So, in this sense I think parties are a sacred ritual and a DJ and the MC is the priest, the rabbi, of this big ceremony. And my work is to be a DJ so I’m so happy to share this moment. We have our traditions, we are used to some things until someone comes with a new parting, sometimes a new deeper parting, sometimes an even more enigmatic, or sometimes just more practical for our lives. So if we think of all these canonized partying with, we call it, tradition and new partying’s are somehow called revolutions. So, I think we should not be so worried or scared about new revolutions, I think there’s no need to do so much scandal or polemic with these new ideas, I think it’s much more interesting to contribute with ideas, with creation and somehow, with social ties, to help other people. I was thinking about my relation with Judaism and I thought about Mr Potato Head; you all know Mr Potato Head? When you buy Mr Potato Head it comes with a nose, eyes, things but you can change form shape, the place, wherever and you can add some stuff, like some upgrades, you can add a moustache or just lenses, whatever, I think Judaism, in my own way, is something like that. It’s a mixture between my own family traditions and my own experiences in my life. So every time I travel, I meet new people I have new experiences and I have like anew upgrade to my own Judaism, that’s the way I live it, I think it’s a cool way of blending living things. So, if you feel those experiences, like authentic and that are yours, you can share them and you can spread your own voice. Going back to Djing and parties; my job is to make people happy, it’s a beautiful job because sometimes when you’re Djing you try to find the perfect combination, the perfect sequence of songs that make people meet. Sometimes parties are these places where we listen to music, we dance, we drink, we meet friends, we kiss a person for the first time and sometimes that person could be, in the future, the mother of your children. I don’t know. And as a DJ sharing music, choosing this combination of songs, maybe you can help produce this movie sequence of one track, two people see each other and the next one they come closer. Maybe in the fourth or the fifth they are kissing each other one day they are a couple there’s some love there and I help, in my way, as a DJ. So maybe it sounds a little ambitious, a little pretentious but it really works its way, yeath it happens. When I am performing with my band or performing as a DJ you feel this feedback; people singing, people dancing, you sharing music, it’s really magical. So when I feel this magic happening I step backwards on the stage looking for an intimate space, if you find an intimate space. I close my eyes and thank to the Lord for this wonderful job I have . I used to have a musical professor who taught experimental music at the University and in the first class he came into the class and said, “well in this class we’re going to listen to music, we’re going to try and experiment new things, new ideas, these sounds, these instruments, music and sounds from the streets, from your house because music is this, experimental music is this (mouthing words) “ So yeah h kept moving his mouth without talking and he closed the idea saying; “There’s’ no need to talk about music, music must be made.” [Martin Luther King]“All of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual. Free at last! Free at last! Free at last! Free at last! Free at last! Free at last! Free at last! Free at last! ALL of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics will be able to join hands and sing in the worlds of the old Negro spiritual, Free at last! Free at last! Free at last! Free at last! Free at last! Free at last! Free at last! Free at last! Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

Thank you very much.

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