Introducing Chana Laila

Chana Laila is a compelling singer-songwriter, guitarist, and flutist, offering an enlivening new voice in the world of Jewish music. Her debut album “Lion of Judah” blends reggae, rock, and trip-hop and is both spiritual and inspirational and carries a much-needed message of love, hope, and respect for one another. Shemspeed interviewed her after she friend requested us on myspace.

Q: When did you start making music?

A: Well I started studying music on piano when I was 6…. I think the first composition I wrote was when I was around 8 years old, and I still remember how to play it! I started studying flute when I was 9, and I was around 13 when I started in with the guitar. The guitar really opened up the possibilities in terms of playing contemporary styles of popular music. Throughout my life I studied voice and musical theatre, and I also spent alot of time practicing hand percussion starting at around 16… I guess music has really been woven into my life from the beginning.

Q: Did you right away go to this style of popish, reggae, rockish music with a Jewish twist?

A:Well I really started out by learning to play songs by artists that inspired me… like Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, the Beatles, Grateful Dead… then I got really into improvisation and jazz players like Miles Davis, Coltrane, Stan Getz, and Herbie Hancock. So I have always been influenced by the reggae and rock sounds in popular music… The Jewish content in my music was inspired later when I started exploring Jewish religion and tradition while in college… I grew up totally secular, so the content of my music has evolved over the years to accommodate my experiences as I have become more committed to religious principles and philosophy. So put it all together and my own unique style just kind of emerged from all of these influences in my life.

Q: Do you play a lot of shows outside boston?

A:I have played shows with my band KindGroove, which is a hip-hop, reggae, rock type band, also with a Jewish twist in terms of content. In this group I play the flute, and no vocals. In terms of my own singer-songwriter material for my album Lion of Judah, I have mainly been working on the recording process… but that is sure to change soon as I’m about to release the album!

Q: Is there a Jewish music scene over in boston at all? i know there are alot of jews and colleges. whats the reception to your music like?

A:So far the reception has been overwhelmingly positive… I think there’s a real need for music with a positive vibe that inspires and brings people together… I don’t really see my music as exclusively Jewish in the sense that most people who seek a higher consciousness can appreciate the messages of love, hope and unity. Jews in particular seem to appreciate that my message of positivity is stemming from our own tradition.

Q: You are ortho, right? so how does kol isha play into performing for mixed audiences, if that is what you do?

A:I do struggle with this one big issue, and I feel like I’m in unchartered territory here as a religious female artist… I’m trying to pave the way for something new. So far I have been upholding the tradition of women not singing for mixed audiences (aka “kol isha”) as difficult as it is, although I do play live instrumentally. I have also chosen to share my music online and via CD without differentiation. There are a number of different opinions on the laws of kol isha, and I hope to have the strength to do what is right, and also have the opportunity to rock the mic and grow as an artist…

Q: Anything else you want to tell us….

A:My hope is that my album Lion of Judah will inspire people, bring unity, and shed light in the darkness of this world… I am grateful for where I am now, and I look forward to seeing where this music takes me!

Check her out in the Bands section


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