by: Dan Pine - Last updated: 2003-11-13
Californian-based singer/songwriter Hyim has a Middle East peace proposal hed like to float: Send 10,000 kids to the region, have a heart-to-heart with their Arab and Israeli counterparts and then get em all singing.
Kumbaya-flavoured pie in the sky? Hyim doesnt think so, and the musician/self-styled peace educator lives life accordingly.
Its all a bit incongruous: a young Jewish man, hailing from a family of doctors and teachers, who found his artistic (and personal) salvation in music, especially hip-hop.
And hes no white hip-hop wannabe, cruising the suburbs in daddys Beemer.
Hyim born Hyim Jacob Ross 30 years ago is the real deal, a product of the tough Oakland public schools and an eyewitness to the pain and thuggery of the streets.
His father, Robert Norman Ross, a physician, was gunned down in a murder-suicide committed by the crazed husband of a former patient. Hyim was just a boy at the time.
Today the former angry young man is a mature recording artist and official spreader of joy.
Thats the underlying message of his CD, Let Out a Little Peace, newly re-released on his own independent label, Family Productions. Hyim wrote, produced and arranged the CDs 11 songs, and he played guitar and piano as well.
Hyims music is tough to classify. He calls it urban world beat, a nice way of saying he doesnt exactly fit with the cookie-cutter music industry.
Which is exactly how he likes it.
His lyrics tend to zero in on themes of love and reconciliation, occasionally with a subtle Jewish flair. In Let Out a Little Peace, Hyim sings: We will create this peace/One by one/Accept our grief without vengeance/And let this cycle cease.
Is he talking about Israel? Or about a boy, enraged that his father died so senselessly? He wont say.
What he does say is that music remains an engine for social change, and he plans to stoke it as much as possible.
Hip-hop is the poetry of a generation thats had materialism shoved down its throat, he says. Its about finding power when youre feeling powerless.
Hyim says delving deeply into hip-hop helped him overcome his fathers murder, as did making his own music. It took him years to work through it, but he did so in a way that helped him embrace life, rather than leave him embittered.
He attended Skyline High School in Oakland, befriending kids of every ethnicity. At the same time, Hyim never forgot he was Jewish, becoming bar mitzvah at the East Bays Kehilla Community Synagogue.
Its part of what I am, he says. When you become conscious of cultural awareness, you have to find your own harmony and seek your roots.
Hyim is eager to take his musical message to the streets. But whether success comes quickly or not, Hyim is following age-old advice: Enjoy the ride. When God gives you a skill, its a non-mitzvah to disregard it.
Hyims CD Let Out a Little Peace is available through his Web site www.hyimvibe.com
First published in J. the Jewish news weekly of Northern California.
J. can be found on the web at: www.jweekly.com
Copyright 2003 - San Francisco Jewish Community Publications Inc.