I recently did an interview with Messianic Family Magazine regarding Chavah Messianic Radio, my internet radio project that seeks to be the best place on the web for Messianic Jewish and Hebrew Roots music.
I think you’ll find the interview interesting, fine Kineti readers! It gives a little glimpse into how Chavah came to be, and in a broader sense, it articulates the purpose and vision of Messianic music.
Q. Messianic Family Magazine is thankful for the opportunity to speak with Judah Gabriel Himango, founder of Chavah Messianic Radio! Our family loves to listen to your Messianic Radio Site! We love how the songs found on your site praise Yeshua HaMashiach! Can you tell us a little about how your site came to be?
Glad you guys are loving Chavah!
I've long been a fan of Messianic music, particularly classic Lamb, the group that pioneered Messianic music in the 1970s. I grew up listening to Lamb cassette tapes, and even learned to play guitar using Lamb hits like "Baruch HaShem"!
Fast forward to 2010, I had amassed a nice collection of Messianic music on my PC. When I told folks at my local congregation about the rich legacy of Messianic music available to us, they asked where they could listen to some. I searched around the web for Messianic radio stations and while I found several, such as Inspired Faith or Shalom 365, these stations required proprietary software installation, some didn't work on Macs, most didn't work on mobile phones or tablets, the quality was poor. And it wasn't really internet radio, where each user gets his own stream, but more legacy FM radio where there's a single broadcast. I was hoping for something better.
Being a software developer by trade, I decided I'd just build my ideal Messianic radio station. I wanted something like Pandora, where users can thumb-up and -down songs. I wanted each user to get his own stream of music tailored to his preferences. I wanted to fill it with the very best Messianic Jewish and Hebrew Roots music out there. So, in February 2010, I sat down and built the very first version of Chavah Messianic Radio, which is now hosted at messianicradio.com
I chose the name Chavah (Pronounced "KHA-vah", the Hebrew name for Eve) as a play on "Pandora": whereas Pandora is a goddess figure from Greek mythology, Chavah is named after the first woman in Scripture.
Over the last 4 years, I'm happy to say the site has grown to be the most popular Messianic music site on the web, with millions of songs streamed each month. It really has exceeded anything I could have imagined. (Eph 3:20)
Q. Would you share with us what you feel is the purpose and vision of Chavah Messianic Radio?
First and foremost, it's done as a service to Messiah.
God has had mercy on me and allowed me to serve him through music -- I play music at our local congregation -- and he has prospered me in technology which I've used to build MessianicRadio.com and MessianicChords.com. I figure if I can use my talents for God's glory, it will be a small return on investment.
After amplifying Messiah, a second purpose of Chavah is to help out the artists. Chavah lets users thumb-up and -down songs, influencing what gets played for each user. Artists use this information as feedback about their music. Additionally, each time a song plays on Chavah, we show a link where users can purchase that song directly from the artist. All this increases the artist's visibility and helps them recoup some of the cost of producing their music for the Lord.
I've always believed in Chavah being totally free, non-profit, and with zero ads. People have approached me to advertise their products on Chavah in exchange for money. I've always declined such requests. Chavah is entirely a labor of love for the Messianic community, amplifying Messiah over my wallet. :-) I think God is pleased with such things, I hope Messianic artists are helped through it, and the Messianic genre amplified in it.
Q. I was wondering if you can explain to our audience how you would define Messianic Music? Is it music sung only in Hebrew?
First, I think there is an identifiable "something" in Messianic music that sets it apart. Those who listen to Messianic music know what I'm talking about -- it's a certain focus on God over entertainment. While there is much good in contemporary Christian music, some of it has become entertainment and secular-sound-alikes.
How is Messianic music different? Some people think Messianic music is just Christian music that sprinkles in a little Hebrew, maybe throwing in a "Yeshua" instead of "Jesus".
But that's not it at all.
Like the Psalms, Messianic music restores the importance of Israel, the centrality of Jerusalem in God's plans, the ongoing relevance of God's Law, the Torah.
For example, what do you read in Psalm 1? "How blessed are those who delight in the Law of the Lord!" This pro-Torah statement by Israel's psalmist is gladly echoed in Messianic music, but is often hesitantly omitted in much Christian contemporary because of theological differences between the psalmist and modern Christianity.
Or how about Psalm 2? "I have installed my king in Zion, my holy mountain." Why is Christian music afraid to call Jesus the King of Jerusalem, the King of Zion whom God has installed? Messianic music is not afraid to proclaim Yeshua as Zion's eternal king.
And again, Psalm 3? "Zion's holy hill". Psalm 4? Offering sacrifices at the Temple. It’s all over the psalms, but you don’t really hear about these things in Christian pop.
Heck, the longest chapter in the Scriptures is Psalm 119, entirely devoted to the goodness of God's Torah. Psalm 122 commands us to pray for Jerusalem. Psalm 137 is a warning not to forget Jerusalem, the psalmist saying he couldn’t even sing songs of God because his heart ached over Jerusalem. But in Christianity, we have largely forgotten Jerusalem, God’s Law, the Temple, Israel – the Hebrew Roots of our faith. And this is reflected in contemporary Christian music which often omits these foundational things.
Going through the psalms, you'll notice this recurring theme of Israel, Jerusalem, the Temple, the Torah, God's hand on Israel, his unfailing love for Israel.
The bread and butter of the psalms is accurately reflected in Messianic music.
I believe this is something God is restoring through the Messianic and Hebrew Roots movements: the goodness of God's law, the centrality of Israel, Yeshua as the Messiah of Israel, Yeshua as King of the Jewish people. These Scriptural concepts are the defining characteristics of Messianic music and what sets it apart from the Christian music you hear on FM radio.
Would you share with us a little of the history of Messianic Music? Can you tell us of just a few of the Messianic artists found on your site?
In the Jesus Movement of the 1970s, there was a great move of God among Jews and gentiles in the United States, especially among the youth. It saw a restoring of the Jewish people to the Jewish Messiah, the birth of organizations like Jews for Jesus and early Messianic music groups like Liberated Wailing Wall, artists like Stuart Dauermann (Let Us Exalt His Name Together, Trees of the Field, Great and Wonderful), Messianic music groups like Lamb (The Sacrifice Lamb, Baruch HaShem, Break Forth In Joy), Israel's Hope (He Shall Reign, O Give Thanks), the Star of David Singers (Weep Wail), Kol Simcha (Awake O Jerusalem), and more.
Chavah seeks to preserve and make known these pioneers and their classic tunes for Messiah, as well as amplify upcoming artists like Roman & Alaina, Sharon Wilbur, Teshuva, many of whom stand on the shoulders of and draw inspiration from Messianic staples like Paul Wilbur, Jonathan Settel, Barry & Batya Segal, Ted Pearce, Marty Goetz, Avner & Rachel Boskey, and so many others.
Q. Have you noticed any particular exciting trends in the Messianic Jewish music world?
It's becoming a broader genre, fewer borders. We have songs drawn from traditional Scripture-based liturgy, story-telling songs of under-celebrated believers and their work for the Lord, poems by Yeshua-faithful rabbis put to song, the pure and unfiltered psalms, and more. From certain artists, I'm seeing more boldness and zeal for Yeshua and the coming kingdom of Messiah. I think it all exalts God!
Q. How do you find the wonderful music you share on Chavah Messianic Radio? If any of our readers happen to be Messianic musicians, is there a way they can submit your work for your consideration?
Most of the music on Chavah is contributed by the artists themselves. Others we've purchased and received permission from the artists or copyright holders for play on Chavah.
Some of the music I've gone to great lengths to acquire! For example, much of the early Messianic pioneer music from the 1970s is no longer available or only available on vinyl records. (Yes, really!) For such music, I've had to dig up contact info for the artists have them send me unreleased copies of the music, or convert old vinyl records to digital. I can say with confidence you will hear music on Chavah that you cannot hear anywhere else on the web!
We're always looking for new Messianic artists to promote their music. Musicians can contact me via firstname.lastname@example.org to get their music on the station.
Q. I noticed that on your site, there is a unique feature that allows listeners to request to hear more of their favorite songs. Can you tell us more about that unique feature?
Yeah! Glad you like it. Chavah is different from other Messianic radio stations in that it lets users thumb-up and -down songs, as well as request songs to play instantly.
When a user thumbs-up a song, it tells Chavah that you like that song, that you wish it to be played more often, and that songs similar to it, songs by the same artist, songs on the same album, should be played more. This also affects each song's community rank, letting the Messianic community vote with their ears what music is good. This allows more of the good stuff to float to the top and play more often.
Each listener, then, gets his own stream of music tailored to his or her likes, weighted by the international Messianic community and your own thumb-ups and -downs.
But I didn't totally want to throw away the "live" element of traditional radio, and that's where song requests come in. On Chavah, listeners can request a song be played. When the listener requests a song, it will play instantly for the person who requested it, and it will play for everyone listening as soon as their current song finishes. This helps build a community around Messianic music and draws attention to new artists or just music that the community really likes.
Chavah is smart about song requests, too. If you dislike a song that someone requested, you can thumb it down. Chavah will play something else for you, and the next time that song is requested, she'll skip sending it to you.
More fun still, song requests are announced by my 5 year old daughter, my 13 year old son, and some of the youth from our local Messianic congregation. I think you'll enjoy their voices announcing your requested song. :-)
Q. can you tell our readers where to find your site so they can begin listening today?!
Of course! MessianicRadio.com is the place. It works on PC, Mac, Droid, iPhone, tablets -- basically, anywhere you can access the web, you can listen to Chavah Messianic Radio. Enjoy the tunes for Messiah, and thanks for spreading the word!