Many Potato Pancakes Were Harmed Before Chanukah Song 'Candlelight' Became a Viral Smash
By Jason Newman Posted Dec 6th 2010 11:00PM
UK vocalist Taio Cruz, he of the ubiquitous radio and gym staple 'Dynamite,' probably wasn't thinking of Chanukah when writing lyrics like, "I'm wearing all my favorite brands, brands, brands, brands." But it's 2010 -- the era of re-contextualization and instant notoriety -- and the Yeshiva Maccabeats, an a cappella group from the New York-based university, have flipped the dance-pop song into 'Candlelight,' a parody-cum-history lesson-cum-viral sensation celebrating the Festival of Lights.
Inspired by singer Mike Tompkins' popular a capella cover of 'Dynamite' -- 3.1 million YouTube views as of today -- the 14-man group released their version last week and immediately became the subject of countless e-mail forwards, helping to bridge the gap between UK pop-loving teenagers and all of the Jewish parents reminding their children that the Jewish holiday came early this year.
Maccabeats member Jeffrey Ritholtz tells PopEater the song was written as both an educational tool and fun project for the group. "We wanted to take a popular song and instill it with an educational and inspirational message regarding the holiday so that Chanukah could be appreciated as an important and meaningful period," says Ritholtz. "At the same time, we saw it as a simple, fun video. Now that it has exploded like this, we all appreciate more the educational value behind the song and how it has been able to touch so many people."
The video was quickly picked up across the Web, leading the group to subsequent performances on 'The Today Show' and 'The Early Show.' "We never anticipated the reaction the video has received," admits Ritholtz. Check Out the Maccabeats' Performances Here
"We saw it as something which could become popular within Yeshiva University and our local communities, but not on a national and even international scale. The fact that we are receiving responses from all over the world saying that the video has filled people with Jewish pride and has inspired them in various ways is both humbling and extremely exciting."
The video to accompany the song -- a play on Tompkins' version -- was shot over the course of a week around Yeshiva and other New York locations and painstakingly edited by director Uri Westrich in the following two weeks.
Ritholtz admits that the video was not without its sacrifice: "A lot of good latkes were lost for the sake of that [latke-flipping] scene. It took me 25 or 30 takes before we got the perfect flip."
► I'll Have a Short Stack Latkes, or potato pancakes, are often made with grated potato, egg, matzo meal, onion and salt. They are then fried in oil in honor of the oil that kept the ancient temple flame burning in the classic story of Chanukah. Okay, they are also fried in oil because it's delicious.
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