Hanukkah is a time where we hope the miracles of the past can match up to the miracles we need for the future. During our COVID era, it seems hard to keep the hope, but here’s an array of songs for the Festival of Lights. Some of them will certainly populate your family WhatsApp groups over these eight days and beyond. “Yes, my mom sent me that song, too” moments — here they come.
Nissim Black & Kosha Dillz, “The Hanukkah Song 2.0 (Adam Sandler Remix)”
It took 25 years for someone to make a remix of the most iconic modern Hanukkah song in America, but myself and another Jewish rapper have finally done so and with legit intent. The video shows Nissim in a rush to a menorah candle lighting on the glorious NYC subway. We rap for a crowd in Times Square and on an escalator in Penn Station during a Thanksgiving shoot before inviting a gang of NYC randos to sing along while Nissim toasts “L’chaims to the grownups” and the hook plays into the scene. “Aw man, yeah, it’s Hanukkah all these miracles keep popping up and the flow is so iconica.” When it comes to gift giving, the biggest miracle is getting an “NFT from Gary Vee,” the famous tech entrepreneur and author of Twelve and A Half, who randomly appears with a massive smile in the same exact spot outside MSG where Fat Joe rapped with me in a Nor’easter a month earlier. A miracle cameo perhaps? All it needs is Adam Sandler’s approval to enlist Kosha Dillz as the stunt double for Happy Dillzmore. Until then, Nissim and Kosha have a full U.S. tour starting the last day of Hanukkah (Dec. 6) at SOBS in NYC.
Adam Sandler, “The Hanukkah Song”
If you didn’t know who was Jewish or who wasn’t, this song explains it all. Although we don’t know who Veronica is, and even if you don’t sip “gin and tonica” or smoke “marijuan-ica,” everyone can at least identify with the epic holiday joy of rewatching this SNL masterpiece and sharing it with a Jewish friend. “Yo, did you ever see this?” Yes, of course, but we appreciate you sending it to us every year.
Boyz II Menorah, “A Week and a Day” ft. James Corden, Zach Braff, Charlie Puth, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Josh Peck
Although Boyz II Men hasn’t crafted an official song for the holiday, James Corden and the crew certainly hit the mark in this video where A-listers fight over clubhouse icon Leah Lamarr (before the app even existed). A true miracle if you think about what it predicted.
Rosi Golan, “8 Nights”
Israeli singer-songwriter Rosi Golan’s “8 Lights” could very well be a hit song even among those who don’t quite know what Hanukkah is. “I got eight nights in December” and “grandma’s still in the kitchen.” A tear-jerker if you have lost family but well deserving of praise since “all of my friends have Christmas trees.”
Six13, “A Hamilton Chanukah”
If anyone gets a proper introduction to Hanukkah from these yeshiva boys with a Hamilton help and a solid intro from Barack Obama, then this song deserves a spot on seasonal playlists. The rhyme scheme and solid beats enable them to go head-to-head with Pentatonix and their Christmas songs. Six13 release a song every year and switched up to West Side Story for 2021, so maybe next year we can get a Lion King Hanukkah?
Sarah Aroeste ft. Yehuda Shuky Shveiky, “Ocho Kandelikas”
Not enough people know the Ladino style of Jewish music, but this woman has it covered, from bimuelos, a Sephardic seasonal treat, to her Ladino album Hanuká. A leader in Sephardic Jewish music, her album introduces listeners to a sound not typically heard in America. We need more Sephardic Jewish tunes, especially when we’re all at home watching Curb Your Enthusiasm and learning a few Yiddish words from Jeff Garlin, Larry David and Elon Gold (check out episode 3 of the latest season). Some of us are speaking Ladino and Flamenco dancing on Januka to “Ocho Kandelikas.”
HAIM, Untitled 2021 Hanukkah song
America’s favorite sister trio doesn’t only headline Coachella — they also play Koshachella. If Canter’s Deli on Fairfax had a record label, they would have certainly signed this sisterhood of acclaimed musicians to a lifetime supply of matzah ball soup (they actually did their first show at Canter’s). This proud Jewish group can write Christmas songs for the vaccine and Hanukkah jams at the same time.
Matisyahu, “Happy Hanukkah”
To celebrate Hanukkah and not mention singer Matisyahu would be a sin to humanity — even Christianity. Matisyahu is the guy everyone references when it comes to Jewish music. Historically, there would not actually be the story of this holiday without Matisyahu, the father of Judah the Maccabee, who fought back against the Greeks and religious assimilation to preserve Judaism as we know it. If anyone has helped maintain the profile of Jewish music, it’s Matisyahu, who continues to sing this very song – produced by Kool Kojak — on his sold-out Festival of Lights tour for the past eight years (I was just there in NYC and it was wall-to-Western Wall packed).
Some honorable mentions, or in this case, unused candles, are below. To top it all off, here’s a Hanukkah Spotify playlist with dozens more (including Yo La Tengo) as a reserve for the onslaught of Christmas songs.
Tragedy, “Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah!”
If you need metal and a menorah in the same room, here you go.
Jack Black, “Oh Hanukkah”
Don’t deny Jack Black his involvement with Hanukkah. Ever!
Nissim Black, “Eight Flames”
The man is made of Hanukkah songs, and this one has pop crossover edge.
The Maccabeats, “Latke Recipe”
This latke recipe is great a cappella cooking music and the closest you can get to celebrity latke master Jake Cohen.
Rami Even-Esh, aka Kosha Dillz, is a rapper and writer living in Bushwick, Brooklyn, who goes by the motto “We Outside Till We Inside.” Last year, he brought Sami Steigmann, a Holocaust survivor, to tell his story to 50,000 people on Clubhouse with Bay Area nonprofit Value Culture. He’s set for an upcoming tour with Nissim Black as long as Omicron doesn’t stop him. Tweet him @koshadillz and tell Adam Sandler to put him in a movie if you have time.