The Baal Shem Tones

The Baal Shem Tones

 Atlanta, Georgia, USA
BandWorldSinger/Songwriter

The Baal Shem Tones are Helene and Michael Kates from Atlanta, GA. Their pop-influenced Americana songs are tightly crafted, memorable and thoroughly enjoyable, packing a "spiritual punch" that's unique in the field of Jewish music.

Biography

Singer Helene Kates of The Baal Shem Tones is a rising star in American Jewish music, and anyone who has seen this tiny dynamo in performance knows why. She bonds with her audience on a soul level, drawing them in with an open heart and powerfully sweet, vibrant mezzo-soprano voice. A Baal Shem Tones concert is more than great music; for many it is a spiritual event that stays with them for years.

Helene and her husband Michael, the duo's producer and former keyboardist for The Decos, co-write most of their material, a tightly-crafted style of pop-influenced Americana which has been described as "100% American and 100% Jewish," with "a powerful spiritual punch that stands out as different from standard Jewish musical fare."

When Helene and Michael met in the 1980s, both were working musicians holding down day jobs at – oddly enough – two different printing companies. They married and eventually had their own successful printing business, but felt an emptiness in their lives where before there had been music. So they sold the business, picked up their guitars and embarked on a musical and spiritual journey to re-connect with their Jewish roots. Since then they have been invited to perform at the Hadassah National Convention in Nashville, twice at the annual Chabad women's convention in New York, Federation fundraising events and dinners around the country, several CAJE conferences, and recently the kickoff conference for NewCAJE. In 2004 they released their first album All Our Lives to wide critical acclaim, and today their songs are being sung in synagogues around the world. Their second album Untold Stories was released in September 2010.

Lyrics

Oseh Shalom (He Who Makes Peace)

Written By: Michael Kates

(transliteration from the Hebrew)

Oseh shalom bimromav,
Hu ya-aseh shalom aleynu (2x)

V’al kol Yisrael
V’imru, imru, Amen (2x)

Ya-aseh shalom, ya-aseh shalom aleynu,
V’al kol Yisrael
V’imru, Amen

(He who makes peace in His heavens,
May He make peace for us
And for all Israel,
And let us say,
Say amen.

Make peace for us
And for all Israel,
And let us say,
Amen.)

Hal'li

Written By: Helene Kates, Michael Kates

In every day there is a song,
Waiting to sing.
In every step a rhythm,
Keeping time to the melody

Hal’li nafshi et-Hashem
Ahal’lah Hashem b’chayai
Hal’li nafshi et-Hashem
Azamrah laylokai b’odi, b’odi

Open your heart and you can hear,
In every breeze,
The answers to your mysteries,
In your hand you hold the key

(repeat chorus)

With every song I sing to you,
I do believe,
In every breath a rhythm,
Keeping time to the melody

(chorus 2x)

(Praise G-d, oh my soul!
I will praise G-d with my life
I will sing to my G-d while I exist
- Psalm 146)

Oh Shabbos Come In

Written By: Helene Kates, Michael Kates

Oh, Shabbos come in
Oh, Shabbos come in
When the sun goes down in my hometown
Oh, Shabbos come in

Friday night she come
Friday night she come
A week goes by and my oh my
Oh, Shabbos come in

Bring light into the home
Bring light into the home
A beacon for all those who roam
Oh, Shabbos come in

Bring on the Kiddush wine
Bring on the Kiddush wine
Fill the cup, lift everybody up
Oh, Shabbos come in

I love my mama’s challah
I love my mama’s challah
Everybody say “Oo” and “Ah”
Oh, Shabbos come in

Oh, Shabbos come in
Oh, Shabbos come in
When the sun goes down in my hometown
Oh, Shabbos come in

Whispers of Shema

Written By: Helene Kates, Michael Kates

Listen, listen
Listen to the whispers of shema
Listen to the whispers of shema

My crowded memories, dreams forgotten,
Colors faded
But listen to the whispers, listen to the whispers

Listen, listen
Listen to the whispers of shema

A dance untested, a broken ladder,
An untold story
Listen to the whispers of shema

In our hearts, still there inside,
Never gone but only hiding
Listen to the whispers, all the voices whispering

Listen to the whispers of shema
For in the loud call, crying for compassion,
Is the whisper of shema

The answer there, always there,
The answer there, always there

Calling softly, always calling
Listen child, listen child, listen child, listen:

Shema, shema, shema

Into the Light

Written By: Michael Kates

Well we all need water,
And we all need air,
And we all need compassion when life ain’t fair
Oh we all need someone
When we wake up at night
Yeah we’ve all been alone, step into the light

Yeah we’ve all been busted,
And we’ve all been accused
And we all been cheated, set up and used
Oh we all know someone
Who can set things right,
And we all could use a favor, step into the light

Into the light, talk to me
Yeah we’ll be each other’s eyes so we both can see

Yeah we all fear the future,
And we all miss the past,
And we know that train is coming, and coming fast
We don’t get no warning
When lightning strikes,
So we all hide somewhere, step into the light

Into the light, talk to me
Yeah we’ll be each other’s eyes so we both can see

Well we’ve both played with fire,
And we’ve both played the fool
And we’ve each burned the other, you know it’s true
Yeah we made bad decisions,
Got a few things right
And that sure beats nothing, step into the light

Na na na...

Hashkiveinu

Written By: Helene Kates, Michael Kates

Close your eyes, child, and go to sleep
You are safe here, tucked in so tight
My love will carry you gently through the night
Day is done now, and all is right

Hashkiveinu Hashem Elokeinu
L'shalom, l’shalom
V'ha-amideynu Malkeinu l'chayim,
Ufros aleinu sukat sh'lomecha

Hear my voice as you close your eyes,
Feel the weight of the world slip free
I’ll stay beside you even in my dreams,
You will always be close to me

Hashkiveinu Hashem Elokeinu
L'shalom, l’shalom
V'ha-amideynu Malkeinu l'chayim,
Ufros aleinu sukat sh'lomecha

(Lay us down to sleep, Lord our G-d, in peace.
Raise us upright, our King, to life, and spread over us the shelter of Your peace. -
Ashkenaz bedtime prayer)

Hineini (Here I Am)

Written By: Helene Kates, Michael Kates

I have these eyes to see You,
When I don’t hide away
I have these feet that wander,
And lips that sometimes stray
I get caught up in circles,
Nothing that I can do
But I have ears and I can hear
When I stop and listen to You

Hineini, hineini, hineini here I am
Hineini, hineini, hineini here I am
Here I am

There’s so much I don’t know,
I feel like shifting sand
I look inside our story,
And like a wedding band,
I feel You circle me
With comfort and with truth
You are my tree of life,
My every breath, my soul, my roots

Hineini, hineini, hineini here I am
Hineini, hineini, hineini here I am
Here I am

I am Yours and You are mine,
Ani l’dodi, v’dodi li
Bonded forever,
Through desert winds and raging seas
In black of night we lost
Six million precious lives,
But here we are, Your people,
Standing strong, AM YISRAEL CHAI

Hineini, hineini, hineini here I am
Hineini, hineini, hineini here I am
Here I am

Here I am, here I am

Discography

CD:
Untold Stories (Peradam Productions)
All Our Lives (Peradam Productions)

CD Single:
"Whispers of Shema" and "Friday Night Nigun" (Peradam Productions)

Music Video:
Azor Li (Peradam Productions)

Set List

A Baal Shem Tones set in most venues is typically 45 minutes to an hour. In addition to our own song catalog, we can draw on cover material ranging from Israeli folk songs to R&B, blues, classic rock, jazz standards, Broadway hits and more.